Aldines at the
Edward Worth Library,
A Descriptive Catalogue :
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A number of factors affected the development of Edward Worth’s collection. A small part of it had been inherited from his father, John Worth (1648-1688), Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, who had died when Worth was twelve years old. As a student at first Merton College, Oxford, and later at Leiden University, Edward Worth would undoubtedly have augmented this inheritance but for this period of his life our sources for scanty. Luckily the development of his collection during the last ten years of his life (i.e. the period 1723 to 1733) is easier to investigate, due to the fact that Worth left us 57 book auction and sales catalogues. These shed valuable light on the direction Worth’s collecting took after his Uncle William Worth’s bequest of 1721, a bequest which certainly extended his buying ability. Many of his Aldines were bought during this period.
Epistolae Graeci 1499 cover.
Worth was undoubtedly lucky to be buying in the wake of the South Sea Bubble and the Mississippi Bubble (1720) which, among other things, were the cause of so many magnificent libraries coming on the market. His collection of sales catalogues includes not only book-sale and auction catalogues from Dublin but also from London, Amsterdam and The Hague. We know that Worth employed a factor, the printer Nicholas Prevost, who had links to both the Dutch and London book-trades. A letter from a William Smith (an associate of the Dublin firm Smith and Bruce) is likewise extant, which records his purchases on Worth’s behalf at the famous Uilenbroek sale in 1729. Worth bought more than one copy of the Epistolae Graeci of 1499. Given the similarity between the inscription on the cover of this copy and the handwriting of William Smith, it is likely that Smith sourced this copy for Worth.
Pollux illuminated detail.
The attraction for Worth of his copy of Julius Pollux’s Onomasticon is obvious. Its highly decorated first page reminds us of the cross-over between manuscript and print when deluxe editions such as the Aldine Pollux would be illuminated by hand to honour the purchaser. Pollux’s ten books of the Onomasticon, composed during the reign of the Emperor Commodus, had been widely available in manuscript form in the fifteenth century. There had been plans afoot to print it prior to the Aldine 1502 edition but these came to nothing – with the result that Worth’s 1502 copy is the editio princeps of the work.
Stephanus of Byzantium note.
Bound in the same work (in a contemporary binding), is yet another Aldine editio princeps, this time of Stephanus of Byzantium’s De Urbibus, printed in the same year. At the end of the text is an inscription, dated 18 June 1506, which gives us important provenance information. Worth might not have been interested to know that this volume had been in the possession of Dr Johannes Mangolt (1467-1531), a doctor of jurisdprudence at the University of Heidelberg, but the information that it had been owned by the famous Renaissance polymath Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516), would surely have been of interest to such a knowledgeable collector.
The fact that this book, printed in 1502, had reached the University of Heidelberg by 18 June 1506, via Trithemius and Mangolt, is not surprising. Lowry (1979) mentions that Heidelberg was the centre of the initial German reception of Aldine works. It was at the University of Heidelberg, where Trithemius had studied and where Mangolt was on the teaching staff, that we see the development of the ‘Societas litteraria Rhenana’ (of which Trithemius was a member), an amorphous group of scholars whose aims were similar to those of Aldus’ longed-for ‘New Academy’. The German ‘Societas’ predated the putative Aldine ‘Academy’ by some years and may, as Lowry (1979) notes, have served in some ways as a model for it. Trithemius’ acquisition of the combined Pollux-Stephanus of Byzantium volume fits in with what we know of his other acquisitions from the Aldine press: Lowry lists the following works in his collection: ‘Musaeus, Theocritus, the Grammatici Veteres, the Greek Orators, parts of Aristotle and Theophrastus, and the Grammars of Lascaris and Theodorus Gaza’.1 The dating of the inscription is also intriguing. As Lowry (1979) notes, up to 1506 Aldus had had hopes of relocating to Germany to set up his own academy – Johannes Cuno, writing to Wilibald Pirckheimer in December 1505 stated that ‘Aldus is preparing to move to Germany, to found a New Academy under the protection of the King of the Romans’.2 By early 1506, however, these hopes had vanished.
Smith and Bruce 1726 p. 8.
While many of Worth’s Aldines were purchased at auctions of major named collections, such as those of Jean Baptist Colbert (1619-1683), Finance minister to Louis XIV, Louis-Henri de Lomenie (1635-1698), Comte de Brienne, the library of the Amsterdam merchant Goswin Uilenbroek, or the collection of the Dutch magistrate Samuel Huls, it is important to remember that Aldines were also available for purchase in early eighteenth-century Dublin. The image above, from Worth’s copy of the 1726 Sale catalogue of the Dublin firm Smith and Bruce shows that he purchased his copy of Giovanni Crastoni’s Dictionarium graecum (1497) from this firm.
Vander Marck sale p. 22.
One of the most important sources for Worth’s Aldine obsession proved to be the sale of the library of a Dutch collector, Hendrik vander Marck. As we can see in this image, by the early eighteenth century (in this case 1727), publishers were well aware of that there was a connoisseur market for Aldines. They therefore provided their clientele with catalogues which listed texts of ‘collectable’ printers separately. In this case, we see part of a list of folio Aldines from the vander Marck sale and Aldines in other formats would have been likewise listed. We can see that it was from this sale that Worth bought his copy of the medical Aldine by Aetius of Amida (1534), bound in Dutch parchment (vellum), with a gold-tooled spine. The other medical Aldines marked here were purchased by Worth – but not from this sale as the binding descriptions do not match those of the bindings on Worth’s editions in the Worth Library. Worth bought at least 6 texts from this sale, including his parchment-covered editio princeps of the Aldine Thucydides.
A catalogue of books, newly arrived from England, Holland and France. To be sold by Smiths and Bruce, booksellers on the Blind-Key: where may be had variety of maps, … &c (Dublin: Smith and Bruce, 1726).
Bibliotheca Marckiana (The Hague: apud Petrum de Hondt, 1729).
Bibliotheca Uilenbroukiana, sive catalogus librorum quos collegit… Gosuinus Uilenbroek, in tres partes divisus... (Amsterdam: apud Wetstenios & Smith, 1729).
Illustrissimi & excellentissimi Ludovici Henrici, Comitis Castri-Briennij… bibliothecae (London : Woodman and Lyon, 1724).
Arnold, Klaus (1971), Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) (Kommissionsverlag Ferdinand Schöningh Würzburg).
Botley, Paul (2010), ‘Learning Greek in Western Europe, 1396-1529: Grammars, Lexica, and Classroom Texts’, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, 100, no2, pp. iii-xii, 1-270.
Lowry, Martin (1979) The World of Aldus Manutius. Business and Scholarship in Renaissance Venice (Oxford: Blackwell).
1 Lowry, Martin (1979) The World of Aldus Manutius. Business and Scholarship in Renaissance Venice (Oxford: Blackwell), p. 266. A listing of the Greek volumes in Trithemius collection in 1624 may be found in Paralipomena Opusculorum Petri Blesensis (Cologne, 1524), pp. 777-794: http://reader.digitale-sammlungen.de/de/fs1/object/display/bsb10744232_00565.html
2 Lowry, Ibid, p. 200.