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Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014



Creator: Angelo Poliziano (1454–1494) (author)
Creation Date: 
16.4 x 11.0 cm
Holmes B 2
Acquirer: Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-1901)
Previously owned by Henry Virtue Tebbs (1835-99); probably acquired for the Royal Library at the bookseller F.S. Ellis's sale, November 1878 (lot 239), £12 12s

Full leather bound in brown calf with blind stamped patterns: (on front board) a Tudor rose flanked by angels, with the initials I N beneath (usually applied to Julian Notary), and (on back board) the Tudor Royal Arms with dragon and greyhound supporters.

The 'Miscellanea' was one of Politian’s most innovative works, a collection of essays on philology and criticism, and a far cry from the formal text-specific commentaries that had been the norm until then. It was first published in Florence in 1489, and in several subsequent editions, including this first Basel edition. This was the first use of this particular woodcut border, designed by Holbein (1497/8-1543) for the Basel printer Valentin Curio (active 1520-33). Curio’s speciality was Greek, particularly lexica and grammars; he collaborated with Cratander on a Greek lexicon, which later led to a dispute between them about reprinting rights. He also published works in German, including ones critical of the Roman Church.

The framework for this title-page border is created by foliage, with a couple seated around a skull at the top centre, and two men with trophies on the left and right sides (perhaps David with the head of Goliath on the right). At the bottom Holbein incorporated the legend of Phyllis and Aristotle, in which the great philosopher was so besotted by Phyllis, the lover of Alexander, that he submitted to being ridden by her. Holbein’s design appears to have been heavily influenced by that of Hans Burgkmair, who included the myth of Phyllis and Aristotle in his series of woodcuts entitled 'Weiberlisten' (‘Women’s Wile’).

The blind panel-stamped binding was made by Julian Notary (c.1455-c.1523), a printer and bookseller from Brittany who established himself in London in the mid-1490s. His output was mainly of liturgical and theological works, with some miscellaneous English works, usually based on the editions of others.

Catalogue entry adapted from 'The Northern Renaissance. Dürer to Holbein', London 2011.

Further details

Additional Creators: Basel : Valentinus Curio (publisher)
Julian Notary (c.1455–c.1523) (binder)
Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543) (designer)