4to (205 x 136 mm). 228,  leaves. Title printed in red above Denis Roce’s metalcut device (Renouard 1005), woodcut device of Jean Philippi on final verso (Renouard 917); colophon on f. F4r. Roman types, occasional Greek types; shoulder notes. Initial spaces with guide letters. A full-sized copy with several deckle edges. Title soiled and with a few marginal tears, a small wormhole through most of text block, additional wormholes in last few quires, final leaves a bit stained and frayed.
Binding: contemporary Parisian blind-stamped brown calf over wooden boards, upper cover with a large panel stamp (152 x 99 mm.) containing four compartments showing four saints beneath arches: Saints James Minor, Barbara, Genevieve, and Nicholas, surrounded by a border of leafy vines, grotesques and dragons, at its corners the symbols of the Evangelists with lettered banderoles, at the foot of the border the initials of Denis Roce flanking his coat of arms; lower cover with a panel stamp (142 x 88 mm.) in four compartments, each with two vertical panels of leafy vines and a dog, eagle and dragon, in mirror images (facing each other), the compartments surrounded by stamped lettering and with fleurs-de-lis at the corners: the upper left compartment lettered with Roce’s motto, “A la venture tout vient apoient qui peult atendre,” the three other compartments lettered “Ostende nobis domine misericordiam tuam,” at center the arms of Denis Roce flanked by gryphons and his name in banderoles (Denis / Roce), the word “et” stamped below each banderole; upper and lower panels alike within frames of parallel fillets; pair of brass fore-edge catches on lower cover, lacking clasps, somewhat rubbed but the panels still fairly legible, tastefully rebacked, endleaves renewed, chip to leather at fore-edge of upper cover.
Provenance: Jesuits of Salins, inscription on title, Ex libris Pratorii Dni Jesu Collogii [sic] Salinensis; contemporary marginal study notes in 2 or 3 different hands, mainly in first quire.***
An early Parisian publisher-bookseller’s binding, produced for display in Denis Roce’s shop on the rue Saint Jacques, covering the first of several Roce editions of the popular humanist letters of Francesco Filelfo, studied by generations of students as models of elegant Latin. This edition includes additional letters by St. Ambrosius and Alain Chartier. The use of Greek letter for the passages in Greek is noted in the title.
It has long been remarked that a number of late 15th- and early 16th-century blind-stamped bindings are adorned with panel stamps bearing the initials, devices, mottos and/or full names of publisher-booksellers (librariii), from France, Germany and the Netherlands. In some bookbinding literature, parallel careers as bookbinders were invented for the publishers in question; elsewhere the names and devices were misdescribed as marks of ownership (supra-libros). The more plausible hypothesis that these could have been publishers’ bindings did not stand up to the evidence that the same panels often appear on books printed for publishers other than those whose marks appear on the bindings. Finally, in 1928, E. P. Goldschmidt proposed the most convincing explanation, which elucidates early bookselling practice and is based on an understanding of the libraires’ devices as trademarks, useful for advertising: his hypothesis was that these stamps were used by the bookseller-publishers for display in their shops, and sold to customers who were willing to purchase the books ready-bound, rather than in sheets. (The profession of bookselling was not usually distinct from that of publishing at the time, but it should be emphasized that the marks and names of publishers on these bindings represent their activity as booksellers rather than as publishers.) How exactly the panel stamps were commissioned from the engravers who produced binding tools is not known: did the booksellers order the stamps themselves, and keep them on their premises, to be lent out to their usual local bookbinder, or were designs dictated by and stamps held by the binders? Whatever the case, the binders and metalworkers who produced the panel stamps remain anonymous.
Denis Roce, a native of Scotland, or of Scottish ancestry, was active from ca. 1490 to 1517. His career thus spanned the height of the vogue for panel-stamped bindings in France, which lasted from around 1500 to 1515. The present binding uses two of Roce’s five known signed or initialed panel stamps, that on the upper cover, with the four saints in compartments, incorporating only his initials and arms (Gid-Laffitte 188, recording it on 15 bindings) while that on the lower cover includes his full name and his motto (”everything comes to those who wait”; Gid-Laffitte 8, listing 3 bindings, all on incunables). Roce was the first Paris bookseller to use, in precisely these two stamps, the four-compartment model of panel stamps, a decor which subsequently became popular (cf. Gid & Laffitte p. 12).
Interestingly, no other bindings recorded by Gid and Laffitte have the present combination of stamps: all of the 15 bindings with Roce’s Saints panel stamp (188) recorded in their census are adorned on the other cover with an anonymous decorative panel stamp with acorns and uniforms (their panel stamp 100); and all 3 instances of their panel stamp 8 are paired with one of his other fully signed stamps (Gid & Laffitte 123).
Two other appearances of panel stamp 188 (paired with no. 100) can be added to Gid & Laffitte’s census: Bod-Inc B-448: Bonaventura, Sermones de morte, [Paris: Antoine Chappiel, for] Robert Gourmont, [after 1500?]); and a copy at Rouen of GW 5536, Thomas Bricot, Textus abbreviatus in cursum totius logices Aristotelis, Lyon: Jean de Vingle, 20 Aug. 1496 (Catalogues régionaux des incunables des bibliothèques publiques de France, vol. XVII, Haute Normandie, no. 257).
Roce’s ownership of multiple panels implies an extensive deployment. The present scarcity of these bindings is no doubt due equally to the loss of books themselves and to rebinding: ”si tant de livres anciens ont disparu, malgré la protection que constitue une reliure, comment les reliures elle-memes, non protégées, auraient-elles subsisté?” (Colin, p. 86).
OCLC lists no copies of this edition in American libraries. Renouard / Moreau I, 1501, 37; BP16 100037 (six copies). On the binding, see Denise Gid, Catalogue des reliures françaises estampées à froid (XVe-XVIe siècle) de la Bibliothèque Mazarine, I: 258; Gid & Laffitte, Les Reliures à plaques françaises, p. 272, fig. 188 (upper panel) and p. 11, fig. 8 (lower panel); E. P. Goldschmidt, Gothic & Renaissance Bookbindings I:33-36, 41-43; Georges Colin, “Les Marques de librairies et d’éditeurs dorées sur des reliures,” Bookbindings and other Bibliophilie: Essays in honour of Anthony Hobson, pp. 77-115. Item #2903