Roxburghe Copy of the Comedies of Aristophanes (Incunabula Q. 881 A7 1498)

Aristophanous Kōmōdiai ennea = Aristophanis Comoediae novem. Venetiis: Apud Aldum, MIID Idibus Quintillis [1498]

This is the editio princeps, or first printed edition, of the Greek text of Aristophanes’ comedies. The work includes nine comedies, but not Lysistrata and Thesmophoriazusae, the texts of which were yet to be discovered.  It was printed in 1498 by Aldus Manutius (1449-1515). This noted Italian humanist and printer was also responsible for the first printings of the Greek writers Aristotle (1495-8), Euripides (1503), Pindar (1513), Plato (1513), and Lycophron (1513). Aldus was later known for his small-format editions of the classics, but this copy of Aristophanes is a folio.  This volume of Aristophanes is edited by Marcus Musurus (c.1470-1517), a Greek scholar who was born in Crete and an important figure in the production of the Aldine editions of several Greek classics.

This copy is notable for its nineteenth-century red morocco binding with gilt-stamped arms of the book collector John Ker, third duke of Roxburghe (1740-1804). Ker had a library of 30,000 volumes, of which approximately 120 were incunabula. His collection was sold at three auctions – the first in London on 18 May 1812 and lasting 42 days, the second also in London on 13 July 1812 and lasting four days, and the third in Kelso on 16 September 1813. He is the namesake of the famous Roxburghe Club, an exclusive bibliographical society formed in 1812. For more information, see ‘Ker, John, third duke of Roxburghe (1740-1804)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 []

The library’s copy also contains a nineteenth-century gift inscription on front fly-leaf: “Glynn Earle Welby from his coz: Sir Mountague Cholmeley Bar[one]t 1824.” AD