Rome, (colophon: Hippolito Salviani), 1554 (colophon: January 1558). Folio (40 x 26 cm). With an engraved title-page (with a medallion portrait of the author, and the combined coats of arms of Popes Paul III chief and Marcellus II base, in an elaborate scrollwork frame with mermaids, shells, turtles, dolphins and putti) and 98 figures (numbered 1-53, 55-99) on 81 full-page engravings (plate size 33 x 22.5 cm) printed on integral leaves, a woodcut publisher’s device on the last page, and about 100 decorated pictorial woodcut initials (2 series) including repeats. Dutch gold-tooled red morocco (ca. 1810 in a somewhat old-fashioned style or ca. 1780s with endpapers added ca. 1810), the boards with a triple fillet with a rosette on each corner, the spine with asymmetrical flowers and small 6-pointed stars, and the board edges, turn-ins and head-caps with three different rolls. Further with a green morocco spine label, light green Storemont marbled endpapers (with light blue, black, ochre, dark green and red veins, the red sometimes also with Storemont speckles), headbands in pink and green, green ribbon marker, gilt edges (probably by the so-called First Leiden Dissertation Bindery).
First edition (2nd issue) of a rare and extremely well-illustrated Latin treatise on Italian fishes (“the plates … in accuracy and beauty far surpass any figures published in the next 100 years” Dean), with 92 numbered chapters, one for each of 92 varieties of fish, giving detailed notes on their names, characteristics, locality, habitat and culinary use. The engravings are extremely detailed and accurate, giving our best early view of many of these species. 110 pages of tables give numerous cross-references to Aristotle, Pliny and many other mostly classical sources, citing relevant passages for almost every variety discussed, and there are alphabetical indexes of the Greek, Latin and common names. In addition to common fish, the plates include eels, sharks, skates, squids and an octopus. Salviani (1514-1572), personal physician to Popes Julius III, Marcellus II (to whom the present work would have been dedicated had he not died in 1555) and Paul IV (to whom it is dedicated), is best known for the present work. It lost none of its scientific value until the development of Linnean classifications of fish two hundred years later, and it remains one of the great classics of ichthyology.
Although many of the engravings appear on a leaf that is blank on the reverse, they are all printed on the integral leaves of the letterpress quires, and most have engraved leaf numbers that fit into the sequence of leaf numbers for the letterpress text. The 81 plates themselves are not sequentially numbered, but most of the figures are numbered (1-99, omitting 54). This has caused confusion in the literature, so that references erroneously call for anything between 76 and 88 ‘plates,’ but the leaf numbering for the whole book makes it clear that it is complete with the present 81 engravings and that Salviani accidentally skipped number 54 (explicitly noted as omitted in Adams, BMC NH, Mortimer and Nissen). Although the present volume is called “liber primus,” no more ever appeared. The present first edition is known in issues with the colophon dated October 1657, dated January 1658 (as here, rarer than the 1557 issue), and with the final leaf containing the colophon cancelled. The present copy includes 4 letterpress slips correcting engraved fish names in some plates: 3 of the 7 noted by Mortimer and one not noted there (on fol. V4v).
With an early nineteenth-century bookplate mostly removed and an early twentieth-century bookplate of Maximillian Krauß. The tooling of the boards follows French work of the 1780s (De Rome le jeune in Paris regularly used similar triple fillets with rosettes stamped on top of the intersections at the four corners from the 1760s to the 1780s) but if the binding is that old, the attractive and unusually colourful Storemont marbled endpapers were added later. Wolfe records no Storemont marbling with coloured veins before 1805 and his closest matches (the less colourful 77 and 82) date from the period 1805-1825. Storm van Leeuwen records the stamp in the centres of the spine compartments in eighteenth-century bindings of what he calls the First Leiden Dissertation Bindery, stamp no. 17 (we are grateful to him for information). The plain endpapers are watermarked with the name of Adriaan Rogge (1732-1816), a papermaker in Zaandam (Holland) whose mills were sold the year after his death, so that they could be late eighteenth or early nineteenth-century.
The binding is very good, with only minor wear around the edges. A finely bound copy of an essential standard work of ichthyology, with 81 beautiful and (for their time) very accurate engravings.
(8), 256 ll. Adams S-190 (3 complete copies); Dean III, p. 311-312; Ekama, p. 245; Mortimer (Italian) 454; Nissen, Schöne Fischbücher 112; Wood, p. 549 (issue not specified); Ist. Cent. Cat. Unico (2 copies); BMC NH, p. 1795 (1657 issue); DSB XII, pp. 89-90; for the binding: Storm van Leeuwen II, pp. 334-335.