8vo (183 x 115 mm). Collation: *8 A-Z Aa-Zz Aaa-Fff8 Ggg10 hhh8 iii10 (inner bifolium of sheet Ggg misbound between iiii5 and iii6). [8 leaves], 837,  pp.,  leaves. Rihel’s woodcut device on title, woodcut initials. Editor’s dedication to Count Ludwig von Oettingen (*2r-A1v). Text in Greek on versos, in Latin on facing rectos. Shoulder-notes. Scholia and Latin index at end. First few leaves slightly spotted, one or two minor marginal dampstains. Bound in contemporary German green silk velvet over laminated paper boards, sewn on four double cords, the covers blocked in gold with an arabesque and strapwork centerpiece and pair of matching cornerpieces, the latter of slightly different design on each board; the spine with traces of an oval tool, evidence of two pink or red fore-edge ties, edges gilt and gauffered; very worn and rubbed, backstrip fragmentary, lower headcap gone, joints split. ***
unrecorded issue of a bilingual odyssey in its original gold-blocked velvet binding. The philologist Hubert van Giffen (1534-1604) edited classical texts for the publisher or publishing firm of Theodosius Rihel (father, son and grandson all shared the same name), which served the Strassburg university community. Rihel published this Greek and Latin Odyssey with the Batrachomyomachia and the Homeric hymns concurrently with Giffen’s separate edition of the Iliad (also undated but whose dedication is dated April 1572; the two were apparently issued simultaneously and the other variants of this edition are sometimes catalogued under the Giffen/Rihel Iliad, although there is no general title-page). Later editions of both followed. The German online imprint catalogue VD16 (Verzeichnis der im deutschen Sprachbereich erschienenen Drucke des 16. Jahrhunderts) records four separate Rihel editions of the Odyssey, all undated, two of which VD16 dates to 1572 and the two others to 1588 and 1592. Our copy appears to be a variant issue of one of the  editions, VD16 H 4697 = H 4622 = H 4644, which is paginated 837,  pp.,  leaves, as here, but does not contain the 16-page dedication to Count Ludwig von Oettingen (dated September [1572?]). The three other editions all seem to include the dedication (one of the them, VD16 ZV 22787, dated to , is not digitized) but are all paginated 827,  pp.,  leaves.
The present text consists of the same sheets as VD16 H 4697 (comparison was made to the digitized Bayerische Staatsbibliothek copy), but the preliminary leaves are new to this issue, and bifolium A1.8 was reset to accommodate the dedication. The title (fol. *1r) in our issue is differently worded, and the verso contains a note from the editor to the reader concerning Homeric vocabulary. As leaf A1 in the earlier issue (VD16 H 4697) contained the title (with blank verso), the outer bifolium of quire A (A1.8) had to be reset; the new A1 contains the last two pages of the dedication. The typesetting of fol. A8 in our copy is very close (though not identical) to that of VD16 H 4697, but noticeably a side-note on A8v was omitted from this issue.
According to Nicholas Pickwoad, who neatly described the binding as “the ghost of a once rather lovely binding”, the structure and manner of execution of this velvet-covered binding localize it to Germany. Blocking on velvet and woven silks was carried out with a powdered glaire, and this method was no doubt used throughout Europe. Fragile velvet bindings “in any recognisable shape” are relatively rare, except in aristocratic and royal collections. As an exceptionally expensive material velvet was reserved for luxury bindings. Although the material of this book seems to have been woven from the ends of different color batches, causing a faintly striped effect, it would nonetheless have been costly. It is clear that this copy belonged to a personnage of rank, perhaps to the dedicatee himself.
Cf. Brunet 3:372; Hoffmann 2:316; on Rihel, cf. Benzing p. 449. Grateful thanks to Nicholas Pickwoad. Item #2650