Monday, June 1, 2009


The late Latin writer Boethius (d. 524) is best remembered for his compilation and commentary called The Consolations of Philosophy. It is a poignant book, not least because Boethius stood in such need of consolation, living at a time when the grand edifice of the classical world had fallen into ruin all around him.

The book illustrated here, though, is one of his less-famous works, an explication of Aristotle's system of logic, usually known as De Dialectica. The edition I cataloged last week was printed on thick linen-rag paper by Vincenzo Valgrisi at Venice in 1559 (the year after Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne of England).

The woodcut initial A above has an illustration of Apollo drawn through the sky in his chariot.

And just as the A stands for Apollo, I am guessing the H above stands for Helen. A depiction of her abduction by Paris, setting the stage for the Trojan War.

The printer relied on typographic ingenuity to illustrate some of the logical problems within the text that cried out for visual expression.

The final page layout (above) is gorgeously proportioned. Am in love with those heavy, wide-spaced Venetian/Roman capitals.

On the inside of the vellum binding a Renaissance hand doodled this ornamental foliage (with perched bird) in a warm sepia that looks like it was set down yesterday.

Now that I have returned this week to the exceedingly unornamental world of jury duty, it is consoling to dwell in memory on this seriously beautiful book.