AQUATILIUM ANIMALIUM HISTORIAE, liber primus, cum eorundem formis, aere excuses
Very rare first issue of the first edition. Romae: (Salvianus), M.D.L.IIII (1554 -1558), Folio: 41.0 x 28.0 cm, , 1- 257 p.p. (misprinted page number on last leaf, should be 255). With a copperplate engraved title-page bearing a medallion portrait of Salviani himself, set in an elaborate scrollwork frame decorated with shells, turtles, mermaids, and putti riding dolphins. With a dedication to Pope Paul IV, and not, as Salviani had originally intended, to Cardinal Marcello Cervini who contributed both financially and in the gathering of material. However on the title page the coat of arms of Cardinal Marcello Cervini, consisting of a unicorn underneath a cardinal’s hat with tassels and cords, has been depicted above the title. Around the axis of Cervini’s coat of arms new elements have been added, including 6 small French lilies, a child’s face and a crucifix right underneath the cardinal’s hat. The work includes 81 full-page copper engravings of 98 (numbered 1-53 and 55-99, with 54 omitted in the numbering) illustrations of fish and cephalopods. 37 of the full-page engravings, ff. 57, 59, 80, 82, 87, 89, 91, 94, 96, 98, 103, 105, 107, 110, 112, 119, 135, 148, 151, 154, 159, 169, 174, 178, 183, 187, 190, 192, 194, 196, 201, 203, 206, 227, 230, 233, and 240, with blank versos. The engravings on ff. 112, 130, 149 and 206, depicting a sturgeon; a tope; a skate; and a trigger-fish, bear correction slips in letter press pasted over the engraved captions. With historiated initials throughout the work. The front flyleaf of our copy bears a watermark of a French lily. In addition four other pages bear ecclesial watermarks. We have been unable to identify these, and they do not appear to have been described in any reference work. Bound in contemporary calf, which has been skillfully rebacked. Flawless except for some minor tears not affecting text and images which have been skillfully repaired a long time ago.
A superb and complete copy of the very rare first issue of the first edition.
Salviani’s Aquatilium animalium historiae (1554-1558) is the first iconography of fishes illustrated with copperplate engravings, most of Salviani’s contemporaries opting for woodcut illustrations which were cheaper and easier to produce but also less beautiful. The superbly produced depictions were printed on Salviani’s own press. The design of the title-page and several of the images have been attributed to Nicolas Beatricetto and it is generally assumed that Antonio Lafrery was the engraver. Another current theory is that Salviani commissioned sketches of Italian fishes from B. Aretinus, who produced them after fresh specimens purchased at Roman fish markets. It is thought that Beatricetto based his drawings on these sketches as well as on depictions obtained from a number of other sources including A. Masius, L. Ghini, and D. Barbatus. The sources of Salviani’s depictions of species that were not common in Italy (native to Germany, England and Greece) are not known, it is assumed that Cardinal Marcello Cervini, who later became Pope Marcellus II, obtained these depictions of foreign species from his international contacts.
As the personal physician of Pope Julius III and subsequently of Marcellus II and Paul III Salviani held an important position within the Vatican. In addition to this he taught practical medicine at the Sapienza University in Rome from 1551 to 1568. Salviani obtained his first privilege for the Aquatilium Animalium, as well as a stipend to complete the work, from Pope Marcellus II in 1551. However it would take several more years before the work was finished, and a second privilege was obtained from Henry II from France in November 1554. This also proved premature, as at this stage only the title-page was completed. After the death of Pope Marcello II in 1555, work on the Aquatilium Animalium slowed down significantly. The work was finally finished in 1557 and was published under a privilege of Pope Paulus IV. There are three issues of the first edition of the Aquatilium Animalium. A year after the last of the three subsequent issues of the Aquatilium animalium historiae was printed the 81 full page engravings were published without any accompanying text. This issue contains a new preface by Lafrery dated March 20 1559. In addition reprints are said to have been produced in Venice between 1600 and c. 1602. However we have never encountered such a reprint.
The first 1557 issue was printed without a colophon and with the word FINIS printed on the last page (p.257) of the Index Rerum. The word FINIS at the end of the Index Rerum was omitted in later issues. The second and third issue were printed with colophons dated October 1557 and January 1558, respectively. These colophons are printed on folium 256 (erroneously numbered) with a list of errata, not corrected in the text, on recto, and a woodcut printer’s device on verso. The second and third issue also bear three additional cancelslips, one on Pl. 45, with an illustration of a dogfish (Scyliorhinus canicula, Linnaeus, 1758), one on Pl. 46 with an illustration of a nursehound (Scyliorhinus stellaris, Linnaeus, 1758), and one on f. 194 with an illustration of a tub gurnard (Trigly Cora, Bonaparte, 1832). It is unclear why these cancelslips were added. In the first issues three names are listed underneath the depiction of the tope, a Greek name, a Latin name (Canis galeus), and a vernacular name (Canola). In the second and third issue these names have been omitted and instead a small slip with the name Maior Canulus printed on it has been pasted onto the page. A possible explanation is that after the first issue was printed Salviani identified the species as a dogfish and wanted to add this information. In the first issue three names were also included for the nursehound and the tub gurnat, but in the second and third issue cancelslips with the exact same three names have been pasted onto the page. It appears unlikely that the same names were printed onto the paper underneath the cancelslips.
The text of the Aquatilium animalium historiae is divided into two parts, the first 56 leaves provide a double-page table of fish species with their characteristics, and their names in Greek, Latin and Italian (sometimes with regional variations). The second part is divided into 92 chapters, 3 of these are on octopus and squid and 89 on different types of fish. Each chapter begins with an illustration of the species and a description of its habitus and habitat. When discussing dissection and nutritional value Salviani frequently refers to Aristotle, Pliny and Galen. For the gastronomic preparation of fishes and squid to Athenaeus, Oppianus and Giovio. While it is often claimed that “Salviani only depicts animals that he had actually observed” this is difficult to back up. The first illustration in the Aquatilium Animalium, on f. 57, depicts a fabulous creature, the Serpens marina, which shows a great resemblance to the Serpens Marina that was drawn by the illustrator Pierre Gourdelle for Belon's De Aquatilibus (1553). It is unclear if Salviani commissioned a copy made after the illustration in Belon’s work, or if both authors had woodcuts made after the same drawing. Either way it is unlikely Salviani ever saw such a creature.
The illustration of the Scorpionfish (Scorpius) depicted on f. 197 may be another indication that Salviani included fish he had not personally studied. This depiction bears a close resemblance to a drawing commissioned by the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner as early as 1543 when he visited Rome and Venice. However a detailed comparison of Salviani’s illustration to the possible "original” shows that they are not exactly alike. It appears likely therefore that while the artist involved (possibly Aretinus or Beatricceto) did not so much copy the illustration, he was inspired by the ”original” image. While it is possible that Gessner’s drawing was copied after an original that he borrowed from Salviani while he was in Rome, the annotation on the drawing from Gessner’s collection does not mention this. It seems more likely therefore that Salviani had a copy made after Gessner’s original. A third and more conclusively convincing example is an illustration of a fish on f. 69 which Salviani only provided with a German name: Sandilz (sandeel, Ammodytes tobianus Lin. 1758), a species which can only be found in northern European coastal waters. Since the species cannot be found in Italy it seems highly unlikely if not impossible that Salviani studied this himself. A near identical (but mirrored) depiction appeared in Gessner’s Historiae Animalium, Liber IV (1558). Since they are mirrored it seems unlikely the two woodcuts were made after the same drawing and it would not have been possible for Salviani to copy Gessner’s woodcut after publication of the Historiae Animalium in 1558 but before the publication of his own Aquatilium Animalium, in 1557. These leaves a number of possibilities, including that of a common source. Many of Salviani’s illustrations were copied in turn by the authors of seventeenth and eighteenth century works on fish, such as: De piscibus libri V (Aldrovandi, 1613); Naeukeurige beschryving van de natuur (Jonston, 1660); Ichtyologie ou historie naturelle (Bloch 1785-1788).
The following can be remarked about the condition of the remaining copies of Salviani’s Aquatilium Animalium – which have been preserved now for over four and a half centuries. Without exception the paper as well as the bindings have been damaged and generally these have been extensively repaired. In our experience not one remaining copy has not been rebacked. To illustrate, the descriptions of eight different copies that we have encountered mention: ‘contemporary calf, spine rebacked with gilt lettered label’; ‘full ivory vellum, rebacked with handwritten title on spine’; ‘eighteenth century crimson morocco gilt’; ‘contemporary purple dyed vellum’; ‘later gilt tooled, smooth calf; ‘gilt-tooled morocco; ‘later vellum, spine ribbed with gilt title’; 17th century French calf; recased in sheepskin and pages washed’. It is very likely that all copies were originally bound in either vellum or in calf.
Price: € 15500