Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2015 Issue

Classical Antiquity... and After from Sevin Seydi Rare Books

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Classical Antiquity and after.

Sevin Seydi Rare Books has issued a catalogue of Classical Antiquity... and after. That's a long time, everything since prehistory. However, that "after" cuts off well before the present. Most books come from the 16th-19th century. Seydi notes that the items begin with classical to early Christian authors, on to medieval, Renaissance and literary Latin times, and then on to later scholarship of those early times, including archaeology and travel to the homelands of classical antiquity. There is much here of a scholarly nature along with translations of ancient works. The material comes in a variety of languages – Latin, and living European languages, including English. For those looking for a trip far back in time, this catalogue is your vehicle. Here are a few examples.

 

It took him almost two thousand years to find a publisher, but once he did, lots of people lined up to publish Aristotle's works. Here is one of the earliest. Item 15 is Aristotelis summi semper viri... published in 1531. It was only the second edition of his collected works, following an edition published by the Aldine Press. The book credits the editing to Erasmus, but Seydi informs us it was actually Simon Grynaeus. Grynaeus was a professor of Greek at Heidelberg University, who was also a theologian and a representative of the Protestant cause at the time of the Reformation. However, he was also said to be a likable fellow and he was a correspondent with the reform-minded, but still loyal Catholic theologian, Erasmus. The book does print a letter from Erasmus to John More concerning how to distinguish the true Aristotelian corpus from the false. Priced at £5,000 (British pounds, or approximately $7,605 U.S. dollars).

 

Next is a book which, if its claims were accurate, would make Aristotle's time look recent. Item 42 is The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs the sons of Jacob. Translated out of the Greek into Latin by Robert Grost-head, sometime Bishop of Lincoln; and now out of his copy into French and Dutch by others, and now Englished. This edition was published in 1681, long after it was translated by Grosseteste, who was a bishop during the 13th century. The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs is a very old book, probably around two millennia, but doesn't really date back to the time of Jacob's sons. It is an apocryphal work, supposedly containing advice and prophecies from each of Jacob's sons. It had been around for a very long time when Bishop Grosseteste found a copy and translated it to Latin. Grosseteste believed it to be exactly what it claimed. Christians of the era welcomed it as the prophecies seemed to forecast the coming of Christ. However, by the 17th century, scholars had concluded that it was either a Christian forgery, or a Christian amended version of an earlier, lost Jewish document. £300 (US $456).

 

Here is another title which claims more than it delivered: The Tomb of Alexander: a Dissertation on the Sarcophagus brought from Alexandria, and now in the British Museum. The author of this 1805 tract was Edward Daniel Clarke, and similar to Bishop Grosseteste, he thought he had found the tomb of Alexander. Clarke was a clergyman and naturalist who did much traveling. His timing for Egypt was perfect. The British had just secured the country from Napoleon, giving the Englishman Clarke access to the antiquities the French had gathered. He oversaw the process of moving many artifacts to England, including the sarcophagus from what he believed was Alexander's tomb. However, once the Rosetta stone was deciphered, enabling other ancient Egyptian writings to be translated, it was determined that this had not been Alexander's tomb, but that of Pharoah Nectanebo II. Nectanebo II was the last true Egyptian leader of Egypt. He ruled during the 300's B.C., and much of his time was prosperous. However, late in his rule, the Persians mounted a major attack and defeated Nectanebo. The sarcophagus prepared for Nectanedo remained empty. He fled south to regroup, and temporarily controlled part of southern Egypt, but was again forced to flee. Likely he went to Nubia, and whatever happened to him after is unknown. He did not end up in his tomb. Item 69. £350 (US $532).

 

Here is a journey you would definitely not want to make today: A Summer Ramble in Syria, with a Tartar trip from Aleppo to Stamboul, published in 1835. One hundred eighty years have not necessarily made the world a safer place. The author of this book was Vere Monro, a clergyman from a Scottish family filled with clergymen. A contemporary review explained that while the author does not possess the capacity to give the best of accurate, minute scientific observations, he makes up for it with his adventurous and determined spirit. Item 163. £750 (US $1,140).

 

Sevin Seydi Rare Books may be reached at 0207 485 9801 or rarebooks@seydi.co.uk.

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