Core Curriculum : Literature Humanities

Homer > 1501-present

Aldine Homer--inscription to Luther

Homer. Ilias [et Odysseia]

Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1517

Columbia RBML Plimpton 880 1517 H37

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Melancthon's Homer Inscribed to Martin Luther. The RBML owns three heavily annotated volumes of Homer’s works in Greek that belonged to Philip Melancthon, a chief figure in the Lutheran Reformation. Melancthon used them in his university lectures at Wittenberg and later presented them to Martin Luther, who may also have taught from them.  The bindings on two these volumes—of blind-stamped pigskin over wooden boards—are dated 1559, which means they postdate Luther’s ownership of the volumes (Luther died in 1546). 

On the title page of one of the volumes of the Iliad Melanchton writes in Latin, “To Martin Luther, theologian.” An inscription above, which may be in a different hand, makes note of page 90, where three lines of text have been marked in the same ink. These volumes are from the second edition of Homer’s works produced by Aldus Manutius in 1517.

Hobbes Homer translation-titlepage

Homer. The Iliads and Odysses of Homer

London: Will. Crooke, 1677

Columbia RBML B88HI C7

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Hobbes's Homer translations. Thomas Hobbes bookended his career as a political scientist with Greek translation projects.  His first published work was the translation of Thucydides in 1629, and in 1677, Thomas Crooke, publisher of his 1651 Leviathan, brought out Hobbes's translations from Homer. This volume contains second editions of the separately issued Iliad and Odyssey bound together.  Hobbes issues his translation without annotations. The reader who would like to consult annotations he referred to his predecessor, Ogilve.

Thomas Hobbes published these Homer translations in his late eighties.  In his address "To the Reader," Hobbes enumerates the qualities of an "heroick" poem and concludes with some comments about what compelled him to undertake the translation. "Why then did I write it? Because I had nothing else to do. I thought it might take off my adversaries from showing their folly upon my more serious writings, and set them upon my verses to show their wisdom."

"Chapman's Homer" - 1st book Iliad

Chapman's Homer

London: 1611

Columbia RBML STC 13634

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Chapman's Homer. This particular translation of Homer was immortalized by John Keats (1795-1821) in his poem "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer."  Keats wrote “Oft of one wide expanse had I been told / That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne; / Yet did I never breathe its pure serene / Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold.”  Chapman's is still considered one of the more vivid English translations of Homer, although it has been surpassed by more scholarly subsequent translations. In addition to his original poems and plays, Chapman also translated Virgil, Juvenal, and Hesiod.

These images come from a two-volume set, one each of the Iliad and Odyssey. Chapman dedicates his translation to Edward "best of princes." The engraved title page refers to Homer as the "prince of poets."

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