Herbert of Cherbury's copy
Parisiis, Ex officina Roberti Stephani typographi Regii, 1548.
Folio, later polished calf, small gilt dentelle around sides, spine with raised bands, gilt fleuron in compartments, black morocco lettering piece, red edges. 1109pp. (of which the title with fine woodcut printer’s mark), (1)p., (38)pp. index, 1 unnumbered colophon leaf. Complete.
First Edition given by Robert Estienne (1503-1559), in “grecs du Roi” typeface, the fifth edition of this “Monument of the New Learning” (PMM).
One of the greatest Renaissance contributions to the study of Greek antiquity, the book was directly responsible for the foundation of the Collège de France. Guillaume Budé (1467-1540) was the leading humanist of the reign of François I, and was recognized as sharing with his friend Erasmus the primacy of European scholarship.
The Commentarii, first published in 1529, is the author’s most immense and encyclopaedic work, a compilation of lexicographical, philological and historical notes designed to help young people learn Greek. It served as the basis for Henri Estienne’s Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, and formed the foundation for the study of the Greek language in France. In his dedicatory Greek preface to the King of France, Budé reminds him of his promise to establish a royal college for the study of ancient languages. Heeding this appeal, the King appointed three royal readers in Greek, Hebrew and Latin at the Sorbonne. This Collegium Trilingue later became the Collège de France.
Herbert of Cherbury’s copy, with his ownership manuscript cypher on the title-page. Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert (1582/3-1648), famed English courtier, soldier, diplomat, historian, metaphysical poet, and philosopher (“the father of English Deism”), brother of poet George Herbert. He was educated at home and at University College, Oxford, which he attended in 1595. He was knighted in 1603. In 1608, he travelled to Europe, where he studied and fought for Prince Maurice of Nassau in the Low Countries. From 1619 to 1624 he was ambassador to France. His ambassadorship came to an abrupt end when he managed to fall out with the Duc de Luynes, Louis XIII’s chief minister. After giving James I unwelcome advice about the proposed marriage of Prince Charles to the Spanish infanta Maria (Herbert was against it), Herbert then turned himself almost exclusively to intellectual pursuits. He was made Baron of Cherbury in 1629. During the Civil War, his loyalties were divided between Charles I and Parliament, and he ultimately surrendered to Parliament in 1644. He wrote several important works, including De Veritate (Paris, 1624), De Religione Gentilium (1663), and The Life and Reign of King Henry the Eighth (1649); his poetry was published by his son in 1665. Herbert’s philosophical work was praised by Descartes who wrote that Herbert’s “mind had few equal”, by Pierre Gassendi who called him “the second Verulam” (Bacon) and by Ben Jonson, who referred to him as “all-virtuous Herbert”, who could not be contained because he was “so many men” in one. His disciple Charles Blount called him “the Great Oracle and Commander of his Time for Learning”, and amongst others who held his work in high esteem were Tommaso Campanella, Thomas Hobbes, Sir William Dugdale and Hugo Grotius.
Minimal wear to the binding, front hinge a bit weak, but a very good clean copy with interesting provenance.
Ref. Printing and the Mind of Man, 60 (first edition) / Renouard, 71, 7 / Schreiber, 100
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