University of Virginia Library


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The Terence of Turin, 1483
Curt F. Bühler

Nearly a quarter of a millennium ago, Michael Maittaire[1] listed an edition of the Comedies of Terence, the imprint of which (it was set forth) proclaimed that the volume had been printed in Turin by Johannes Fabri on Tuesday, 23 June 1483. This reference was taken over into the bibliographies of Georg Wolfgang Panzer,[2] Ludwig Hain,[3] Francesco Cosentini,[4] and others.[5] It may be of equal interest to recall that precisely a century has passed since it was first strongly suggested that the edition of 1483 was really a supposititious one.

Another edition of Terence from the same press, however, also noted by the early bibliographers has a very real existence. This bears the imprint: Turin: Johannes Fabri, Tuesday, 23 June 1478, and may be identified as Panzer III, 44, 6; Hain 15379; and Cosentini 24. Dr. Dennis E. Rhodes[6] has shown that, about the year 1800, two copies of this Terence could be definitely located. The one which is now in the Biblioteca Nazionale at Turin[7] may (perhaps) be the very copy which, prior to 1819, belonged to the Seminario of Asti—but the Robert Hoblyn-Michael Wodhull[8] one seems to have completely disappeared from sight. Nevertheless, it is certain, as Giacomo Manzoni has remarked,[9] that this Terence is truly "rarissimo,"


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and no copy was registered either by the Kommission für den Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke[10] nor in the files of the Centro Nazionale di Informazioni Bibliografiche in Rome.[11]

The first, so far as the writer is aware, to question the existence of the 1483 printing was Manzoni[12] who, in 1863, declared that "la seconda delle due edizioni è supposta, imperocchè, cadendo in martedì il 23 giugno del 1478, non poteva il 23 giugno del 1483 cadere nello stesso giorno." The same comment was also put forward by the British Museum's incunabula catalogue,[13] but here it was more explicitly asserted that, in 1483, June 23rd fell on a Monday, not on a Tuesday as the colophon specifies. A printer may well go wrong, in his colophon, on the roman date of the year—as many, indeed, did—but it does not seem likely that a craftsman would slip up on so simple and practical a matter as to the day of the week upon which he completed his labors.

Manzoni suggested that the origin of this "ghost" might be sought in a slip made either by Maittaire or by his source, his conjecture being that the date of 1483 was due to a misreading of "M.cccc.lxxviii" as "M.cccc. lxxxiii". Quite possibly this may be the true explanation for this date, such misreadings being common enough in the history of bibliography. But another explanation may be found in the copy now in the Pierpont Morgan Library (Accession no. 52923). Here a hole torn in the last leaf makes the reading of the colophon uncertain, as may be seen in the appended cut. Clearly the roman date can here be read either as 1478 or 1483, and a conservative bibliographer, with this copy in hand, might well have judged the later date to be the more likely one. The Morgan volume thus provides another possible explanation for the genesis of this ghost edition of Terence, albeit at best only a speculative one.




Annales typographici ab artis inventae origine ad annum MD, (Amsterdam, 1733), I2, 445. Presumably also in the first edition (The Hague, 1719).


Annales typographici ab artis inventae origine ad annum MD, (Nuremberg, 1793-1803), III, 45, 10.


Repertorium bibliographicum (Stuttgart & Paris, 1826-38), no. 15385.


Gli incunaboli ed i tipografi piemontesi del secolo XV (Torino, 1914), p. 8, no. 28.


For example, Johann Graesse, Trésor de livres rares et précieux (Dresden, 1859-69), VI2, 53.


Giovanni Fabri, tipografo del XV secolo in Torino ed in Caselle (Società storica delle Valli di Lanzo, Pubblicazioni, vol. IX, Ciriè, 1962), p. 20. Dr. Rhodes kindly called my attention to the copy in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Turin.


Cf. Giacomo Manzoni, "Annali tipografici torinesi del secolo XV" (Regia deputazione di storia patria per le antiche provincie e la Lombardia. Miscellanea di storia patria, IV [1863]), pp. 263-265. Manzoni points out that the copy in the (former) Biblioteca dell'Università came from Barone Vernazza "che nel 1812 lo comperò tra i libri del cav. Bossi." In 1876, the University Library became the Biblioteca Nazionale (see the Annuario delle biblioteche italiane, Rome, 1956-59, II, 284-287). The shelf-mark of this copy is "XV-VI-204."


The Morgan copy contains none of the characteristic Wodhull annotations, and its imperfect condition would seem to preclude its having been a Wodhull book.


Op. cit., p. 264.


A communication, dated 19 August 1961, in the files of the Morgan Library states: "Exemplar nicht nachweisbar."


Letter of 18 August 1961. Dr. Rhodes also adds: "non è registrata nè sulla parte ancora inedita dell' Indice Generale [degli incunaboli delle biblioteche d'Italia] che comprende Terenzio, nè dalla Stillwell."


Op. cit., p. 278.


Catalogue of Books Printed in the XVth Century now in the British Museum, (London, 1908-62), VII, p. lxvi, n. 2.