Opera [in Greek]

The Aldine “Editio princeps” of Aristotle

ARISTOTLE. Opera [in Greek]. [Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1 November 1495-June 1498].

Editio princeps in Greek of the works of Aristotle. Five folio volumes (12 1/4 x 8 1/2 inches; 311 x 215 mm.). Greek and roman letter. 30 lines plus headline (no headlines in Volume I). Woodcut diagram on I1r in Volume I. Two-line, five-line, and seven-line woodcut interlace initials and woodcut interlace head-pieces (seven of the initials and head-pieces with early hand-coloring in Volume I, two initials and one head-piece with early hand-coloring in Volume II).

This set is bound as follows (a different order from that usually found):

Volume I (Organon): Colophon dated “Calendis novembris 1495” (1 November 1495). [234] leaves. Collation: A-K8 L-N6 (A1r three epigrams: anonymous, Scipio Carteromachus, Aldus, A1v dedicatory letter in Latin from Aldus to Alberto Pio of Carpi, A2r letter to the reader by Alexander Agathemeros, A2v letter by Scipio Carteromachus, A3r-B4v Porphyry’s Universalia, Categories, Hermeneutics, Prior Analytics); a-c8 d-e6 (Posterior Analytics, e6v blank); f-q8 r-s6 (Topics, Sophistici Elenchi, s5v-s6r register and colophon, s6v contents in Latin).

Small faint dampstain in the outer blank margin of the first two leaves. Small portion of lower blank corner of e5 torn away (paper flaw). Early ink pagination through G4v (paginated “100”). Early ink annotations in Greek on a leaf laid in at I1r (at woodcut diagram).

Volume II (which should be Volume III—Philosophy II): Colophon dated January 1497. 466 leaves (457, [1, blank], [8] leaves). Bound without the leaf signed PP between PP10 and PP1 (fols. 400 and 401), printed on recto, verso blank and its conjugate blank following PP10, but with a blank leaf (on different paper) inserted between EE1 and EE2 (fols. 281 and 282). Collation: aaaa-iiii10 kk10 (cancel strip mounted on kk10v containing last line and catchword) llll-zzyy10 &&ww10 AA-PP10 PP-FF10 XX8 (aaaa1r title in Greek, aaaa1v letter to Pio in Latin, aaaa2r-YY5r nineteen treatises by Aristotle, YY5v-XX5v five treatises by Theophrastus, XX6r-XX7v register and colophon, XX8 blank); [C with four dots]8 (spurious fragments of Peri Zwwn iotoriaV bk. 10], [C with four dots]8r note to the reader in Latin, [C with four dots]8v blank). Blank leaf inserted between EE1 and EE2.

Slight discoloration in the upper blank corner throughout. Small ink stain and ink annotation on fol. 1. Small faint dampstain in the upper outer margin of fols. 1-120 and fols. 271-281. Paper flaw (5/8 inch tear) in the lower blank margin of fols. 44-46, neatly repaired on fols. 45 and 46. Paper flaw (crease) in the upper blank margin of fol. 67. A few additional tiny marginal paper flaws (lower corners torn away). Slight stain across the lower blank margin of fol. 183 and its conjugate leaf, fol. 188. Printing flaw on fol. 435v (woodcut initial faintly printed). A few leaves with tiny red ink spatters. A few leaves with early ink underlining and/or annotations.

Volume III (which should be Volume IV—Philosophy III): Colophon dated June 1498. 520 leaves (1, 8, [1, blank], 9-226, 116, 42, 12, 121, [1] leaves). Collation: [p]2 (disjunct, [p]1r title in Greek and Latin, [p]1v letter to Pio in Latin, [p]2 blank, misbound after aaaaaa8), aaaaaa-iiiiii8 kkk8 llllll-zzzyyy8 &&&www8 AAA-BBB8 CCCGGG8 DDDDDD10 (Theophrastus’s De historia plantarum and De causis plantarum, DDDDDD10v blank); AAAaaa-BBBbbb8 GGGccc-MMMmmm8 NNNnnn-XXXooo10 (AAAaaa table of contents, Aristotle’s Problems); aa-dd8 ee10 (Alexander Aphrodisiensis’s Problems); aa-bb6 (Aristotle’s Mechanics); AAAaaa-OOOxxx8 PPPooo10 (Aristotle’s Methaphysics, PPPooo5-9 Theophrastus’s Metaphysics, PPPooo10r register and colophon, PPPooo10v blank).

Paper flaw (small portion of lower blank corner torn away) to fol. 122 and tiny paper flaw in the upper blank margin of fols. 133 and 134 (first series). Small stain to fols. 90-94 (second series). Short (3/4 inch) tear to the lower blank margin of fols. 28-31 (third series), repaired on fol. 30. Minor dampstaining in the upper blank margin of fols. 1-116 (second series), fols. 1-42 (third series), fols. 1-12 (fourth series), and 1-[122] (fifth series). Small dampstain in the lower blank corner of fols. 25-[122] (fifth series). A few early ink marginalia.

Volume IV (which should be Volume V—Philosophy IV: Ethica and Politica): Colophon dated June 1498. 330 leaves (209, [1, blank], [12, Economics], 210-316, [1] leaves. Collation: aaaa-iiii10 kkkk4 (Nicomachean Ethics, kkkk4 blank); llll-ffff10 cccc6 (Politics, cccc6 blank); yyyy12 (Economics); wwww10 AAAA-BBBB10 GGGG6 (Magna Moralia); DDDD-IIII10 KKKK12 (Eudemian Ethics, KKKK11v-KKKK12r register and colophon, KKKK12v blank).

Slight discoloration to paper in lower blank corner throughout. Fols. 24 and 25 adhered to one another at outer edge. Faint dampstain in the outer blank margin of fols. 90-93 and 101-104. Paper flaw (puncture mark) in the lower blank margin of fols. 182 (i.e. 160)-162. Small ink stain on fol. 232, also visible on fol. 233. A few small ink spots on the verso of fol. 307. Tiny paper flaw in the outer blank margin of fol. 307, a few additional tiny marginal paper flaws. Two small puncture marks in the outer blank margin of fols. 309-316. Occasional early ink underlining and marginalia.

Volume V (which should be Volume II—Philosophy I): Colophon dated February 1497. 300 leaves ([32], 268 leaves). Collation: [star]8 [C with four dots]8 [cross]8 [omicron-sigma ligature]8 (*1r title in Greek and Latin, *1v-*2v Aldus’s letter to Pio, lives of Aristotle and Theophrastus by Diogenes Laertius, life of Aristotle by Johannes Philoponus, Galen’s introduction to philosophy); aa-ll8 (Physics, ll8 blank); mm-zy8 &w8 A-B8 CG6 (De caelo, De generatione et corruptione, Meteorology); DD-HQ8 I8 K6 (De mundo, Philon’s De mundo, Theophrastus’s treatises on fire, wind, and stones, De signis aquarum et ventorum, K6r colophon, K6v blank).

At one time, there was some severe dampstaining in the upper gutter margin throughout this volume, and the affected leaves have been expertly washed and restored in the upper gutter with some text on some leaves supplied in perfect facsimile (the missing text scanned from a complete copy and printed on thin paper which was then affixed to the restored leaves). Leaves Kk3 and Kk4 (fols. 76 and 77) bound as Kk4 and Kk3.

Late eighteenth-century sprinkled calf, expertly rebacked to style. Covers with gilt triple fillet border and gilt floral corner ornaments, spines decoratively tooled in gilt in compartments with four raised bands and with brown morocco gilt lettering label, board edges decoratively tooled in gilt, marbled endpapers. Early ink ownership inscription at foot of title of each volume and on EE2 in Volume II and AAAaaa1 in Volume III.

This wonderful set has been in a private library for over two hundred years and this is the first time that it has been offered for sale. We commissioned the restoration of Volume V to one of the world’s foremost paper restorers in Italy, who has, in our opinion, done a most remarkable job. We then had the set expertly rebacked to style by Aquarius and the extremely attractive eighteenth-century binding now shows very well. We believe this to be the only complete set offered on the market at the present time.

In the last thirty years, eight complete copies of the five volumes of the Aldine Aristotle have sold at auction, most notably: the Norman-Freilich copy, which brought $525,000 at Sotheby’s New York, January 10, 2001, and $330,000 at Christie’s New York, March 18, 1998; the Beriah Botfield copy, which brought $193,700 at Christie’s, March 30, 1994; the Doheny copy, which brought $260,000 at Christie’s New York, November 11, 1994, and $120,000 at Christie’s New York, October 33, 1987; the Garden-Clive-Kalbfleisch-Kettaneh copy, which brought $165,000 at Sotheby’s New York, November 9, 1989; the Spencer-Rylands copy, which brough $205,700 at Sotheby’s April 14, 1988.

“Aristotle is not only one of the great classical philosophers, the master of every branch of ancient knowledge: his method still underlies all modern thinking. His works include the six logical treatises that make up the Organon, a score on scientific subjects, the ‘Metaphysics’, ‘Ethics’ and ‘Politics’, works on rhetoric and poetry, and the tract ‘On the Constitution of Athens’…Most of his writings show signs of being worked over more than once, and some were clearly written over a period of time…But it is possible to distinguish the early period when he produced dialogues in the manner of Plato, whose disciple he was; the middle period from which derive some of the works which have come down to us as unfinished drafts; and the later finished works, such as the ‘Metaphysics’ and the ‘Nichomachean Ethics’. Most of Aristotle’s ideas were originally delivered in the form of lectures, and the texts we have are probably the lecture-notes of his pupils, which he may or may not have edited. In all of these lectures there is a connexion and unity of thought which make up the fundamental position of Aristoteliansim. All things are substances (not, as Plato held, ideas), separate though related; some things are attributes having existence only as being some substance affected in some way; without substances there is nothing, and nothing is universal apart from individual substances. It a philosophy of substantial things, which comes between the Platonic philosophy of ideas, according to which visual objects are shadows and only the supernatural forms are real, and the modern philosophy of the mind. To Aristotle the answer is that all things are substances, not all supernatual, not all in the mind; some are natural substances, and thes, and the relations between them, form the subject matter of all Aristotle’s works. Unlike other classical writers Aristotle retained his fame throughout the Middle Ages, largely through the works of Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus and Averroes; the last of whome provided tha Latin translation and the extensive commentary to his works as published in Pauda in the 1470s. But the great Aldine editio princeps, issued in five folio volumes between 1495 and 1498, was the first major Greek prose text to be reintroduced in the original to the western world by the intervention of the printing press” (Printing and the Mind of Man 38).

BMC VI, cols. 553, 556, 555, 556, 558. Essling 862. Goff A-959. Hain-Copinger 1657*. GW 2334. Murphy 11. Norman Library 70. Osler 229. Printing and the Mind of Man 38. Proctor 5547, 5555, 5553, 5556, 5565. Renouard, Alde, p. 10, no. 1. Sander 591. Stillwell, Science, 73. Item #00532

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