SOPHOCLES. Tragoediae septem cum commentariis. [Greek] Edited by Johannes Gregoropoulos Cretensis].

Venice: in Aldi Romani Academia mense Augusto MDII. , Aldus Manutius., 1502

Octavo (145x93 mm), 196 unnumbered leaves, with the three blanks. Types 1:80 italic, 4:79 Greek, cut by Francesco Griffo. General title, Latin dedication to Janus Lascaris, epigrams of Simonides, Erucius and Diocorides the Alexadrian from the Antology, six divisional titles, woodcut dolphin and anchor device (Fletcher no. 2) on verso of last leaf, all leaves ruled in red. Light foxing, overall a good copy, bound by Roger Pyne in red morocco for Michael Wodhall, covers bordered with gilt floral tools, Wodhall coat of arms on front cover, inner dentelles gilt, spine richly decorated in gilt, gilt edges.


Editio princeps of the seven surviving tragedies by Sophocles. This edition remained the most readily available source for study of Sophocles' text until the 19th century, when superior manuscripts became the subject of scholarly study. A portion of the printer's copy survives, as St. Petersburg ms. gr. 731. “The Aldine is probably best known for the editor's intervention at Antigone 572. He appears to be the first scholar to propose that the line be given to the heroine, whereas the manuscript tradition is unanimous in assigning it to her sister Ismene … The Aldine editor's now seems to have been an influential mistake.” (N. Wilson, From Byzantium to Italy: Greek Studies in the Italian Renaissance. Baltimore, 1993. p. 138-139). The Sophocles is the first Greek book issued in the aldine portable format and the first classical text printed in the smallest and finest aldine Greek type. “Type 4 was a radical change not only in design, but in its typographical application. The small size of the new type must have suggested the need for a new simplicity, and Aldus's hand was an admirable model in this respect … This final achievement of Francesco Griffo fully deserves the praise accorded to it by Mardesteig. It is true that our eyes turn to it with grateful welcome, unaccustomed as they are to the ligatures an abbreviations of the earlier types. But by any standards it is a masterpiece, not only of engraving skill executed with marvelous homogeneity on a minute scale, but also of exquisitely planned letter fit …It is not surprising that after this no further development was undertaken: it was a ne plus ultra until the great French engravers of the mid-century, Garamond, Granjon and Haultin, bent their talents to the cutting of Greeks.”(N. Barker, Aldus Manutius and the development of Greek script and type, New York 1992, p. 89). The Sophocles is the first Aldine edition to mention the Greek New Academy in its colophon. In the dedicatory letter to Lascaris, Aldus describes a scene in his household as they sat in a semicircle round the fire with the members of the New Academy in the cold of winter. At some point Marcus Musurus, Lascaris' grateful pupil, spoke at length in his praise and remarked how pleased the master had been with Aldus's productions when he met him in Milan and Padua the previous July and August. Now that his New Academy is bringing out Sophocles' seven tragedies in small format, Aldus would like to associate the edition with Lascaris' name and dedicate it to him as a sign of great affection. Apart from Aldus and Johannes Cretensis, the other founding members were Scipio Fortiguerra, who drafted the statutes, Battista Egnazio, Paolo da Canal, Girolamo Menocchio and Francesco Rosetto. Aldus's Greek New Academy was both a Greek dining club where somewhat facetiously no language but Greek was allowed to be spoken and a serious new educational movement concerned with the advancement of classical culture.


Ahmanson-Murphy 48; Renouard 34.6; Adams S-1438.

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