Valla, Lorenzo, and Jacobus Montanus. Elegantiae vocabulorum. [S.l.]: Michael Hillenius excudebat, 1526. Special Collections call number: PA 2320. V34 1526.
This elegant yet highly complex octavo is actually three books that have been rebound together subsequent to publication. The other two books are: Valla, Lorenzo. Lavrentius Valla De libero arbitrio. Basileae : Apud And. Crat., an. 1526; and, Valerius Flaccus, Gaius. C. Valerii Flacci Argonauticôn libri octo. Argentorati : Excudebat Ioannes Knoblochus, anno 1525 mense Iulio.
The present day binding dates to the late 18th century or early 19th century. It is a full red morocco leather binding. The spine has four false raised bands bordered in gilt. A brown morocco leather piece with author and title stamped in gilt is adhered to the spine. The front and back covers are rebacked with the original medieval dark brown leather covers from one of the publications. Although difficult to see because of the leather’s dark coloring and its degradation, both covers are decorated in blind. The front cover’s decoration consists of two angels, each of which is above and below an heraldic emblem. All three items are located inside a triple ruled border or panel. The back cover has a faintly discernible large floral medallion in its center. Wear and leather rot have caused the tooled decoration to be all but invisible.
Each of the books was printed in a different city by a different printer. Elegantiae vocabulorum (below, left) has a highly decorative paneled title page.
The book was printed by Michael Hillenius, most likely in Antwerp. It was printed using a roman style font inspired by Geofroy Tory’s work, and is typical of the time period. The text has wood block initials with decorative vignettes. There are running titles at the top of the pages. Guide words and gathering signatures are at the end of the text; these printer’s aids were essential as the pages were unnumbered.
C. Valerii (above, right) was printed in 1525 in Argentorati (or, the modern city of Strasbourg, Germany)by Ioannes Knoblochus. The font style used is italic, and this typeface was invented by Aldus Manutius in 1501. The text has wood block initials with decorated vignettes, running titles, gathering signatures, and guide words. The colophon is on the recto side of the last page.
Lavrentius Valla was printed in 1526 in Basil, Switzerland by Andream Cratandrum. Unlike the other two title pages, this book has a plainly printed title page. Its text was also printed using an italic typeface, and also has wood block initials decorated with vignettes, running titles and side-notes. Andream Cratandrum’s printer’s device is found on the verso of p.87 (see below).
Throughout the bound volume, there are handwritten notes across the pages, in the margins and on the endpapers, indicating all three publications were heavily used by their previous owner(s). In the past, book dealers and collectors often considered such use marks destructive and highly undesirable in the rare books they wished to sell or collect. Scholars and researchers, however, have found such examples of marginalia and use patterns to be of significant historical interest. These comments written centuries ago give perspective and insight to the thought processes, opinions and even doodlings of the previous owners.