Spon, Jacques

Recherches curieuses d’antiquité, contenues en plusieurs dissertations sur des medailles, bas-reliefs, statues, mosaiques, & inscriptions antques; enrichies d’un grand nombre de figure en taille douce.

Lyon, Thomas Amaulry 1683.

Reference: 15418
Price: £685 [convert currency]

Full Description

Folio. (22) (including engraved frontispiece) + pp 1-40, 49-538 (skipping pp 41-8, which, as the signature collation shows, were never issued) + (22)pp, many engraved text ills. Contemporary full calf, neatly rebacked. First seven leaves in volume worn at outer right hand corner, with very minor loss of surface, and an old light stain at upper margin slightly affecting leaves at end of volume from p.509 onwards. Jean Masson’s copy, with his ownership inscriptions, and with ink notes by him on the front free endpaper and on a following blank leaf. Recently William St Clair’s copy, with his pencil signature.

First edition of this collection of essays by Jacques Spon (1647-1685), a Huguenot medical practitioner in Lyon, France, keenly interested in the classical past. The high point of his career as an antiquary was a journey in 1675-6, undertaken jointly with the English traveller George Wheler, which took them to Greece, Constantinople and the Levant, and their separate publications on the sites and classical antiquities seen by them remain a key element in the published literature on the subject. The present volume prints the text of thirty-one dissertations on items of classical sculpture, inscriptions, coins, and other topics, mostly by Spon himself and written after his return from Greece, and they show the width of his erudition and intellectual interests, as well as providing his readers with accurate engraved illustrations of the objects discussed. It should be noted that his ninth dissertation discusses the Maison Carrée at Nimes and a comparable building at Vienne, both correctly identified by Spon as temples of the classical period. This copy was acquired at some point towards the end of the seventeenth century or early in the eighteenth century by Jean Masson (1666-1747), also of French Huguenot origin, but who had moved with his parents and brother to the present-day Netherlands after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and who was eventually to make a career in England as a Church of England clergyman (for Masson see now the excellent summary of his life and scholarly achievement by A.Burnett, The Hidden Treasures of This Happy Island, 2020, vol.ii, 981-995). Masson took a lasting interest in the literature and history of the classical world, and had a particular expertise in Roman and Greek coinage. Two leaves at the front of the book contain a total of eight short manuscript notes by him keyed to pages in Spon’s text, of which the most specific relates to what apparently is still today an unique coin struck at Cyzicus in the name of the Emperor Severus Alexander, then in the possession of Sir Hans Sloane (for Sloane as a coin collector see now Burnett, op.cit., pp.1115-30).