Ovid > Early Editions
A 1517 copy of the Metamorphoses is the third text bound in this volume, which opens with two of Ovid's other works: a 1499 Tristia and a 1502 Fasti, both published by Johannes Tacuinus. The Metamorphoses was published by Georgius de Rusconibus. The Rusconibus includes a commentary, though without the level of marginal annotation of the 1524 edition included here. The work is preceded by a summary of all five books and a table of the individual tales recounted in each book. All imprints bound together in this volume are from Venice.
Medieval Christian authors who were scandalized by the pagan elements in the Metamorphoses attempted to contain them within a Christian framework with a moralizing commentary or gloss. This goal is evident in the first illustration in this volume, which presents the divinity responsible for creation—whose corporeal form Ovid does not describe—in a pose typical of the iconography or Christ or representations of Saint Francis of Assisi.
This volume contains fifteen woodblocks, many of which share enough characteristics with those in the 1517 edition above that they must bear some relation to it, though these were clearly carved anew and exhibit finer, cleaner lines. A few of the woodblocks have been colored in by hand. The text itself is surrounded by gloss by Petrus Lavinius, which the publisher assures the reader guarantees a "tropological," which is to say edifying, interpretation of each episode.
Much smaller in format than the other two Ovid volumes from the 1520s in this exhibition, this three-volume set presents all of Ovid's works in chronological order, with the early love poems in the first volume, the works written in exile in the third, and the Metamorphoses occupying all of the second.
Unlike the larger volumes illustrated with woodcuts, this edition presents the “arguments” of each episode not in the order in which they appear in the narrative but alphabetically in a table at the front of the book. This could suggest that the publisher anticipated that readers would be looking for particular tales rather than planning to read the work straight through.
This collection of engravings from Ovid’s Metamorphoses depicts vivid scenes from the stories as emblems, or allegorical pictures. Often the scenes are those of conflict or great tension, such as Perseus’ last-minute rescue of Andromache. Again, the creators of this work present Ovid as an ethically instructive author. The cover page shows an angelic “Amor de virtu” trampling on the swinish “Desprecio de virtu,” and a hale “Sapienta” standing upon the haggard backs of “Ignorantia” and “Invidia.”
With each illustration, one Latin verse is given with a translation into German. The German translations have been done as rhyming couplets, a form associated with wise sayings or aphorisms. The engravings were done by Abraham Aubry.
Arthur Golding's English translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses is now known as "Shakespeare's Ovid" because it was the edition that Shakespeare consulted and from which he borrowed phrases. Golding employed rhyming couplets in iambic heptameter to convey the rhythm of Ovid's Latin hexameter.
A devout Protestant, Golding later translated John Calvin into English. For his Ovid translation, Golding, like his medieval predecessors, feels compelled to account for the pagan elements, but offers a moralistic prologue in verse instead of a gloss.