Important acquisitions

[Works ed. Franciscus Puteolanus]

Author Tacitus
Title [Works ed. Franciscus Puteolanus]
Imprint [Milan: Antonius Zarotus]
Date of Publication 1487
Language Latin
Notes This is the second collected edition of the works of the Roman historian Tacitus (AD 56-AD117) containing the 'Annals', and 'Histories', the 'Germania', and the first printing of the 'Agricola'. The text was edited by the famous Italian Renaissance scholar Francesco Dal Pozzo (Franciscus Puteolanus) (d. 1490), who was professor of rhetoric and poetry at the University of Bologna. Dal Pozzo edited the texts of several classical authors for publication and his edition of Tacitus was praised by later editors for its textual emendations. This copy of the book has a notable provenance: it is from the library of the Scottish patriot Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1655-1716), with his distinctive "Fletcher" signature on the final blank leaf and on the rear paste-down. The 'Agricola' is Tacitus' biography of his father-in-law, the Roman general and governor of Britain who extended Roman occupation northwards into Scotland. The introductory chapters of the 'Agricola' include an account of Britain and its tribes, its geography (Tacitus is rather vague, but for the first time it was possible to state with confidence that Britain was indeed an island); there is even a mention of the "objectionable climate with its frequent rains and mists". It contains the first substantial historical account of events in what is now Scotland, in particular the first printing of the first published account of a battle on Scottish soil (Mons Graupius). After conquering what is now Wales in AD 77, Agricola advanced northwards and overran the lowlands of what is now Scotland. In his seventh campaign, in AD 83, Agricola faced a pitched battle against the Highlanders at "mons Graupius" (the precise location is uncertain, antiquaries, historians and archaeologists have been searching for the battlefield for centuries). The Britons had, according to Tacitus, rallied more than 30,000 men from all their states in an determined attempt to defeat the powerful invaders. Despite their superior numbers the Britons were soon put to flight, breaking formation "into small groups to reach their far and trackless retreats. Only night and exhaustion ended the pursuit". The Roman victory was total but the campaigning season was almost over so Agricola moved his army to their winter quarters. The next year he was recalled to Rome, thus ending Roman military campaigns in northern Scotland. It is not surprising that a well-educated member of the Scottish aristocracy, who quotes widely from ancient historians in his own political writings, would have owned a text of Tacitus. However, Tacitus' works appear to have been particularly important for Fletcher - he also owned fifteen later editions, presumably because of the 'Agricola' and its coverage of Scotland. From the early 1670s onwards, Fletcher built up a huge library of c. 5,500-6000 books, thanks to his regular travels on the continent, where he hunted for bargains and rarities in bookshops. His collection included some 20 incunables, including this edition of Tacitus. The books were kept in the family home of Saltoun Hall in East Lothian and the library appears to have survived intact until the 1940s when a few of the more valuable items in the library appeared on the London market. The rest of the library was sold off in the 1960s. The family archive was deposited in NLS (now MSS.16501-17900) in 1957 and it includes Fletcher's MS catalogues of the collection, MS 17863-17864), where this particular copy is listed.
Shelfmark Inc.218.2
Reference Sources P. J. Willems, "Bibliotheca Fletcheriana, or the extraordinary Library of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, reconstructed and systematically arranged" (Wassenaar, 1999)
Acquired on 30/04/12
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