(Benedetto Bordone). Herodotus (ca. 484–430/20 BC). Historiae. Tr: Laurentius Valla... Venice, Johannes and Gregorius de Gregoriis, de Forlivio, 8 March [actually not before 30 March] 1494.

(Benedetto Bordone). Herodotus (ca. 484–430/20 BC). Historiae. Tr: Laurentius Valla... Venice, Johannes and Gregorius de Gregoriis, de Forlivio, 8 March [actually not before 30 March] 1494.

38,000.00

(Benedetto Bordone). Herodotus (ca. 484–430/20 BC).

Historiae. Tr: Laurentius Valla. Ed: Antonius Mancinellus.

Venice, Johannes and Gregorius de Gregoriis, de Forlivio, 8 March [actually not before 30 March] 1494.

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A masterpiece of Venetian woodcut

(Benedetto Bordone). Herodotus (ca. 484–430/20 BC).

Historiae. Tr: Laurentius Valla. Ed: Antonius Mancinellus. Venice, Johannes and Gregorius de Gregoriis, de Forlivio, 8 March [actually not before 30 March] 1494.

Median folio (310x217 mm). Collation: A8, a-d8, e-x6. [142] leaves. Text in one column, 45 lines. Type: 26:110R. Woodcut border on fol. a1r, including two white-ground insets, the upper one depicting a satyr preparing to sacrifice, and the lower one showing Hercules at the parting of the ways. On the same leaf, large woodcut depicting Herodotus crowned by Apollo. Blank spaces for capitals, with printed guide letters. Late sixteenth-century limp vellum, with yapp edges. Smooth spine, portions of ties preserved. Some soiling to covers. A very fine copy, light foxing and browning, a few minor spots and fingermarks; short tear to the lower blank margin of fol. r3. Woodcut border slightly trimmed at top. Numerous Latin annotations, maniculae, and other reading marks in two different early hands, a few marginalia lightly trimmed. Pencilled bibliographical notes on the front pastedown.

Provenance: Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow, acquired from Lathrop C. Harper, 1977 (ex-libris on the front pastedown; see The Collection of Arthur & Charlotte Vershbow, Christie's New York, 9-10 April 2013, lot 204).

One of the masterpieces of Venetian book illustration: the rare third edition of Herodotus, translated into Latin by Lorenzo Valla and edited by Antonio Mancinelli. It was preceded by those of 1474 (Venice, Jacobus Rubeus) and 1475 (Rome, Arnoldus Pannartz).

The present book is rightly famous for having one of the finest woodcut borders of the fifteenth century, executed by Benedetto Bordone or Bordon (1450/55-1530), a celebrated miniaturist and designer of woodcuts, editor of classical texts, and author of geographical works who headed a prominent workshop in Venice, in San Zulian. Born in Padua, Bordone moved to Venice in the early 1490s, during the city's reign as the greatest printing centre in Europe. Introduced in 1469, the new industry had grown with surprising rapidity, a circumstance which greatly impacted the then-dominant production of manuscripts and related professional spheres, as copyists, designers, and illuminators were forced to redefine their roles and compete with typographers and woodcutters in an effort to adapt themselves to a new era in the history of the book. Already in Padua, Bordone had been active in the production of illuminated incunables. He shuttled between different media for the duration of his highly successful Venetian career, consistently engaged in a fluid and fruitful exchange between miniature painting and woodcut design.

The beautiful border of the Herodotus is commonly associated with a smaller format border found in Lucianus' Vera historia, the first book edited by Bordone himself (see no. 37). Herodotus' border is more elaborate and contains other motifs, including the two small birds on the right panel. The ornamental border also includes two white-ground insets. The upper one shows a satyr preparing to sacrifice, the composition resembling a scene designed for the 1499 Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Lib. I, fol. e1r). The lower vignette depicts Hercules at the parting of the ways. The text is also introduced by a large woodcut of the Greek historian crowned by Apollo, stylistically similar to a miniature found in an illuminated copy of the Aldine Petrarca of 1501, now in the British Library. A re-use of the Herodotus border is found in a later edition printed by the brothers de Gregoriis, the Opera by Hieronymus of 1497/98 (see no. 40).

As Essling states, “quant à l'auteur de ce chef-d'oeuvre, si l'on juge par l'élégance du dessin, par la précision et le fini de la taille, ce pourrait être le même artiste qui devait, cinq ans plus tard, fournir les admirables illustrations du songe de Poliphile” (Essling 735; see no. 43).

HC *8472; BMC V, 345; IGI 4694; Goff H-90; Flodr Herodutus, 3; Essling 735; Sander 3376; L. Armstrong, “Benedetto Bordon, 'Miniator', and Cartography in Early Sixteenth-Century Venice”, Eadem, Studies of Renaissance Miniaturists in Venice, London 2003, 2, pp. 591-643; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 36.