Romae, 1554. Earliest issue, on colophon last leaf dated October 1557. Folio (412 x 282 mm) pp. 8, 256. A splendid copy of this sumptuous and prestigious work with a distinguished provenance. Engraved allegorical title with architectural border decorated with marine motifs and central medallion portrait of Salviani. Above the title the arms of Marcello Cervini, the later pope Marcellus II, Salviani's patron and benefactor. Eighty one full-page excellent copper engravings, containing 98 figures of fishes and molluscs numbered 1-53 and 55-99. Number 54 was omitted in all issues and does not exist (Nissen, 1951). Woodcut initials with a historical background. Salviani's woodcut device on the last page. The 81 plates show traces of artists' signature marks. Nicolas Beatricetto probably designed the title-page and the fish illustrations were made by Antoine Lafréry. Another theory is that they were drawn by Bernardus Aretinus and engraved by Nicolas Beatricetto. Some of the plates bear contemporary letterpress cancel slips over their captions. We have noticed that these cancel slips are also present in the earliest issue copy of the Bibliotheca Casanatense in Rome. Contemporary ivory vellum with old skilful rebacking of spine. Title hand-written, in Indian ink, on spine. Edges sprinkled in red. Some marginal and modest repairs throughout.
Salviani (1514-1572) was professor of medicine in Rome and physician to Popes Julius III, Marcellus II and Paul III. As a Renaissance scientist he based the work on his own observations in rectifying and extending what Aristotle, Oppianus, Pliny, Athenaeus and Aelianus had written. He collected the fishes for his studies on the market in Rome. Salviani was primarily a systematist, but there are anatomical notes in the text. The names of the fishes are given in Latin, Greek and Vulgar Latin. The carefully executed copper engravings have a scientific appearance, but some details are neglected like the right number and the position of the scales. The plates occupy a whole page. They were printed on the author's own press. Its grandeur of design can be associated with Salviani's high position at the Vatican. The work was issued in various states, due primarily to the death of Marcello Cervini, in 1555. Some copies lack leaf 256 and are not dated. Other copies, including the Harvard copy, are dated January 1558. Our copy with leaf 256 represents the earliest issue with the colophon dated October 1557 (Mortimer,1974). Provenance: Engraved armorial bookplate of Marcionis Salsae and an armorial bookplate of a second owner with the motto: comme je fus. Nissen, Schöne Fischbücher, 1951, 112 ; Mortimer, 1974, Harvard Catalogue, 454.