Bresciae: Boninus de boninis, 18 June, 1483.
Large hand-drawn initial capital letter. 38 lines, 2 columns, a6b8c-d6e8f-h6 [-h6]; 51 leaves, numbered - 51 (lacking final blank). 1 vols. Folio. A Rare and Important Latin Dictionary, 1483. Modern boards, washed and remarkably clean, except that the final gathering shows faint waterstaining at outer margin and a small unobtrusive stain in the text; overall, a beautiful copy. Copinger 2489; Goff F-146 (2 locations); Oates 2619; Vancil 210. ISTC if00146000. Item #213351
Sextus Pompeius Festus was a grammarian of the 2nd century A.D., who wrote this abridgement (“epitome”) of the now lost encyclopedic dictionary of his contemporary Marcus Verrius Flaccus — which survives only in fragments and in occasional citations by other authors. Our primary remaining source of this important Latin dictionary is Festus' abridgement, of which there is only one surviving manuscript (mutilated, and consisting of only the letters M-V), and an 8th-century abridgment of Festus by Paul the Deacon.
The printed editions from the 15th century, therefore, are of the utmost importance in the history of the transmission of the text. Vancil lists 10: (201-210), beginning with the first edition of Milan, 1471. This edition by Boninus de Bonini is the last edition printed in the 15th century, and apparently the last edition before the rediscovered mutilated manuscript was printed in 1559. Goff locates two copies (Hartford Theological Seminary and Newberry Library). RLIN & OCLC both locate one copy (Emory University), catalogued with the inaccurate remark that “this is the second and only remaining portion of the abridgement by Festus of the lost treatise, De verborum significatione of M. Verrius Flaccus, edited and with notes by Fulvio Orsini” — a remark which applies to the 1559 printing, edited by Orsini, from the mutilated manuscript now in Naples. The incunable editions represent the entire alphabet. In this edition, the text of the full alphabet runs through verso H2, ending with “Festi Popmpeii diligenter emendati liber finit.” The final leaves (48-51) then recommence with addenda for the letters I through M, with the colophon on the verso of leaf 51. Goff notes the this Boninus de Bonini edition is sometimes found with his printing of Nonius Marcellus of the same year, but the date of the latter book is 17 July, 1483 — a month later than this printing. The two were issued separately.
As for the importance of the Festus text, there is currently a "Festus" project to collate and publish the text on a website (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/history/festus) where the editors remark: "For modern readers, there is a critical text, published in the early part of the twentieth century; but no translation or commentary is available and the text itself needs modern re-assessment. Many individual entries from the dictionary have been much debated and play a major role in our understanding of the republican period; but there has been no collection of this bibliography and little attempt to look at the dictionary itself or at the information it provides as a coherent whole.”
And modern editors have also remarked: “The text, even in its present mutilated state, is an important source for scholars of Roman history. It is a treasury of historical, grammatical, legal and antiquarian learning, providing sometimes unique evidence for the culture, language, political, social and religious institutions, deities, laws, lost monuments, and topographical traditions of ancient Italy.”.
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