Mattioli, Pietro Andrea (1501-1578). Commentarii in sex libros Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei de Medica materia...Venice, Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1565.

Mattioli, Pietro Andrea (1501-1578). Commentarii in sex libros Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei de Medica materia...Venice, Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1565.

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Mattioli, Pietro Andrea (1501-1578).

Commentarii in sex libros Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei de Medica materia... Adiectis magnis, ac nouis plantarum, ac animalium Iconibus, supra priores editiones longe pluribus, ad uiuum delineatis....Venice, Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1565.


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The first enlarged Latin edition with a full set of splendid large woodcuts, in contemporary German binding

Mattioli, Pietro Andrea (1501-1578).

Commentarii in sex libros Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei de Medica materia... Adiectis magnis, ac nouis plantarum, ac animalium Iconibus, supra priores editiones longe pluribus, ad uiuum delineatis....Venice, Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1565.

Folio (357x243 mm). Collation: *6, **8, A-M6, 2A-Z6, Aa-Zz6, Aaa-Zzz6, Aaaa-Zzzz6, Aaaaa-Zzzzz6, Aaaaaa-Ffffff6, Gggggg4, Hhhhhh6. [172], 1459, [13] pages. Roman, italic, and Greek type. Woodcut printer's devices on the title-page, and fols. Gggggg4v and Hhhhhh6v. Full-page woodcut portrait of Mattioli within elaborate strapwork border with cartouche and flanking figures on the verso of fol. M6. Over 900 large woodcuts of plants, herbs, animals, insects, and distillation processes, most of them by Giorgio Liberale and Wolfgang Meyerpeck, the majority filling three quarters of the page. Strictly contemporary German blind-tooled pigskin over wooden boards, dated '1569' on the upper cover. Covers within concentric rolls, tooled with palmettes and foliate motifs, and the images of the Salvator Mundi, John the Baptist, St Paul, and King David. Remains of metal clasps to the upper cover. Spine with five raised bands. A few scratches to the lower cover, corners restored. A wide-margined copy on thick paper with neat impressions of the woodcuts. Repair to the upper outer corner of the title-page, without any loss. Marginal spots, some quires browned, large stain in the upper margin of the last fifteen leaves, tiny wormholes affecting the lower cover and last quires. Small round stamp erased from the title-page.

Provenance: early ownership inscription on the title-page inked out; two annotations on the front pastedown: ‘Collationné le 9 juin 1733', and ‘à P.re Charsin ainé 1816 ed.on estimée et la meilleure'.

First enlarged Latin edition, the first with a full set of the splendid large woodcuts by Giorgio Liberale from Udine of the most popular Renaissance commentary of Dioscorides (fl. 50-70 AD). According to Hunt, the Venetian edition of 1565 is the “most valued for its completeness”.

The first edition of Mattioli's celebrated commentary on Dioscorides' De materia medica – the most significant botanical book from antiquity and the most authoritative source on medical botany during the Renaissance – first appeared in the Italian language in Venice in 1544 as an unillustrated edition titled Di Pedacio Dioscoride Anazarbeo Libri cinque della historia et materia medicinale. The publishing initiative was met with immediate success, and unauthorised editions soon appeared, including that of 1549, printed in Mantua. The event led Mattioli to produce an expanded Latin edition of his work, which was issued in 1554 by the Venetian printer Vincenzo Valgrisi and included new information on herbs and plants, along with the first appearance of small woodcuts that would assist in the reading and studying of the text.

Mattioli dedicated his work to Emperor Ferdinand I of Habsburg, who named him personal physician of his son Ferdinand, governor of Bohemia. Mattioli moved to Prague in 1555, and this high patronage allowed him to employ a number of artists and engravers to produce near full-page illustrations for his Dioscorides. The Venetian Commentarii of 1565 is the first edition to contain – along with the small woodcuts that first appeared in 1554 – over 600 near full-page illustrations designed by the Italian artist Giorgio Liberale, who was also active at the Imperial court, and cut by Wolfgang Meyerpeck, a leading printer and block cutter from Meissen. These woodcuts are considered among the most impressive illustrations of natural history. They appear primarily in the Czech edition printed in Prague in 1562, as well as the subsequent German edition, likewise issued in Prague in 1563 by Jiri Melantrich in partnership with Vincenzo Valgrisi. These large woodcuts are “the culmination of technical virtuosity in botanical woodcut design, being images of considerable size and unprecedented complexity [...] morphologically detailed and carefully shaded images whose style contrasts notably with the airy, simple elegance of Fuchs' illustrations. Apart from the close massing of foliage, fruit, and flower, such details as veins and even hairs are often depicted or suggested with great skill” (Bridson-Wendel, Printmaking in the Service of Botany, no. 5).

The 1565 Latin edition published by Valgrisi is also the first to be supplemented, in the last quire, with Mattioli's De ratione distillandi aquas ex omnibus plantis, and contains a number of additional zoological and genre illustrations not included in the previous editions of Mattioli's masterpiece.

This edition is rarely found in its strictly contemporary binding, as it remarkably is in this copy. This fine German binding was executed – as attested by the date stamp on the front cover – in 1569. One of the rolls used in its production is the 'Salvator-Johannes der Täufer-Paulus-David', which was often employed in Nuremberg for stamping books for the church councillor Hieronymus Paumgärtner the Younger (1525-1602).

Adams D-672; Hunt 94; Nissen BBI 94; Bridson-Wendel, Printmaking in the Service of Botany, Pittsburgh 1986, no. 5; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 136.

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