Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Aristotle, Opera (Greek) (Venice: Aldus Manutius, Romanus, 1495-98)

Opera [Greek]. Contains also works of Galenus (II); Philo Judaeus (II); Theophrastus ((II-IV); Alexander Aphrodisaeus (IV)

IIIF Drag-n-dropIIIF Manifest

Aldus Manutius (Aldo Manuzio, c. 1452-1515), the 15th-century Italian printer who published a number of classical works, is known as the 'scholar-printer'. He not only had connections with classicists and humanists, but he himself was a devotee of classical Greek. After opening a printing house in Venice, he started publishing Greek texts. The Greek Opera of Aristotle is a major achievement of the first phase of Aldus's printing activity, as well as representing the editio princeps of Aristotle in Greek.

Aldus was born in Bassiano, a village located to the south-east of Rome. He studied in Rome from the end of the 1460s and in Ferrara in the late 1470s, where he received training in Latin, Greek and the classics. He then became tutor to the two sons of Pio of Carpi. One of them, Alberto, would later offer financial support to Aldus's printing enterprise. The present work was also backed by Alberto, and it was to acknowledge this sponsorship that Aldus included a dedicatory letter at the opening of each volume.

Aristotle (384-322 BCE) had been widely read since the Middle Ages, and was frequently cited in contemporary writings such as encyclopaedias. Aldus's Opera includes all the works that were considered at the time to be by Aristotle. In addition, it contains works by Aristotle's followers – Theophrastus (c. 370-c. 287 BCE), Galen (129-199? CE) and Alexander Aphrodisiensis (fl. c. 200 CE) – as well as those of later commentators. The first volume focuses on logic, also known as Organon (meaning a 'tool' for thinking and studying); the second, third and fourth volumes are dedicated to physics; and the fifth volume covers ethics.

Two different types, 1 and 7, are used in the Opera. Woodcut decorations of braided cords and Greek initials embellish the opening of each book. The first leaf of volume five (fol. 4α1) in the Keio set has been joined to the stub, probably in order to supplement the lost leaf or to replace the heavily damaged leaf. The upper part of the joined leaf, which had been cut out, has been mended. There is a loose leaf, also of fol. 4α1, that has been inserted in the same volume. This leaf, which has been torn from the bottom to the centre and has a hole in the centre, has also been mended. Another sheet of paper has been inserted in this volume, on which Charles Louis (1786-1836), the binder of the Keio set, left a message to his client and former owner of the set, the bibliophile Beriah Botfield (1807-1863), about the repair of the first leaf.



Aristoteles [Aristotle]
Place of Publication
Aldus Manutius, Romanus


Date of Publication

Finely bound for Beriah Botfield by Charles Lewis in 1834, gold-tooled olive morocco over pasteboard, decorated in 'the Grolier style', geometric design, gilt edges, yellow endpapers (watermark dates 1832-33).

Bibliographical Notes

5 parts bound in 6 volumes; part 1: 234 leaves; part 2: 300 leaves; part 3: 468 leaves; part 4: 519 leaves, divided after fol. 227; part 5: 330 leaves; a number of ornamental woodcut initial capitals throughout.

Goff A959, HC 1657*, BMC V 553, 556, 555, 556, 558, GW 2344, IJL2 031, T 28
Acquisition Year

1. Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609); cf. fep 2v: 'Ex bibliotheca viri incomparabilis Josephi Scaligeri, in the hand of Scaliger's close friend, pupil and fellow classicist, Daniel Heinsius (1580/81-1655); auction at Leyden, March 1609, sale catalogue p. 10. 2. Richard Heber (lot 503 in his 10 Aprial 1834 sale at Sotheby's). 3. Beriah Botfield by Payne and Foss for 30 gns when this set was still bound in boards. 4. Sold at Botfield's sale at Christie's (30 March 1994, lot 39).