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ARISTOTLE (ARISTOTELES). - [FOUNDING MODERN LITERARY CRITICISM]

Poetica, per Alexandrum Paccium, Patritium Florentinum, in latinum conversa.

lyn50398

(Venice), Aldus (In aedibus Haeredum Aldi, et Andreae Asulani Soceri, 1536). Small 8vo. Contemporary full vellum with remains of ties to boards. Some soiling, but a nice, sturdy copy. Pasted-down end-papers with annotations and calculations in ink. A bit of light brownspotting and top edge with an ink stain that touches numbering on a couple of leaves (still legible), but no lettering. Printed in Latin and Greek. Woodcut Aldus printer's device to title-page and last leaf (which also has a contemporary owner's name: Guillielmo Curgaz?). 28 + 26 + (2) ff. (2 final leaves being index, errata, colophon, and printer's device). ¶ Exceedingly rare first edition of the tremendously important publication that marks the beginning of Aristotle's influence in literature, being the first separate edition of Aristotle's "Poetics" (which had only previously been published in the collection "Rhetores Graeci" in 1508), together with the first printing of Pazzi's highly influential Latin translation and the two important prefatory letters. It is this publication that inaugurates the humanist interest in Aristotle's "Poetics" and creates the influence that this work is to have upon modern literature and poetical scholarship, ruling the field of literary theory until the time of the Romantics. This milestone publication constitutes a key event in the development of literary theory during the Renaissance.

"[T]he modern influence of this famous work dates from the memorable year 1536." (Sandy's II:(133)).

The present publication constitutes a work of immense importance to not only Renaissance thought and literary scholarship, but also to the entire modern development of literary theory and literary criticism. Having been rediscovered around 1500, Aristotle's "Poetics" came to play a foundational role in the history of scholarship - beginning with this edition, which for the first time bases the text upon the three newly discovered manuscripts not previously known, which has for the first time the "Poetics" on its own as (as opposed to being printed in a bigger collection of various Greek texts), as well as the Latin translation that came to be by far the most influential.
"In composing this valuable and very rare edition, Pacius consulted three ancient MSS. One of which was in the Vatican. From the account of Buhle, this appears to be a very valuable work. The Latin version was published in 1538 (this is erroneous - in fact it was published together with the Greek text in 1536. Presumably Dibdin has not seen a copy of the work himself, due to the great scarcity of it): to which two very interesting epistles, by the two Pacii, are prefixed." Dibdin I:320).

"Almost all that we now have of the Aristotelian Corpus was available by the close of the thirteenth century, but by the early fifteenth century the humanist search for ancient texts had turned up two important and previously little-known works bearing the philosopher's name - the "Mechanics" and the "Poetics". Both these short treatises were copied in 1457 for Cardinal Bessarion in an important Greek manuscript that was to help shape the printed tradition of Aristotle's non-logical works... No work of Aristotle's is more unlike the "Mechanics" than the "Poetics", which entered Europe's consciousness at about the same time and with even more dramatic effect... Lorenzo Valla (possibly), Angelo Poliziano, and Ermolao Barbaro knew the "Poetics" before Giorgio Valla made his defective Latin translation in 1498, superseded in 1536 by the version of Alessandro Pazzi. Once accessible, its impact was extraordinary. Even in its partial state, the "Poetics" was the most comprehensive work on literary theory and criticism surviving from the classical period, and it soon came to dominate literary discussion. Since the "poetics" bears the stamp of Aristotle's authority, it is unsurprising that modern critics regard its reappearance as a key event in the development of literary theory during the Renaissance and no wonder that it eventually surpassed the "Ars poetica" Of Horace and ruled the field until Coleridge and the Romantics... Although its subject-matter has not been a favourite of philosophers, the "Poetics" approaches issues of literary structure, genre, and quality with the standard tools of Aristotle's logic, metaphysics, and psychology. Along with the "Rhetoric", with which publishers and interpreters often linked it, the "Poetics" naturally enjoyed great influence among thinkers of a humanist disposition, and it also attracted attention at the universities." (Copenhaver & Schmitt, pp. 66-68).

It is no wonder that Aristotle's scholarly treatise "Poetics" should find resonance with a Renaissance humanist audience. With a new-found emphasis on the task of speaking and writing well, poetics became the sister art of rhetoric, witnessed for instance by the later standard pairing in print of Aristotle's "Rhetoric" and "Poetics". Aristotle was considered the first fully-qualified professional practitioner of the art of literary criticism, and his "Poetics" is the work in which he develops his literary theory and criticism. Thus, the "Poetics" came to constitute the work that the humanists looked to in their attempts at reshaping Europe's habits of expression.

"The Sack of Rome in the month of May, 1527, marks the end of the Revival of Learning in Italy, but not the end of the History of Scholarship in that country. In the month immediately preceding that appalling event, a work composed by Vida before 1520 was printed in Rome in the form of a didactic poem "De Arte Poetica", the first of a long series of volumes on the theory of poetry published in Italy during the sixteenth century. Vida's treatise accepts as the text-book of literary criticism the "Ars Pöetica" of Horace, while it finds the true model of epic verse in the "Aeneid" of Virgil. Meanwhile, in 1498, another of the great classical text-books of literary criticism, the treatise of Aristotle "On the Art of Poetry", had been imperfectly translated into Latin by Giorgio Valla of Piacenza (c. 1430-99), probably a cousin of Laurentius Valla; and it was in this form that Aristotle's treatise was first known in the Revival of Learning. The Greek text was afterwards printed for the first time in the Aldine edition of the "Rhetores Graeci" (1508); but the modern influence of this famous work dates from the memorable year 1536... In 1536 Ramus obtained his doctor's degree in Paris maintaining that all the doctrines of Aristotle were false, thus marking the DECLINE of Aristotle's teaching in PHILOSOPHY; but, in the very same year, the dedicator of Pazzi's posthumous work declares that, in the treatise on poetry, "the precepts of poetic art are treated by Aristotle as divinely as he has treated every other form of knowledge", - thus marking the BEGINNING of Aristotle's influence in LITERATURE." (Sandy's II:133-34).

"Between 1536 and 1550 the critics and poets of Italy had assimilated the teaching of Aristotle's treatise on Poetry." (Sandy's II:133). With the present edition of it, the "Poetics" became the standard dramatic text-book, and soon after, critical editions, elaborate commentaries, and translations into the vernacular began appearing. The publication was reprinted several times in the years following its first appearance.
With this small publication, the history of literary scholarship had been irreversibly altered.

Ahmanson-Murphy:281
Dibdin: I:320 ("valuable and very rare edition").
Adams I: 1902.
Brunet: I:477 ("Pétit volume rare...").
Graesse: I:213 ("Cette édition..., revue sur trois manuscr., non encore collationnés dans l'édition Aldine de 1508, a été réimprimée: Basil. 1537. Paris. 1538. Lugd. 1549. Ven. 1572.").

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