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Lot 0005
Cato (Marcus Porcius), Varro, Columella & Palladius. Scriptores rei rusticae, 4 parts in 1, editio princeps, collation: [*14] a-b10 c8 d-f10 g8 h6 i-k10 l-z8 A-C8 D12 E-F8 G-K10], 282 leaves (of 302 leaves, lacking the four blank leaves a1, h6, i1, D8, the quire *14, with Enarrationes vocum priscarum in libris De rustica and letter addressed to Petrus Priolus both by Georgius Merula, and leaves D6-D7 Merula's letter addressed to Dominicus Georgius), this copy with Cato's De re rustica bound at end, text in single column, 40 lines, type: 115R, 115Gk, blank spaces for capitals with guide letters, a few initials supplied in red and grey, several leaves in middle with signs of damp removed by washing, with some light smudging, but generally clean and free of foxing and soiling, red straight-grain morocco by Roger Paine, covers within two frames of gilt fillets, smooth spine decorated by gilt fillets, title and imprint lettered in gilt, marbled pastedowns and flyleaves, vellum flyleaves, inner gilt dentelles, pale grey silk bookmark, gilt edges, recto of front vellum flyleaf with some notes in Michael Wodhull's hand referring to the presence of this edition in other celebrated 18th-century private libraries such as those owned by Louis Gaignat (lot 1526) and Louis César de La Baume Le Blanc, duc La Vallière (lot 1509), folio (315 x 217 mm.), Venice, Nicolaus Jenson, 1472.

⁂ The celebrated editio princeps of "the most important classical first edition that Jenson produced" (Lowry, Jenson, p. 68). This Venetian edition includes the first editions of the four Roman agricultural writers Cato, Varro, Columella, and Palladius. Only the tenth Book of Columella's Re rustica, entirely devoted to gardening, had a separate circulation in the 15th century and was possibly previously printed in Rome in 1471.

The texts of the agricultural treatises by Cato, Varro, and Columella were edited by the renowned humanist Giorgio Merula (1430-1494), on the basis of a codex at that time in the St. Marco Library and now lost, in which Varro's Re Rustica breaks off, as here, after chapter 17.4 of the third Book. Franciscus Colucia, apparently active at Jenson's printing house as a proof reader, was given Palladius' Opus agriculturae to edit.

This copy once belonged to the well-known collector Michael Wodhull. On the front flyleaf he annotated the acquisition date of the volume "April 28th 1791", and the price paid of 10 guineas. He purchased the volume from the celebrated Bibliotheca Parisiana, which was sold in London by James Edwards at the end of March 1791. In fact, a marked up copy of the sale catalogue shows that the volume, bound in red morocco, was indeed sold for £10.10s, and purchased, on Wodhull's behalf, by the London bookseller Payne.

This copy lacks only paratextual or additional sections like Merula's Enarrationes vocum priscarum in libris De rustica, often wanting in recorded copies. The last complete copy was sold at Christie's New York in 1997.

Literature: ISTC is00346000; H 14564*; GW M41065; BMC V 173; Bod-inc S-122; IGI 8853; Goff S-346; Lowry Jenson, 26; Klebs 902.1; Flodr Scriptores rei rusticae 1; Stillwell 695; B.IN.G 1797; Simon Bibliotheca Bacchica 1.41.

Provenance: Bibliotheca exquisitissima Parisiana. Catalogue of a Collection of Books Formed by a Gentleman in France, London 1791, p. 20, lot l86; purchased by the London bookseller Payne for Michael Wodhull (1740-1816; Wodhull's purchase note on the front flyleaf, dated 28 April 1791); by descent to his his sister-in-law, Mary Ingram; Samuel Amy Severne; J. E. Severne, M.P. (see Catalogue of the Extensive and Valuable Library, Collected at the End of the Last and Beginning of the Present Century by Michael Wodhull, Esq., the Property of J. E. Severne, Esq. M. P., of Thenford House, Banbury, Northamptonshire, London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 11 January 1886, lot 2270 £7.10s "very fine copy in red morocco, gilt edges, by Roger Payne").

Rothamsted acquisition date not noted.

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Cato (Marcus Porcius), Varro, Columella & Palladius.

Estimate £6,000 - £8,000
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London, UK
Auction Curated By:
Rupert Powell
International Head of Books and Works on Paper
Justin Phillips
Early and Continental Printing