Saturday, 24 March 2018

Martial's Epigrams

Working now in the centre of York I can regularly call into a number of my favourite haunts. On one such lunchtime trip I came across a cheap, rather tatty copy of Martial's Epigrams. I wasn't intending to buy it when I picked it up to look through it but  I saw it contained over twenty plates of Roman coin engravings.

This book was originally published for the education of the Dauphin (Delphinus), the young crown prince of France, the future king Louis XV. Great care was bestowed on the editing and printing of the series. 39 editions of Latin authors, from Cicero to Ausonius, also difficult ones like Festus and Manilius, were published by leading or promising French scholars. They were also meant for a broad public and offered introductions, reliable and readable texts, easy interpretations, and philological, educational and historical notes without too much philological niceties, or textual criticism. The series was a huge success. This particular edition of Martial was a weak link in the series, and had consequently little success, for it was reissued only once, in 1701. It was originally produced by the otherwise unknown French jurist Vincentius Collesso, or Vincent Collesson, and was first published in Paris in 1680. 

This edition of 1701 is the only reissue of the Martial of Collesso. It was produced by the Dutch scholar Ludolf Smids, who enriched and elucidated the text with engravings of numerous coins. At the end, as in the original edition of 1680, we find on 56 pages the 'epigrammata obscoena'. Ludolf Smids, 1649-1720, became Doctor of Medicine in 1673 in Leiden. He went to live in Amsterdam, where he spent more time on the study of history, antiquities, poetry and numismatics than as medical practioner. He wrote plays, poetry, and several books on numismatics.