PLINY THE ELDER; BEROALDO, Filippo sr. (ed.) Naturalis Historiae Libri XXXVII.

Parma, Andreas Portilia, 8th July 1481.


£ 48,000


Royal Folio. (40.2 x 28.1 cm.), A8 B6 C-E8 F6 G-H8 I-L6 M-Y8 Z6 &4 a-f8 g6 2a-2d8 2e6, lacking blanks at beginning and end. Roman letter in two sizes. First page of text (A2r) with a very large contemporary lavishly illuminated initial “L” (liquid gold and vivid green, blue and purple colours: a Venetian atelier?), spanning the width of 15 lines of text, without taking into account the extensive marginal foliation; at the foot of the same page, an illuminated heraldic shield, unidentified (noble Florentine family of Acciaiuoli? a rampant lion, slightly erased, within a shield at the centre of a laurel wreath on a shell-like blue background with two intertwined cornucopias containing fruits and plant leaves). C1r also carries an illuminated initial from the same time. Some light foxing, spotting and staining, particularly to margins, light scattering of wormholes towards beginning, mended snag to bottom margin of last leaf of text, owner’s inscription almost completely removed from sig. a4r and very faded old stamp on recto of rear endpaper. A very good, clean and wide-margined copy, many pages of remarkable freshness, in early vellum (soiled, ties removed, top joint mended). Early shelf mark in ink on verso of initial blank. Contemporary or early marginalia in two hands, especially on the first page of the text.


A perfect copy of the third Parma edition of Pliny’s Natural History. In his work on natural science, Pliny discusses geography, ethnography, anthropology, human physiology, zoology, botany, mineralogy, sculpture and painting. As “a purveyor of information both scientific and non-scientific, Pliny holds a place of exceptional importance in the tradition and diffusion of culture” (DSB).


This book was illuminated for an aristocratic owner and includes early annotations by two different hands. The first belonged to a scientist commenting on natural phenomena; the second hand drew notes of a philological or historical nature. Chapter 10 of Book 28 dealing with the obtainment of medicines from animals, shows the interest in this topic by one of the owners, who left plenty of annotations about this subject. At bb8r (Book 35) is a reference to the humanist Lorenzo Valla (1405–1457), concerning Pliny’s arguments regarding the deceptive power of painting in relation to birds.


The editor of this incunable is Filippo Beroaldo the Elder, who was a teacher in humanities at the University of Bologna and an editor of classical texts. Beroaldo normally edited works for the Bolognese publisher Ugo Ruggeri.


BMC VII, 937; BSB-Ink P-604; Goff P 793; Hain 13094*; HC 13094; ISTC ip00793000; Oates 2573; Rush Hawkins 339.