CAESAR, Gaius Julius. [The Commentaries.] C. Julii Cæsaris Quae Extant. Accuratissimè cum Libris Editis & MSS optimis Collata, Recognita & Correcta. Accesserunt Annotationes Samuelis Clarke. S.T.P. Item Indices Locorum, Rerumque & Verborum Utilissimæ. Tabulis Æneis Ornata.

London, Jacob Tonson., 1712

Folio (465 x 288mm). 87 engraved plates, comprising: engraved double-page additional title, 61 double-page plates, many by C. Huijberts after Mantegna, including a famous image of a bison, 25 full-page plates including a folding portrait of the Duke of Marlborough by George Vertue (1684-1756); numerous engraved headpieces and vignettes in the text, initials. Faint even browning throughout but a very fine copy in contemporary red morocco, spine richly gilt in 8 compartments, dark-green morocco gilt lettering-piece in second, the others with foliate tools and volute cornerpieces, marbled endpapers, gilt turn-ins and edges. Provenance: 'L' (small circular stamp dated 1910 on rear free endpaper).


First edition.‘The most sumptuous classical work which this country has produced' (Lowndes) bound in contemporary red morocco with 87 attractive engravings by various artists, including the famous image of a bison that is sometimes missing or damaged. The Tonson's Caesar received contemporary praise from Joseph Addison as ‘a Work that does honour to the English Press', having ‘passed thro' the Hands of one of the most accurate, learned and judicious Writers this Age has produced. The Beauty of the Paper, of the Character, and of the several Cuts with which this noble Work is illustrated, makes it the finest Book that I have ever seen; and is a true Instance of the English Genius' (The Spectator no. 367, May 1712). The work is annotated by Samuel Clarke (1675-1729), a major English philosopher, especially renowned for his theories on the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. He also corresponded with Leibnitz and in 1706 translated Newton's Optiks into latin. Among his philological works is also an edition of the first 12 books of the Iliad. For the present edition, he chose Caesar's accounts of his campaigns in Gaul and Britain (58-50BC) and of his participation in the Roman Civil War (49-48BC) along with the remaining works on his military campaigns in Alexandria and Asia, Africa, and the Iberian peninsula. The volume is ‘dedicated to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, the victorious English general at the Battle of Blenheim (1704) and instrumental to the military successes of the Grand Alliance more generally, this monumental volume establishes by a secular typology that Marlborough is the new Julius Caesar of Europe. Strange as that may seem from the long view of history, Samuel Clarke's cloying dedication to the Duke as the “noblest, wisest, and strongest” of men (“Nobilissimo, Sapientissimo, & Fortissimo”) says as much from its opening paragraph, describing the ancient commander as “outdone only by YOU [Marlborough] in glory and success, and in every part of the character of a consummate general” (“TUA solius armorum gloria & felicitate & laude omni superatum”).10 Understandably, then, Marlborough's portrait (by George Vertue after Godfrey Kneller), complete with a cartouche proclaiming him “Illustrissimus, Potentissimus, et Excellentissimus,” occupies pride of place as the frontispiece of the volume.' (Michael F. Suarez, Hard Cases: Confronting Bibliographical Difficulty in Eighteenth-Century Texts. pbsa 111:1 (2017): 1–30 © 2017 Bibliographical Society of America.)

Brunet I, 1456; Lowndes I, p.344-345.


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