Opera quae extant omnia
[Geneva: Henri Estienne], 1578. Folio, 3 volumes. (14 7/8 x 9 1/2 inches). xxxvi, 542; viii, 992; viii, 416, 139pp. Titles ruled in red.
18th-century full calf, rebacked, boards with gilt border, spine lettered in gilt, in five compartments with raised bands, marbled endpapers.
The "celebrated and magnificent" (Dibdin) complete edition of Plato.
This work, the foremost work of philosophy of the ancient world, as well as the first edition of the Latin translation by Jean de Serres, was the best edition until modern times. By Renaissance standards, Plato was a best-selling author; his two main themes, the quest for truth and human improvement, held enormous appeal for readers at that time. This edition was also responsible, along with his monumental 1572 "Thesaurus Graecae Linguae," for securing the scholarly and literary reputation of Henri Estienne, who was a member of one of Europe's most illustrious families of printers; it was he who entirely edited and prepared the Greek text for which this edition is especially known for. This copy is complete with the dedications to Elizabeth I, James VI and the Canton of Berne, which are uncommonly found. "For two centuries [Estienne's edition] remained the indispensable instrument of Platonic studies: to this day its pagination is universally accepted as the standard system of reference to the text of Plato... For the translation Estienne discarded the old standard Latin version by Fincino, and commissioned an entirely new one by John de Serres... Of all Henri Estienne's publications the Plato is perhaps the most lavishly decorated... it is the only publication in which Estienne used his entire series of decorative headpieces, numerous woodcut initials, culs-de-lampe, and a striking elaborate title-device specially designed for this edition and making its only appearance here" (Schreiber).
Adams P-1439; Schreiber, Estiennes, 201.