Marcus Valerius Martialis

 

Martialis cum duobus commentis

 

Venezia, Impressit volumem hoc Iacobus Pentio de Leuco

 

1503

 

 

 

A rare Post Incunabula, "Marcus Valerius Martialis" Martialis cum duobus commentis, Epigrams" printed in Venice in 1503 by Iacobus Pentio de Leuco.

Edited by Domizio Calderini and Giorgio Merula.

Marcus Valerius Martialis (known in English as Martial) (March 1, 40 AD – between 102 and 104 AD), was a Latin poet from Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula) best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103, during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. In these short, witty poems he cheerfully satirizes city life and the scandalous activities of his acquaintances, and romanticizes his provincial upbringing.
 

He is considered to be the creator of the modern epigram.

Martial's Epigrams

Martial's keen curiosity and power of observation are manifested in his epigrams. The enduring literary interest of Martial's epigrams arises as much from their literary quality as from the colorful references to human life that they contain. Martial's epigrams bring to life the spectacle and brutality of daily life in imperial Rome, with which he was intimately connected.

From Martial, for example, we have a glimpse of living conditions in the city of Rome:

"I live in a little cell, with a window that won't even close,
In which Boreas himself would not want to live."
Book VIII, No. 14. 5–6.

As Jo-Ann Shelton has written, "fire was a constant threat in ancient cities because wood was a common building material and people often used open fires and oil lamp. However, some people may have deliberately set fire to their property in order to collect insurance money." Martial makes this accusation in one of his epigrams:

"Tongilianus, you paid two hundred for your house;
An accident much common in this city destroyed it.
You collected ten times more. Doesn't it seem, I pray,
That you set fire to your own house, Tongilianus?"
Book III, No. 52

Martial also pours scorn on the doctors of his day:

"I felt a little ill and called Dr. Symmachus.
Well, you came, Symmachus, but you brought 100 medical students with you.
One hundred ice-cold hands poked and jabbed me.
I didn't have a fever, Symmachus, when I called you –but now I do.
Book V, No. 9

Martial's epigrams also refer to the extreme cruelty shown to slaves in Roman society. Below, he chides a man named Rufus for flogging his cook for a minor mistake:

"You say that the rabbit isn't cooked, and ask for the whip;
Rufus, you prefer to carve up your cook than your rabbit."
Book III, No. 94

Martial's epigrams are also characterized by their biting and often scathing sense of wit as well as for their lewdness; this has earned him a place in literary history as the original insult comic. Below is a sample of his more insulting work:

"You feign youth, Laetinus, with your dyed hair
So suddenly you are a raven, but just now you were a swan.
You do not deceive everyone. Proserpina knows you are grey-haired;
She will remove the mask from your head."
Book III, No. 43
"Rumor tells, Chiona, that you are a virgin,
and that nothing is purer than your fleshy delights.
Nevertheless, you do not bathe with the correct part covered:
if you have the decency, move your panties onto your face."
Book III, No. 87
"'You are a frank man', you are always telling me, Cerylus.
Anyone who speaks against you, Cerylus, is a frank man."
Book I, No. 67
"Eat lettuce and soft apples eat:
For you, Phoebus, have the harsh face of a defecating man."
Book III, No. 89

Or the following two examples (in translations by Mark Ynys-Mon):

Fabullus' wife Bassa frequently totes
A friend's baby, on which she loudly dotes.
Why does she take on this childcare duty?
It explains farts that are somewhat fruity.
Book IV, No. 87
With your giant nose and cock
I bet you can with ease
When you get excited
check the end for cheese.
Book VI, No. 36

(Wikipedia)

Some contemporary notes on the title page, a small repaired wormhole in the right side of the first 20 leaves which causes some small text loss.  Other small holes, perhaps caused by a penknife, in the gutter, far from the text.  Some small restorations in the margin of the last leaves. Small pinhole wormhole throughout the whole book. Some light dampstain, two old drawings, some other minor defects, however it is a very good copy printed on crisp and fresh Incunable paper.

Very rare.

An attractive printer's device is present in the last text leaf. The book is adorned with numerous handsome initials (see the photos).

Cardboard binding from the beginning of the XX century with leather label with title and author.

Pages: CLXI leaves forming 322 pages. The text is complete. Missing the last original blank.

Folio Size:  12.00 in. x 8.30 in.

A pencil note on the first blank by an Italian bookseller states that in 1501, Manuzio printed a small format edition of Martial. This Folio edition, however, was very elegantly printed by Pentio and is therefore much more important.  The book was valued at Euro 4,000 ($5,000).

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