Vegetius de re militari. SCRIPTORES REI MILITARIS.
Vegetius de re militari.
Vegetius de re militari.
Vegetius de re militari.
Vegetius de re militari.
Vegetius de re militari.

Vegetius de re militari.

Rome, Eucharius Silber 24 October and 3 November 1494.

4to (204 x 150 mm.). [ii], [69], [59], [7], [36], [32]p. Roman type, two series of woodcut initials, some guide letters, LETTERPRESS DIAGRAMS.

ENGLISH BLIND-DECORATED CALF OVER WOODEN BOARDS FROM THE FIRST QUARTER OF THE 16TH CENTURY (worn, slightly wormed, loss at one corner and the head of the spine; Oldham, Blind Panels AC.11), diapered spine, later manuscript-lettered paper label, edges gauffered and once gilt, brass catches, lacks clasps.

The fundamental military texts of ancient Rome: Second Edition of this collection and a key book in the history of technology of warfare.

     Three were composed in Latin — Vegetius, Frontinus and “Modestus”. Two were originally written in Greek and here both translated by 15th-century Greek exiles: Aelianus Tacticus (Th. Gaza) and Onasander (Nic. Sagundino). this last is the work’s first appearance in print. The whole was edited by the Humanist Giovanni Sulpìzio (c. 1430-90), who prepared the first edition of Vitruvius (1486/7) for the press.

     The most famous and influential of the five texts comes first, Vegetius’ Epitome. It treats recruits, organization, tactics and strategy, fortification and naval warfare. It is considered “the foundation of military learning for every European commander, from William the Silent to Frederick the Great” (EB11). It grounded much of John of Salisbury’s Policraticus, the first two books of Christine de Pisan and Machiavelli’s Art of War. It gives the best description of a variety of siege engines of the late empire and Middle Ages, and introduces “the most famous dictum in the history of swordsmanship…strike with the point, not the edge” (Anglo). It was translated into English, French, German and even Bulgarian prior to the advent of printing.

     Frontinus’ Stratagems comes second. It brings together examples from Greek and Roman history useful for officers before, during and after battle, as well as a section on discipline, justice, etc. Apparently the first printed dictionary of military terms, the brief pseudo-Modestus comes next (see Zischka’s Index lexicorum 70), followed by Aelian’s Tactics from the first century C.E. Its three dozen depictions of mounted and foot troop formations — here executed typographically — constitute “the earliest examples of diagrams representing human activity” (Anglo). It played a significant role in the transformation of feudal fighting forces into modern armies over the 16th and 17th centuries. The final tract, by Onasander, sets out the duties of a commander and “was enormously popular during the Renaissance” (OCD).

     The binding’s panel stamp has unusual dimensions (142 x 126 mm.) — “so large and of so peculiar a shape, that, used complete, there can have been very few books for which it would be appropriate” (Oldham). It is composed of five elements arranged vertically — a left border of flowers, vines and bunches of grapes, a series of arches in each of which is an acorn, a center ornament of repeated daisy blooms enclosed in foliage, again the arch-and-acorn motif, and lastly the right border of flowers, vines and bunches of grapes mirroring that on the left. The front board has the four left elements of the stamp, and the rear panel the four right.

     A modest copy (stained, some worming, front flyleaf frayed).

     From the library of James Denton (d. 1533; inscription), dean of Lichfield and almoner to Mary Tudor, including during her sojourn in France as Queen, and later as her chancellor returning there to claim her dowry. Early inscriptions of Edmund Foxe and Robert Henry; George Dunn (1865-1912; bookplate) of Woolley Hall. On the title, an early owner noted that he had seen a small similarly titled book in French (?a manuscript) in a black binding.

¶Klebs, Incunabula scientifica 902.2; Anglo, The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe passim; Schweiger, Handbuch…Lateinische Schriftsteller II: 1303 & II: 1121; Hoffmann, Bibliographisches Lexicon der…Litteratur der Griechen I: 19 & III: 8; Sander, Le Livre à figure italien…jusqu’à 1530 7502; ISTC is00344000; Goff S‑344.

Item #10871

Price: $14,500.00