Argonautica, the only surviving Hellenistic epic, was written by Apollonius Rhodius in the 3rd century BC. It is a re-telling of a far older story about the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts to retrieve the Golden Fleece from Colchis. How old we do not know; but we do know that Odysseus referred to it an old story in Homer’s epic, so the story has certainly been around for thousands of years. As written by Apollonius, the story is enthralling adventure; however, its real strength and impact comes from the love story between Jason and the Colchian princess Medea. This study of love is amongst the first in Western epic tradition. As Columbia Professor Moses Hadas says in the introduction, the Argonautica:
is the first sympathetic psychologic description of the rise of love, and it remains unsurpassed in its kind…The essential innovation is not so much that Apollonius tells his love story well, but that he tells it at such length as to make it central to his epic.
Argonautica is based on Homeric epic style and approach, though it is relatively brief compared to Homer itself. It almost certainly was influenced by Callimachus, as shown by its relative brevity (though Aristotle may claim some influence on its brevity also), its heavy use of aitia, and the extent of Argonautica‘s non-heroic qualities. It’s influence on the Western Canon is substantial, especially on Latin poets including Virgil whose Roman epic, the Aeneid, used Argonautica as a model.
Apollonius Rhodius (lived in the third century BC, we are not sure of precise birth or death years) was librarian at the great library of Alexandria, one of the marvels of the ancient world. Apollonius left us no auto-biographical information about himself, and the few historical sources that do exist with some biographical information on him are incomplete and often at odds. In short, very little is known of him other than he was a Homeric Scholar and that he produced this marvelous work destined to be an all-time classic of the Western Canon.
This edition of Argonautica from The Limited Editions Club is simply outstanding. Planned and designed by Nina and Elako Eliopoulos of the Aspioti-Elka Graphic Arts Company in Athens, it is large in format, 9 3/8″ x 12 3/4″, with many beautifully done classic style illustrations, in black and brown, by A. Tassos. The eye-catching binding is made of light gray Greek linen divided into panels, with the central panel of the front cover containing a drawing of the Argo by A. Tassos. The page design is attractive with the title in red vertically presented in red outside of the main text block. The original Greek, in Monotype Inclined Greek, is presented on the facing pages from the English translation which is done in Monotype Neo-Didot. My only complaint is I found the text font, which in practice is essentially a constant italic, tiring to read after some period of time. None-the-less, it is a must have edition for any Limited Editions Club or Fine Press collector, and of course for any lovers of Hellenistic or classic works. I find myself saying this very frequently, but it is hard to believe a book of this quality and scale could be produced for the price it was released at; yet the Macy’s accomplished such month after month for year after year. Even now, one can usually find this in near fine or fine condition from $50-100.
About the Edition
- Typographic and decorative plans by Nina and Elako Eliopoulos of the Aspioti-Elka Graphic Arts Company in Athens (where the book was composed and printed) and by A. Tassos
- Translation by Edward P. Coleridge
- Introduction by Moses Hadas (a well known, leading classical scholar of the twentieth century)
- Illustrated with drawings in black and brown by A. Tassos, many as full page illustrations with tint blocks
- Type is Monotype Neo-Didot with Monotype Inclined Greek on the facing pages
- Paper made in Greece
- Binding is a light gray Greek linen divided into panels, and for the central panel of the front cover Mr. Tassos has executed a drawing of the Argo
- 9 3/8″ x 12 3/4″, 330 pages
- Limited to 1500 copies, signed by A. Tassos
Pictures of the Edition
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