M. Tullii Ciceronis Consolatio. Liber quo se ipsum de filiae morte consolatus est, nunc primum repertus et in lucem editus

Autore: CICERO, Marcus Tullius (106-43 B.C.)-SIGONIO, Carlo (1524-1584)

Tipografo: Girolamo Polo.

Dati tipografici: Venezia,   1583

Formato: in sedicesimo

A notorious literary forgery

16mo (mm. 113x81). 88 leaves. Collation: A-L8. With a typographic ornament on title page. Contemporary limp vellum with ink title on spine, ties gone, some very light marginal spots, a fine genuine copy.

FIRST EDITION. The publication of the Consolatio was welcomed in the world of learning as a great sensation and was immediately reprinted at Bologna, Piacenza, London, Lyon, Frankfurt, Leyden, Nurnberg and Erfurt.

When his daughter Tullia died in 45 B.C., the Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero was assailed by deep grief which he attempted to assuage by writing a philosophical work now known as the Consolatio. Despite its high reputation in the classical world, only fragments of this text (in the form of quotations by subsequent authors) are known to have survived. As numerous Renaissance scholars strove to locate this missing work, it was Francesco Vianello, a pupil of Carlo Sigonio, who claimed to have succeeded when he published the Consolatio in Venice printed by Girolamo Polo in first months of 1583. While the initial enthusiasm was overwhelming, it did not take long for suspicions about the origins of the Consolatio to arise. Thus, the editor, Carlo Sigonio became embroiled in one of the more notorious scholarly scandals of the early modern era.

In September 1583 Sigonio published a volume dedicated to Ascanio Colonna, in fact the second edition of the Consolatio, adding the genuine original fragments and commentaries on them written by himself and by the Polish scholar Andreas Patricius two decades earlier, and Riccoboni's Iudicium against the Consolatio. This assemblage was topped off by Sigonio's own Pro consolatione orationes duae. Everything about this publication was calculated to impress and to convince, yet it reeked of manipulation and created nothing but suspicion among alert readers. The text of the Consolatio was silently revised in respect of grammar and syntax in a handful of places, but Sigonio gave no indication of the editorial basis either of the first edition or of these alterations.

In December circulated Riccoboni's Iudicium secundum (Vicenza, 1584), to which Sigonio answered in form of a dialogue, Accusator (Bologna, January 1584). Riccoboni countered with a third tract in March (Defensor) containing a catalogue of all the places debated ad nauseam between him and Sigonio. In April Sigonio wrote an ultimate account of the points at issue. This composition was circulated in manuscript and published posthumously in Bologna only in 1599. However, Riccoboni's accusations greatly brought him into discredit and it was assumed that Sigonio either composed the Consolatio himself, or that the author was his protégé or collaborator: in sum no injustice was committed by his contemporaries and by later literary historians in affixing responsibility for the counterfeit of 1583 on Carlo Sigonio. More scholars came to agree with Riccoboni, including Marc-Antoine Muret and Justus Lipsius, particularly when Vianello could not produce the manuscript on which his edition was supposedly based (cf. E.T. Sage, The Pseudo-Ciceronian ‘Consolatio', Chicago, IL,1910, passim and especially pp. 7-9; see also W. McCuaig, Carlo Sigonio. The Changing World of the Late Renaissance, Princeton, NJ, 1989, pp. 291-344: “the first and second editions of the Consolatio, published at Venice and Bologna respectively, in 1583, […] are the only important witnesses for this text”, p. 291).

Recently, researches by stylometric methods, confirmed that the Consolatio was not only a forgery, but most likely invented by Sigonio himself (cf. R.S. Forsyth; D.I. Holmes & E.K Tse, Cicero, Sigonio and Burrows: Investigating the Authenticity of the ‘Consolatio', in: “Literary & Linguistic Computing”, 14/3, 1999, pp. 1-26).

“Of all the works which the critics have succeeded in condemning to the long catalogue of supposititious works by distinguished writers, none is more remarkable then the so-called Consolatio of Cicero, unheralded by a word of explanation regarding its source, and without any hint of a manuscript source to support it. It was known from Cicero's own allusion to the work, and to fragments of it preserved in Lactantius, that in order to allay in some measure his boundless grief at the loss of his daughter Tullia, Cicero had composed a work of self-consolation, wherein he had condensed all that philosophy could contribute in diminution of his distress. The printed work so nearly approached Cicero in nobility of its wisdom that many at the time accepted it as genuine” (cf. J.A. Farrer, Literary Forgeries, London 1907, pp. 5-10).

Carlo Sigonio (1522/23-1584), a native of Modena, studied Greek under the Cretan humanist Francesco Porto and then attended the philosophical schools of Bologna and Pavia. In 1545 he was elected professor of Greek in his native city in succession to Porto. In 1552 he was appointed to a professorship at Venice, which he exchanged for the chair of eloquence at Padua in 1560. To this period of his life belongs the famous quarrel with Francesco Robortello, due to the publication by Sigonio of a treatise De nominibus Romanorum, in which he corrected several errors in a work of Robertelli on the same subject. The quarrel was patched up by the intervention of Cardinal Seripando (who purposely stopped on his way to the Council of Trent), but broke out again in 1562, when the two rivals found themselves colleagues at Padua. Sigonio, who was of a peaceful disposition, thereupon accepted a call to Bologna in 1563. The last year of his life was embittered by the dispute over Cicero's Consolatio. Sigonio's reputation chiefly rests upon his publications on Greek and Roman antiquities, which may even now be consulted with advantage: Fasti consulares (1550), with commentary, from the regal period to Tiberius, the first work in which the history of Rome was set forth in chronological order, based upon some fragments of old bronze tablets dug up in 1547 on the site of the old Forum; an edition of Livy with a commentary (1555); De antiquo jure Romanorum, Italiae, provinciarum (1560) and De Romanae jurisprudentiae judiciis (1574); as well as De republica Atheniensium (1564) and De Atheniensium et Lacedaemoniorum temporibus (1565), the first well-arranged account of the constitution, history, and chronology of Athens and Sparta, with which may also be mentioned a similar work on the religious, political, and military system of the Jews (De republica Ebraeorum). His history of the kingdom of Italy (De regno Italiae, 1580) from the invasion of the Lombards (568) to the end of the 13th century forms a companion volume to the history of the western empire (De occidentali imperio, 1579) from Diocletian to its destruction. At the request of Pope Gregory XIII, he undertook to write the history of the Christian Church, which, however, was never finished (cf. W. McCuaig, op. cit., pp. 3-95).

Edit 16, CNCE 16140; Index Aureliensis, 139.701; Universal STC, no. 805808; F.L.A. Schweiger, Bibliographisches Lexicon der gesamten Literatur der Römer, Leipzig, 1834, I, p. 218.


In 16mo (mm. 113x81). Cc. 88. Segnatura: A-L8. Fregio xilografico al frontespizio. Testo stampato in carattere corsivo. Pergamena floscia coeva con titolo manoscritto al dorso (mancano i legacci). Prove calligrafiche sui risguardi anteriori e posteriori. Minime fioriture marginali su poche carte. Ottima copia fresca e genuina.