Venice, [Antonio di Alessandria della Paglia, Bartolomeo da Fossombrone and Marchesino di Savioni] 1481.
4to (202 x 148 mm.). [iv], p. Roman type, most initial spaces blank (some printed guide letters).
19th-century vellum, gilt-lettered morocco label and manuscript date on the spine (spine chipped).
THE BESTSELLER INCUNABLE FORGERY, averaging more than an edition per year from its first appearance in 1468 to the end of the century. “THE MOST WIDELY READ AUTHOR OF GREEK LETTERS, PHALARIS WAS ONLY SURPASSED IN EPISTOLOGRAPHY BY CICERO” (Vinko, tr.). It is the first collection of ancient Greek letters to be put in print and the second letter collection overall (first the 1467 Cicero).
Though credited to the 6th-century B.C. tyrant of Sicily, these 142 elegant letters were probably composed in the 2d century A.D. Francesco Griffolini (1420-?1465) completed his translation in 1452, and it became the Latin version through the Renaissance and the basis of translations. Admired for its style and varied content, the Letters serviced as a text book in schools and universities across Europe, and Erasmus approvingly referenced it. Swift put it in his Battel of the Books, though Bentley had just proved it a fake in an essay that remains a model of critical textual scholarship.
Alessandria della Paglia and his partners issued four books during their brief period of activity (1480-81). Two of their editions survive in single copies. In good condition (first recto dusty), 19th-century memorial bookplate of the Taylor Institute with their release stamp, purchase note of Georges Petit (1878-1956) dated November 1954.
¶Hinz, Nunc Phalaris doctum protulit ecce caput: antike Phalarislegende und Nachleben der Phalarisbriefe passim; Flodr, Incunabula classicorum 238,15; see the Freemans’ Bibliotheca Fictiva 16, 20 & 35-43 (later edd.); ISTC ip00559000; Goff P-559.