Andria, by Terence, Editiones Officinae Bodoni (1971), Illustrations by Albrecht Durer done by Fritz Kredel

{Ed. Note: This article has been provided by Books and Vines contributor Neil.}

Terence (Publius Terentius Afer) was born around 190 BC. It is believed that he was born near Carthage and his mother was a slave. He was brought to Rome and sold to a Roman Senator who provided him with an education and later freed him. Terence was a playwright and by the time he left Rome at the age of 25, the six plays that are still in existence had been written and performed.

The plays of Terence derive from the late period of Attic comedy and it is thought that his plays give an authentic view of 3rd century BC Greek society. The comedies of Terence are written in a direct and conversational style and they remained popular beyond the Roman era, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

President John Adams wrote that “Terence is remarkable, for good morals, good taste and good Latin. His language has simplicity and an elegance that make him proper to be accurately studied as a model”. The playwright Thornton Wilder based his novel The Woman of Andros on Terence’s Andria. Many authors view Terence as the first poet of the African diaspora.

The first printed edition of Terence was published in 1470 in Strasbourg and the earliest post-Roman/Middle-Ages documented performance of one of his plays was Andria which was performed in 1476 in Florence.

Andria was the first play written by Terence, which he adapted through translation from a play by Menander.  The comedy, set in Athens, was first performed in Rome around 170-166 BC. The plot concerns Pamphilus, the son of Simo (an Athenian nobleman), who is publicly betrothed to Philumena, but has promised to marry Glycerium (the unseen girl from Andros). Pamphilus misbehaves at a funeral and the father of Philumena (a friend of Simo) withdraws his permission to the union.

Simo wants to shame his son publicly for his dalliance with Glycerium and pretends that his marriage to Philumena will go ahead that very day. Pamphilus learns of Simo’s scheme and on the advice of Davus (his slave) ‘plays along’ hoping to wrong-foot his father. In the meantime Simo gets Philumena’s father to reconsider and he agrees to the wedding leaving Pamphilus in a very awkward position. To add to the unfolding confusion we learn that Glycerium is pregnant and Pamphilus’ friend Charinus is in love with Philumena.

Poor Davus now gets the blame from Pamphilus for his advice, Charinus for the loss of his beloved and Simo for double-dealing. The play ends with the arrival of a stranger from Andros who’s information allows Pamphilus to marry Glycerium and Charinus to marry Philumena, leaving everyone living happily ever after and Davus absolved of all blame.

The edition of Andria from the Officina Bodoni is descibed by Hans Schmoller in the introduction to The Officina Bodoni : An Account of the Work of a Hand Press 1923-1977 as ” …one of Mardersteig’s greatest triumphs…….one must stress the fascination of a true first edition of a work by the young {Albrecht} Durer about 480 years after he had made his drawings in Basel on blocks of pearwood.”

In the same book Giovanni Mardersteig writes:

The print room of the Kunstmuseum at Basel possesses a precious collection of wood blocks with delightful drawings for an illustrated edition of Terence that had been planned about 1493 by the printer Johann Amerbach. Except for a few specimens, none of these blocks was ever cut, and the Basel Terence was never printed. Art historians agree that a great many of these designs must be by the young Durer, as are many of the illustrations for ‘Der Ritter vom Turn‘and Sebastian Brant‘s ‘Narrenschiff’ (The Ship of Fools). The illustrations for the first of Terence’s comedies, ‘Andria’, or ‘The Girl from Andros’, were solely by Durer, who lived in Basel from 1492 to 1494.

Progress on Amerbach’s edition, which was to have contained about 150 woodcuts, was presumably halted half way through by the publication of another illustrated edition, printed in 1493 by Trechsel at Lyon. Perhaps Amerbach wanted to sit out the success of this very remarkable edition and complete his own later; or he may have felt that the illustrative treatment of actors on stage in front of a curtain was better adapted to the text than Durer’s drawings of figures acting in an urban setting. But soon, when further illustrated editions of the comedies were published in Strasbourg and Venice, Amerbach must have lost the urge to carry out his plan.

A few of the Terence blocks had already been cut for Amerbach, but even these were not properly finished. Among the twenty-eight scenes of Andria, a few blocks have been lost and one was damaged by damp; but twenty-five have survived, including one for the title-page which shows Terence writing. By arrangement with the Basel Museum the drawings were photographically transferred to pearwood blocks and cut, using fifteenth-century techniques, by the master craftsman Fritz Kredel of New York. A great student of Durer’s art, he knew how to give the intended effect even to those drawings which had been smudged by childish hands of another age.

Books and Vines has more information about the excellent works of Mardersteig and the Officina Bodoni in the review of Alpahabetum Romanum.

About the Edition

  • Editiones Officinae Bodoni 1971
  • Richard Bernard’s prose translation of 1598, edited and revised by Betty Radice (with a note by her on the translation)
  • 25 woodcuts cut for the first time by Fritz Kredel from drawings by Durer on blocks preserved in the Kunstmuseum, Basel
  • 126 pages
  • 34.5cm x 25cm
  • Hand-set in Dante 14pt roman and italic (13pt for the postscript). Title in 48pt Zeno
  • Printed on the hand press
  • Magnani paper (Officina Bodoni watermarked)
  • Quarter vellum binding with Roma paper sides
  • 170 copies in English – this is copy number 17

Pictures of the Edition

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A photograph of one of Durer's drawings and the block Kredel cut from it, taken from 'The Officina Bodoni: An Account of the Work of a Hand Press 1923-1977'
A photograph of one of Durer’s drawings and the block Kredel cut from it, taken from ‘The Officina Bodoni: An Account of the Work of a Hand Press 1923-1977’
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Book in Slipcase
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Book in Slipcase
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Front Cover
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Front Cover
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Title Page
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Title Page
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Copyright
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Copyright
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Text #1
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Text #1
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Illustration with Text #1
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Illustration with Text #1
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Text #2
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Text #2
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Illustration #5 with Text
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Text #3 (Postscript)
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Sample Text #3 (Postscript)
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Colophon
Andria, Editiones Officinae Bodoni, Colophon

2 thoughts on “Andria, by Terence, Editiones Officinae Bodoni (1971), Illustrations by Albrecht Durer done by Fritz Kredel

  1. This is a wonderful book in all aspects and one of the Officina Bodoni’s (OB) best efforts. All of Terence’s six comedies are wonderful reads, with elegant language and whimsical plots, providing a marvelous window into Greek life 200 to 300 years B.C.

    The story behind the illustrations by Albrecht Durer for this edition is fascinating. In 1492, a young Albrecht Durer was commissioned by Swiss publisher Johann Amerbach to provide woodcuts for the complete set of Terence’s six comedies. However, after Durer had completed the preparatory drawings a Lyons publisher brought out a similar illustrated edition in 1493 and the project was abandoned. Because ‘Andria’ is the first of Terence’s six plays, I believe it was the only play that actually had any of Durer’s ink drawings translated into woodcuts. However, the entire set of pen and ink drawings on white-grounded blocks by the young Durer are preserved in the Basel Kunstmuseum.

    Best of all, the OB edition of Terence’s ‘The Brothers’ has a “twin” — a marvelous edition of Terence’s final play ‘The Brothers’ (Adelphoe) which was published three years earlier in 1968 by the L&D Allen Press. However, unlike the OB edition in which Fritz Kredel created and carved his own set of wood-engravings from the original Durer ink drawings, the Allens were given access to the original Durer pen and ink drawings to work directly from them and then granted permission by the Basel Kunstmuseum to reproduce them for their edition of ‘The Brothers’.

    The Allen Press publication is sumptuous and it was one of their first publications on a newly acquired 1846 Columbian hand press. The typography is flawless and their use of the Menhart Unciala typeface (the first in a book printed in the U.S.A.) gives it a distinctly medieval feel appropriate to Durer’s time. The all-rag handmade paper was made to their specification by the Wookey Hole Mill in England and the binding was made from a decorated embroidered cloth from Germany for the book spine over all rag Italian paper over boards by Fabriano, which was then matched for the slipcase. The blue-green endpapers were also made by Fabriano.

    A set of digital photos of this Allen press book have been sent to Chris and (hopefully) he will addend these images to this wonderful article by Neil to further illustrate Albrecht Durer’s genius.

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