The Famous Aldine Edition of the First Numismatic Book

by

From Clark Library Volunteer, Marvin Lessen

The Roman Denarius silver coin bearing the dolphin and anchor emblem has become a symbol of the Aldus Manutius colophon device and served as the subject of Dr. Terry Belanger’s lecture “Parallel Lines Never Meet: Dolphins & Anchors & Aldus/ Book Historians & Numismatists & Roman Coins.” This coin, an extremely nice example, was donated to the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library by Dr. Belanger, following his lecture on 9 February 2012. The Clark is lucky to have such an interesting and historic coin in its collection.

The coin is a silver denarius of Domitian, when he was Augustus, depicting his laureate head, facing right, and the issue date is considered  to be late in AD 81.

Head of the Roman Denarius silver coin

The obverse anti-clockwise legend is:  IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG PM ( Imperator Caesar Domitianvs Augustus Pontifex Maximus).

The reverse depicts an anchor with an entwined dolphin, a motif perhaps related to Neptune, and reads:  TR P COS VII DES VIII PP ( Tribunicia Potestate Consul  VII     Des[ignatio?] VIII Pater Patriae).

Its size, weight and silver content were not measured, but other examples are about 18 mm and 3.3 g.  The silver content could best be estimated using a specific gravity test.

References:  Roman Imperial Coinage, RIC, vol. II, 1st ed. 1926,  (20); RIC, vol. II, revised ed. 2007, (54); old Sear, Roman Coins and their Values, 1964 (798); Cohen (568); Carradice, Issue 82.1 Rev. Type 111.  (References courtesy Caroline Holmes and David Fanning).

The Famous Aldine Edition of the First Numismatic Book: by Guillaume Budé

Budaeus, Guillielmus. libri v. de asse, & partib. eius. (Venice, 1522): Venetiis in Aedibus Aldi, et Andreae Asulani Soceri Mense Septembri. M.D. XXII. (12), 262 [actually 260 leaves as issued, numbers 158, 159 & 160 being combined on 1 leaf, so headed], (2) printed leaves, woodcut printer’s device on title

Verso of colophon [the anchor and dolphin], capital spaces with guide letters. 4to. Brückmann page 21. Dekesel B 124. Lipsius page 60. Kress 31. Brunet 29062.

Budé in his work De Asse et Partibus established the exact meanings of the monetary terminology of Greek and Roman antiquity, as well as the value of not only of Roman, but also of Greek coins compared to those coins of his own time. Budé’s work, published in 1514, was well-received into the seventeenth century.  This early edition of De Asse et Partibus was printed at the Aldine Press in Venice and is one of the earliest works printed in italic type. Aldus Manutius was the founder of the press.  He designed and used the first italic type, which is founded on the handwriting of Petrarch. Aldus died in 1515, and this volume was printed by his family.

A well-known printer’s mark, the dolphin and anchor, was first used by Aldus in 1501.  The design was likely taken from that of a 1st century AD Roman Denarius similar to the coin featured.

(bibliographic information supplied by George F. Kolbe)

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