Antiquariat Jürgen Dinter


De factis et dictis Socratis […] — Rome 1521

Xenophontis de factis et dictis Socratis memoratu dignis Bessarione Cardinale Niceno interprete. Libri quatuor.— Rome, Ariottus de Trino impensis Ioannis Mazochi Bergomatis, 1 December 1521.


First edition

Sm.-4to (201 x 140 mm). A-N4 O6: 58 leaves. Woodcut title-border, last leaf with Giovanni (and Giacomo) Mazzocchi’s device. Faint brown spot to lower outer corner. Wide-margined and crisp copy in recent vellum.

CTC VII, 167; Hoffmann III, 594; Adams X-43; BL/STC Suppl. 83. Device of Mazzocchi: Vaccaro p. 198.

Provenance: Autograph entry  U. Saba – Trieste on rear paste-down. The is the Italian poet Umberto Saba (1883-1957) who run a still existing antiquarian bookshop in Trieste. In 1919 he bought the Mayländer second-hand bookshop and renamed it into La Libreria Antica e Moderna. Today it’s the Libreria Antiquaria Umberto Saba. On the rear paste-down you find a description of our copy from presumably one of Saba’s catalogues. It says: Con un bellissimo frontespizio, capilettere e in fine la marca tipografica … Bell’esemplare marginoso; il primo che abbia veduto col margine esterno del frontesspizio intatto.[!]


¶ Xenophon ( ca. 428 – 354 B.C.), Greek historian and philosophical essayist. While forgotten in theMiddle Ages, his reputation in antiquity and Renaissance was that of a Socratic philosopher, a reputation which rests on his writings on Socrates. Our book was called Memorabilia Socratis since the edition of Johannes Levvenklaius in 1569. Together with the author’s Apologia Socratis, Oeconomicus, and Symposium, the Memorabilia „give a picture of Socrates’ world which makes a vivid alternative to that portrayed in Plato’s dialogues.“ (CTC VII, 79).

The book starts with a dedicatory letter by Janus Vitalis to Giles of Viterbo (Egidio Antonini), followed by a one and a half pages Praefatio by Cardinal Bessarion to Giuliano Cesarini, Bishop of Tusculum. The translation was made by Bessarion about 1440, and it „must have remained in manuscript in Rome for some eighty years before it was discovered presumably by the humanist Ianus Vitalis.“ (Rodes, see below). At the end you find the 7 year privilegio to Giovanni Mazzocchi by Pope Leo X, signed by his secretary Jacopo Sadoleto.

The beautiful title-border with „sphinxes, vine encircling columns and a man’s head in a medaillon“ is reproduced in Mortimer, Italian 16th century books …, p. 583. It must have been lent by Giacomo Mazzocchi to the printer Ariottus de Trino. Liber primus starts with a magnificent initial D.

Printer: See Dennis E. Rhodes, A rare printer at Rome: Ariottus de Trino, in Id., Studies in Early Italian Printing, 1982, p. 89f. The name of the publisher, Giovanni Mazzocchi, appears in only two other books, one of these printed by Ariottus, the other without any printer’s name.

Device: The well-known device of three entwined garlands of laurel, ivy and olive, each with the initial V, and used by the printer Giacomo and by the publisher Giovanni Mazzocchi has been a puzzle to bibliographers and book-historians. The symbolic meaning of ivy, laurel and olive is clear, but puzzling have been the three Vs. Vaccaro writes: „Simbolo: è noto e più volte pubblicato, ma nessun bibliografo ha spiegato il significato dei tre V.“ Rhodes (op. cit.) writes „unless these stand for veni, vidi, vici, which seems an [at least] inappropriate motto here, it is difficult to think of an interpretation.“

I think, that the solution of this enigma is a very simple one. „To think of an interpretation“ is difficult only as long as you read VVV as triple-V and as long as you are looking for any words beginning with V and meaning something sensible. But what you see in the device is not VVV, but ΛVΛ (Lambda, V, Lambda). You just have to contract these three letters into one by putting the left stroke of the V on the right stroke of the first Lambda and the right stroke of the V on the left stroke of the second Lambda, which gives an M. And that is the first letter of Mazzocchi. Like many other printers (or publishers) Mazzocchi has made his initials part of his device as he did in his other devices (Vaccaro fig. 224 and 225 with a simple I. M.).
If you want to, you may add a reasonable interpretation now. Dividing the letter M into three parts and putting each part of it in an entwined circle of laurel, ivy and olive stands for: I, Giovanni (and Giacomo) Mazzocchi, share in the belief in humanity (laurel), eternal life (ivy) and peace (olive).