HORAPOLLO (supposed 5th-century) - COUSIN, Jean, the Elder (1490-1560). Ori Apollinis Niliaci De Sacris notis & sculpturis libri duo... Quibus accessit verso recens, per Io. Mercerum... Paris: Iacobum Kerver, 1551.
8vo., (6 x 4 inches). Text in Latin and Greek. 195 woodcuts in the text attributed to Jean Cousin, the Elder, that on page 110 laid down over a blank space. Contemporary vellum over paste-board, lettered in gilt on the spine (extremities a little worn).
Provenance: modern armorial bookplate of Bibliotheque I.G. Schorsch on the front paste-down
"Kerver was the first to commission the emblematic woodcuts and to print the Horapollo text itself in the form of an emblem book" (Mortimer).
First illustrated edition with text in Latin and Greek. Horapollo, the traditional author of this work, was supposedly one of the last priests of the Ancient Egyptian religion in the fifth century C.E., however, he may be an entirely fictional character. His only extant work is this one, the Hieroglyphica, which claims to be an explanation of the Egyptian Hieroglyphs, mixed with a great deal of ancient, and often wrong, natural history. It was translated two centuries later into Greek. The text was rediscovered in 1422, and it was first put into print in 1505.
The two books of the Hieroglyphica contain in total 189 interpretations of hieroglyphs: Book I describes 70, and Book II 119. In the Renaissance they were generally considered to be authentic Egyptian characters, and although this authenticity was seriously placed in doubt during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, modern-day Egyptology recognizes that Book I in its entirety and approximately one third of Book II are based on real signs from hieroglyphic writing.
Jean Cousin, the Elder, was a celebrated French painter and engraver whose rich artistic contribution also included tapestry, stained-glass design, sculpture, and book illustration. Mortimer, French 315. Pettegree FB 74164. Adams/Rawles/Saunders, French embl. books F.330. Landwehr, Romanic 374. Adams H-850.