Lucianus Samosatensis (1494)

Benedetto Bordon was fully responsible for the design of this edition of Latin translations from the dialogues of Lucian of Samosata (c. 120-c. 180), printed by Simon Bevilaqua in Venice in 1494. Being aware of what readers expected to see when an ancient author was published, he chose a small portable octavo, a format that, in a slightly smaller and elongated size, Aldus Manutius would use to print classical authors from 1501 onwards. In this image of the prologue, folio 1, one can appreciate the extraordinary clarity of the Roman typeface, exquisitely surrounded by a black-ground woodcut border with elegant ancient motifs. This magnificent border is actually the earliest extant evidence of Bordon's work as a designer of woodcuts.



Incun. 312 (Title Page)

Title Page

In the form of a colophon, Bordon added this charming Latin poem whereby he encourages readers to engage with the playful spirit of the dialogues with their mixture of jokes and seriousness, for they are the perfect recipe when the concern is to relax the soul (quando relaxandi cura tibi est animi). Bordon also states that several people have translated Lucian from the Greek into Latin, having gathered these translations from here and there (collecta hinc illinc) to include them in this volume. 

Author of some 80 short pieces, mostly in dialogue form and on a wide range of topics, Lucian was rediscovered in humanistic circles through a series of Latin translations undertaken from the end of the fourteenth century onwards. Eventually, Greek refugees working as teachers in Italy realized that the language of Lucian was not only easy to learn for beginners but fairly suitable to be translated into Latin without sacrificing the tone of the original. 

Incun. 312 (Colophon)


The founder of printing in Venice, Johann Speyer, had the brilliant idea to secure for his books a privilege from the Senate of Venice so that everybody else was prohibited to print in the Venetian dominions for five years. Within a few months Speyer died and this privilege was cancelled. The Venetian authorities soon realized that granting the monopoly of printing was not a good idea so this privilege was restricted to particular books. Here in the last page of his edition of Lucian, Bordon printed a copy of the privilege that he had requested to the Senate of Venice. Essentially, he asked, and was of course granted, that nobody else be allowed to print or sell this book for ten years in Venice and the cities ruled by the Doge, the highest civil authority. But Bordon might have been carried away in his desire to convince the authorities about the excellence of this edition, erroneously stating that the works of Lucian had never been printed before (quae nunquam antea impressa fuerunt). Actually, the first printed edition (editio princeps) of the Latin translations of two dialogues by Lucian had been published by Georgius Lauer in Rome around 1470-1472.  

<p>Incun. 312 (Supplicatio)</p>


Pliny's Historia Naturalis (1513)