Virgil’s Georgics. Glossed post incunable leaf, 1507

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An intricately printed leaf with classical and contemporary glosses.

Of all classical Latin poets, Virgil has held the most secure place in the canon of great authors.  His works became school texts in ancient Rome and his perceived affinity with Christianity meant that his poetry was widely read in the Middle Ages. The Georgics, (from Greek, “On Working the Earth”) is a didactic poem by Virgil, likely published in 29 BC.

Recto: A leaf from Book 1 with Virgil’s original text in the larger font.  The gloss (commentary) of Badius Ascensius is placed above and beside it and is identified by his name in the right margin (ASCen).. The gloss of Servius is directly below Virgil’s original text, and identified (SER).

Verso:  Four lines of Virgil’s text and glosses.

Date:  1507

Printer:   Jean Petit, Paris

Content:  The English translation of Virgil’s text beginning with “Alternis idem tonsas cessare novalis et segnem patiere situ durescere campum,” reads:

Then thou shalt suffer in alternate years

The new-reaped fields to rest, and on the plain

A crust of sloth to harden; or, when stars

Are changed in heaven, there sow the golden grain

Where erst, luxuriant with its quivering pod,

Pulse, or the slender vetch-crop, thou hast cleared,

And lupin sour, whose brittle stalks arise,

A hurtling forest. For the plain is parched

By flax-crop, parched by oats, by poppies parched

In Lethe-slumber drenched. Nathless by change

The travailing earth is lightened, but stint not

With refuse rich to soak the thirsty soil,

And shower foul ashes o'er the exhausted fields.

Thus by rotation like repose is gained,

Nor earth meanwhile uneared and thankless left.

Glosses: Jodocus Badius Ascensius (1462-1535) was a scholar and printer who played a central role in the flourishing of humanism and print culture in the French Renaissance. He was known for the ‘familiar’ commentaries he wrote and published as introductions to the major authors of Latin antiquity, as well as on texts by medieval and contemporary authors.

Marius Servius, the author of a set of commentaries on the works of Virgil, was a late fourth-century and early fifth-century grammarian, with the contemporary reputation of being the most learned man of his generation in Italy.

Notes: It is difficult to fully appreciate the audacity of Virgil's enterprise in writing the Georgics. He produced a poem to teach subjects completely alien to the higher literary tradition which was his heritage: sheep-dipping, soil-testing. irrigation, bee-keeping, manuring and the like.

By Virgil's day, Roman agriculture had become a science; many of its precepts not essentially unlike those of today.  Through observation and experimentation the Romans knew, for example,  that graft compatibility depended at least on stock and scion being intrafamilial, and preferably intrageneric; somehow they had hit upon the fact that the rotation of wheat crops with legumes brought about what we know as nitrogen-fixation which revitalised the soil.

Condition: The leaf is in very good condition, with original margins and just a pale stain in the bottom inner corner. It is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Size: approx. 310x210 mm.  Please note that shipping is invoiced separately.

Item:  PSE117

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