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P. Vergili Maronis Codex Antiquissimus is an edition of the works of Vergil, a facsimile of the Vergil ms. in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, edited by Turcius Rufius Apronianus Asterius in 494. The type is set in old-style capitals, with significant quantities of printed rubrication and additional rubrication by hand. It was printed by Joseph Manni, in Florence, Italy, in 1741.

This is not facsimile in the present sense of the word. It is a reproduction of the text of a fifth century manuscript in a font somewhat similar to the 5th century manuscript - the most significant change being the addition of three characters to the font. A three line fragment of the original is reproduced in an engraving on page xv. The text looks vaguely similar to the original, and, like the original, is in all capitals.

Joseph Manni created this book as a work of beauty and utility. The wide margins, clean typesetting, and rubrication lend to the clarity of the text. The use of type devices and engravings add to the beauty of the book.

The collation of this volume is: half title, (1), engraved second title page (not present in all copies), (1), main title page (numbered pages start with this page), xxxv, (1), 459, (1). Additional leaf of printed text between 310 and 311, mistakenly left out, denoted as * (r) and ** (v). My copy lacks p 453-456 (supplied in facsimile) - flaw which may be present in some other volumes, though the majority of other copies were issued complete. The book measures 17 x 23.5 cm.

The first page with text is the half title, which reads:

P. VERGILI MARONIS
CODEX ANTIQVISSIMVS
IN BIBLIOTHECA
MEDICEO-LAVRENTIANA

ADSERVATVS.

The second (added, and in most copies) title page is on the leaf immediately following the title page. It is an engraving, 145 x 200 mm, done to look much like an Italian tomb of the 16th c. This frame, with the representations of statues of Roman gods on each side, provides an elegant frame for the text. The plate is signed &AFlig;. C. scul. The second title page reads:

REGIAE SOCIETATIS
Inscriptionum pulchrarumq. Artium
NOBILISSIMIS SOCIIS
P. VERGILVM MARONÉ
Ex optimo
ant. omnium antiquissimo

CODICE M.S.
BIBLIOTHECAE
MEDICEO=LAVRENTIANAE
PVBLICO BONO ET COMMODO
Typis descriptum
tamquam aequissimis
omnis doctrinae et antiquitatis
aestimatoribus

PET. FRANC. FOGGINIVS
dedicabat
A. S. CI(backwards C)I(backwards C)CCXLI.

The first title page is on the leaf following the second title. It reads:

P. VERGILI MARONIS
CODEX ANTIQVISSIMVS
A RVFIO TVRCIO APRONIANO V. C.
DISTINCTVS ET EMENDATVS
QVI NVNC FLORENTIAE

IN BIBLIOTHECA
MEDICEO-LAVRENTIANA
ADSERVATVR
BONO PVBLICO
TYPIS DESCRIPTVS ANNO CI(backwards C)DCXLI.
FLORENTIAE. TYPIS MANNIANIS.
PRAESIDVM ADPROBATIONE

There are several images printed in the book, all of very good quality. They are six engravings and two woodcuts, not counting the flourishes and other non-alphanumeric design elements.

  • engravings
    • second (added) title, as described above, 146 x 198 mm.
    • title, a small portrait of an individual holding a bust, labeled (on plate) "lnsc. Sarda Ex Mus. Medic.", 70 x 60 mm.
    • p iii, the figure of a monk, labeled, on plate "Ex Codice Vaticano 3867", 94 x 63 mm.
    • p iii, the letter "T", with trees, an ornamental border, and a cherub, 54 x 53 mm.
    • p xv, three lines of text from the codex, labeled "pag. 275", 29 x 127 mm.
    • p xvi, two trumpets, over a wreath, 40 x 90 mm.
  • woodcuts
    • p 441, a nice, significantly larger than normal flourish, 9 x 33 mm.
    • p 459, a large floral design used to end the text. 71 x 104 mm.

The paper used in the book appears to all be made from the same moulds, though it is of varying thickness, with the exception of the added title and the added leaf between 310 and 311, which appear to be from a different paper maker. The paper has the watermark of a sun with a face that has eight points. Due to the position of the watermark on the paper, it is almost always partially or completely obscured by the folding of the paper in the binding. The initials J, M, C, and B are used either above or below the point of the ray of the sun. (It is difficult to tell which, due to the fold.) The general style of the letters is shown below, with the exception of the "B" because it is almost exactly like the one in common use today.

      __                _____
     |  |  |\    /|    /     \
     |  |  | \  / |   /       O
 _   |  |  |  \/  |  |        |
| |  |  |  |      |  |        |
| |__|  |  |      |   \       O
|_______|  |      |    \_____/

P. Vergili Maronis Codex Antiquissimus is a work of aesthic and scholarly significance - the copy in my possession has the signature "Fredk. York Powell, 1892" and the bookplate of Walter Ashburner. Other copies are in major public and private collections. It is a beautiful work, the finest, most wonderfully crafted book I have ever had the pleasure to handle.

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