ΘΟΥΚΥΔΙΔΗΣ. THVCYDIDES.

(Colophon:) Venice, Aldus, May 1502.

Folio, ff. [122], without blanks AA8 and OP4; introductory letter in Latin, text in Greek; very occasional ink marks, a little light soiling to first and last pages, very occasional light foxing; a very good, clean copy in early 19th-century red morocco, gilt fillet border to covers, spine in compartments with direct gilt lettering to two, gilt edges; slight scuff to spine; inscription (‘Ex Bibl. P. de Cardonnel MDCL’) and two British Museum ink stamps to title (red oval stamp ‘Museum Britannicum’ and lozenge stamp ‘Duplicate 1804’), armorial bookplate of E. Hubert Litchfield to front pastedown; line numbers (in tens) and page numbers neatly written in ink; a few early annotations comprising corrections in Greek, interlinear translations of a few words into Latin, and a few Latin marginalia, occasional marginal marks and underlining.

£25000

Approximately:
US $32356€27645

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A handsome copy of the first edition of the Greek text of Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, printed by the great Aldus Manutius, with an interesting provenance.

The title bears the 1650 ownership inscription of Pierre de Cardonnel (1614-1667), merchant (in his native Normandy, in Southampton and London), publisher (of Samuel Bochart’s monumental Geographia Sacra of 1646), supporter of the royal family and English royalists, classical and oriental scholar, poet, translator of Waller and Dryden, and book collector. It is likely that Cardonnel knew the philosopher Thomas Hobbes: he was a friend of Hobbes’s patron William Cavendish, 3rd earl of Devonshire – from whom he received a copy of Hobbes’s Leviathan in 1652, which he heavily annotated (now in the Pforzheimer Library) – and he and Hobbes shared links with numerous royalists in exile. Cardonnel met Cavendish in Normandy in 1645, the same year that Hobbes visited the earl in Rouen. Thucydides was, of course, Hobbes’s favourite historian and he published an English translation directly from the Greek text in 1629. Here, then, we have the intriguing possibility that Cardonnel acquired this volume having discovered a shared interest with Hobbes in the great Greek historian, or, perhaps, on the philosopher’s recommendation. For Cardonnel, and his library, see Noel Malcolm, Aspects of Hobbes (Oxford, 2004) p. 259 ff.

‘Thucydides set himself the highest standards of accuracy. “As to the actions of the war”, he says, “I have not felt free to record them on hearsay evidence from the first informant or on arbitrary conjecture. My account rests either on personal knowledge or on the closest possible scrutiny of every statement made by others. The process of research was laborious, because conflicting accounts were given by those who had witnessed the several events, as partiality swayed or memory served them.’ This he did not only from his belief in the importance of the actual events, but in the conviction that the facts would be found of permanent value. He saw his history as a source of profit to “those who desire an exact knowledge of the past as a key to the future, which in all probability will resemble the past”. It was in this sense, not in any anticipation of his own enduring fame, that he called it, in a memorable phrase, “a possession for ever”. This is exactly what it has become. Nothing, not even his own participation in the war or his disgrace in 424, was permitted to divert the historian from the standards he had laid down for himself ... Thucydides has been valued as he hoped: statesmen as well as historians, men of affairs as well as scholars, have read and profited by him’ (Printing and the Mind of Man, 102).

Ahmanson-Murphy 57; Renouard, pp. 33-34.