Title page of the Aldine Sophocles from the copy at Simon Fraser University.

Title page of the Aldine Sophocles from the copy at Simon Fraser University.

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A: Venezia, Veneto, Italy

Aldus Manutius Publishes the Editiones Principes of Thucydides, Sophocles, and Herodotus

Title pag of the Aldine Herodotus. Pas Gdańsk Library.

Title pag of the Aldine Herodotus. Pas Gdańsk Library.

1502 was a year of remarkable scholarship and publishing productivity for the scholar printer Aldus Manutius. On May 14 he completed the first edition of Thucydides in Greek (editio princeps), and only a few months later, in September, he completed the first edition of Herodotus in Greek. Between the two, in the month of August, he was able to issue the editio princeps of Sophocles, his first edition of a Greek text in his octavo portable book format. The following year Aldus also published an edition of the Scholia to Thucydides, resulting from his editorial work on that text.

This entry will briefly discuss Aldus's achievements in publishing the editiones principes of the two leading ancient Greek historians. Though Aldus frequently employed editors to prepare his texts, he was apparently interested enough in both Thucydides and Herodotus to edit their texts himself. From a sentence in the dedicatory epistle of his edition of Thucydides we learn that during that period of his life, at least, he insisted on having at least three manuscripts of an author before printing:

"eram daturus . . .τα τε ΧενοΦϖντος, Πλνθωνος, . . .sed quia non habebam minum tria exemplaria, distulimus in aliud tempus."

In his paper, "The Aldine Scholia to Thucydides," Classical Quarterly 30, No. 3/4 (July-October 1936) 146-50, from which Aldus's statement is quoted, J. Enoch Powell reconstructed the texts that Aldus consulted, identifying in theory the three codices that Aldus probably used, and elements of their subsequent history. He also indicated (on p. 147) that "nothing seems to be known about the ultimate fate of Aldus' private library: all that I can find is that according to his will his property of every kind was divided equally between his three sons; the family became extinct in 1601." In April 2014 a listing of the extant exemplars of Thucydides were available from Roger Pearse's tertullian.org at this link. It was unclear how those correlated with the manuscripts mentioned in Powell's paper.

Similarly in his dedication to his editio princeps of Herodotus, Aldus claimed that he corrected the text from multiple exemplars. While Lorenzo Valla had used manuscripts of Herodotus from Rome for his Latin translation of Herodotus, Aldus obtained manuscripts from Florence, which contained variant readings. In 1993 Brigitte Mondrain discovered Aldus's manuscript for the editio princeps of Herodotus in a library in Nuremberg: Mondrain, "Un nouveau manuscrit d’Hérodote: le modèle de l’impression aldine," Scriptorium 49 (1995) 263-273. (When I wrote this entry in April 2014 I had not had the opportunity to read Mondrain's paper, which I assumed would fill in signficant details.)

Aldus designed his editions of Thucydides and Herodotus as a matching set. The editions share the same paper stock, all types, and the number of lines per page. 

The Aldine Press: Catalogue of the Ahmanson-Murphy Collection of Books by or Relating to the Press in the Library of the University of California, Los Angeles (2001) Nos. 57 (Thucydides) and 62 (Herodotus).

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