[PRIAPEA].. Diversorum veterum poetarum in Priapum lusus. P.V.M. Catalecta.

Venice: eredi di Aldo, 1534., eredi di Aldo., 1534

Octavo (156 x 90 mm.), 80 leaves with Aldus's device on title page and an verso of the lest leaf.

Binding slightly rubbed but a very good copy from the library of Rogier Peyrefitte (ex libris) bound in XVIII century calf, spine in compartments with gilt decoration, gilt edges.




Second stand-alone Aldine edition, a reprint of the 1517 collection of short comedic and erotic poems dedicated to Priapus, Roman god of fertility. The 80 epigrams, belonging to the Augustan Age (c. 43 BC - 18 AD) are thought to have originated from transcriptions of statues and temples, although some may originally have been the leisure products of aristocratic voluptuaries, and later compiled into this work. Largely lost for a millennium until the 14th century, it was accepted as the work of Virgil and their first appearances in print were in publications of his writings.

Priapus originates from Asia Minor, seeping into Greek culture around the 4th century BC. First mentioned in Xenarchus' Middle Comedy, his status as a minor fertility god was incorporated into Greek literature as a mythico-political figure, and later adopted as a popular figure in Roman erotic art and Latin literature, such as Ovid's Fasti. Much about him is suggestive of ‘lowness': as a minor god, he is rustic, associated with pastoral settings and made of wood, protects the gardens which are often presented as small and meagre.

The Priapea follows the ithyphallic god's colourful adventures while protecting his gardens and vineyards, threatening any thieves with extreme obscenities with flashes of wit and humour. “This collection sensitizes us to the emasculating liberation on offer in all poetry: every poem is, to some extent, a garden of earthy delights where readers can bask in a voluptuous range of bodily sensations. When that garden belongs to Priapus, it may be obscene or prone to invective flights that leave the reader's loins “hollowed” (Pr. 51.4). But no matter how menacing the content, a poem will also encourage those loins to undulate in ways the ideal Priapic vir [man] was never meant to enjoy.” (Young, 2015) Written in Priapus' voice, the first epigram advises the reader to the work's explicit content, almost as if reading these poems was akin to trespassing the god's gardens:


You who are about to read shameless jests of artless verse, lower that

brow that befits Latium. The sister of Phoebus does not dwell in this

shrine, nor does Vesta, nor does the goddess who was born from her

father's head, but the ruddy guardian of gardens, more than usually

well-endowed, who has his groin covered by no clothing. So, either

put a tunic over the part that ought to be covered, or, with the eyes

with which you gaze upon this part, read on.


“[The] horticultural theft and retaliation allegorizes the experience of reading the Carmina Priapea itself. Obscene and rebarbative, this collection is a thorny garden of verse that readers are invited to explore - at their own risk [... This collection sets up a tension between the forms of bodily regulation Priapus represents and a divergent set of sensory experiences available through its poetic form. To be sure, it delivers a relentless lesson in Rome's traditional sexual norms; but this lesson is couched in a form that would have immersed its first readers (mostly elite and mostly male) in a torrent of patently ‘unmanly' sensations.” (Young, pp.183-208)



USTC 802677; Adams v.2 2085 p.114; Brunet 359; BM STC Italian p.539 C.4 f.18; C.19. e.6; G.9831; E. M. Young.“The Touch of the Cinaedus: Unmanly Sensations in the Carmina Priapea”. Classical Antiquity, 34(1), 2015, 183–208.)



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