Heber Copy of Plato’s Works (Incunabula Q. 881 P5.Lf 1491)

Plato. Works. Translated into Latin and edited by Marsilio Ficino. Venice: Bernardo de’ Chori and Simone da Luere for Andreas Torresanus de Asula, 1491.

This 1491 edition of Plato’s works was translated and edited by Marsilio Ficino and published in Venice.  The book has an interesting provenance and contains beautiful hand decoration.  Two identifiable modern owners of the volume were the English book collector Richard Heber and the American government official Joseph C. G. Kennedy.   Two early owners remain unidentified.  We are looking for help from anyone who can identify the intricate coat of arms of an early owner at the foot of the fifth leaf recto, as well as the institution referred to as “Con[ven]tus S[an]cti Dominici Casilensis” in inscriptions on the first and fifth leaves.

 Richard Heber (1774-1833) is one of the greatest book collectors of the nineteenth century and indeed, of all time.  He was a classical scholar and studied at Brasenose College, Oxford.  Heber later served as the MP for Oxford University from 1821-25.  Heber’s library was immense and is estimated to have contained upwards of 150,000 printed volumes housed in at least eight locations at the time of his death.  For more information on Richard Heber, see Arthur Sherbo’s biography (Arthur Sherbo, ‘Heber, Richard (1774–1833)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2005 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12854, accessed 23 Sept 2011])

Joseph Camp Griffith Kennedy (1813-1887) redesigned and oversaw the U.S. Census in 1850 and 1860.  He rose to prominence as a political figure in Pennsylvania and later lived and worked in Washington DC, where he was fatally stabbed over a business dispute on July 13, 1887. Kennedy’s interest in book collecting is unknown, but his inscription in this volume indicates he purchased it in 1855.

If anyone recognizes the coat of arms which adorns the foot of the fifth leaf recto or has more information about the institution referred to in an ownership inscription as the “Con[ven]tus S[an]cti Dominici Casilensis,” please leave a comment using the icon which appears at the bottom of this entry.  Your help is appreciated! AD


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