Treasures in the Royal Library

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Aristotle: Opera, graece. Venice: Aldus Manutius 1495-1498. 5 vols.
Inc. Haun. 4337 2º

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Printer’s preface + first page of the Nicomachean Ethics (vol. 5) Fol. ψ4r: Economics (vol. 5)

The Royal Library has in its possession two sets of this first printed edition in Greek of the works by the ancient philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). One of the sets consists of volumes that have come from several different owners. Volumes 4 and 5 belonged to the famous humanist of Nürnberg, Willibald Pirckheimer (1470-1530). Volume 5 is shown here.
Pirckheimer had his close friend Albrecht Dürer decorate several of the first editions of Greek writers that he had in his possession. His extensive library was scattered after his death, and today art historians know of 25 Pirckheimer books with Dürer decorations. Sixteen of these are extant today, while the remaining nine are known only by reference. The Royal Library owns as much as three Pirckheimer books; however, the decoration of Volume 5 of Aristotle’s Opera, shown here, is not attributed to Dürer himself, but to an excellent miniaturist who worked under the supervision of the master.
The printer of the books, Aldus Manutius of Venice, was among the most influential early printers. Not only is he famous for his beautiful books, but also for his reliable editions of classical writers.
As is the case with the editions of Cornelius Nepos, Homer, and Euclid, these volumes reflect the interest of the Renaissance in Greco-Roman antiquity, an interest which in Italy coincided with early printing in the latter part of the 15th century.

31.2 x 21 cm.

Reference (in Danish): Ib Magnussen and V. Thorlacius-Ussing, “Willibald Pirckheimer og Albrecht Dürer”, Fund og Forskning V-VI, 1958-59, pp. 110-128.

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