An Ancient Sporting Classic by Aldine Press

Did you know that the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) has an Aldine book? Neither did I! Till last week! I was reviewing the Library’s rare book collection for items published prior to 1700, when I spotted the word “Aldine” in the library catalog.

The Aldine Press was founded in Venice in 1494 by Aldus Manutius. He was a noted scholar and Renaissance humanist. Specifically, he focused on the publication of classical Greek texts because he believed that reading Aristotle and Aristophanes first-hand provided an elevated reading experience. Today, Aldus is remembered for making Venice a center of Greek printing and scholarship, and for commissioning the typeface we know today as italic.

After his death, the press passed to other family members before his youngest son Paulus took over the press. The book below was printed under the aegis of Paulus Manutius. The book at the NSLM, Poetae tres egregii nunc primum in lucem editi [Three Distinguished Poets Published for the First Time], published in 1534, was the first time these ancient poems on hunting and fishing were printed using a press. The book opens with De Venatione by the first-century writer Faliscus Gratius. The second poem is a fragment of Ovid’s Halieuticon [Treatise on Fishing, a fragment], and the third poem is Cynegeticon [Hunting with Dogs] by the third-century writer Nemesanius. The book concludes with Ecologues by the first-century writer Calpurnius Siculus.

In the photos above, you can see Aldus’s printer’s device, the anchor and dolphin, which are printed on the title page and on the verso of the last leaf. The book appears to have been restored in 19th-century cloth with red morocco spine labels. We are proud that this classic book found a home in Middleburg! It reminds us that the love of hunting and angling has thrived for only not hundreds but thousands of years.

Gratius, Faliscus; Nemesanius; and Siculus, Calpurnius. Poetae tres egregii nunc primum in lucem editi [Three distinguished poets published for the first time]. Venice: Aldine Press, 1534.

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