[Aldine Imprints] [Greek Classics] [Psychology - Interpretation of Dreams]

De Somniorum Interpretatione Libri Quinque [Graece]


De insomniis [Graece]

Venice: Aldine Press, August 1518. FIRST EDITION.

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Edited by Francesco Torresani.

"Premiere edition très rare." (Renouard)

Text in Greek with Latin version of title and short Latin introductory letter.

AN ASSOCIATION COPY OF THE RARE EDITIO PRINCEPS, signed and dated (24 Jan. 1560) on the title page by Giulio Ballino (ca 1530-1592), a Venetian lawyer, poet, editor, translator from Greek, and a friend of Paolo Manuzio. Ballino compiled the first city atlas produced in Italy, De' disegni delle piu illustri città et fortezze del Mondo (1569).

Written in the 2nd century AD, Artemidorus' Oneirocritica (i.e. "The Interpretation of Dreams") is "THE MOST IMPORTANT DREAM MANUAL OF THE HELLENIC ANTIQUITY", and the earliest extant Greek work on the subject. The first three books of the Oneirocritica are dedicated to one Cassius Maximus and were intended to serve as a detailed introduction for both diviners and the general public, providing an encyclopedic treatment of the subject matter of dreams; books IV and V were written for Artemidorus' son, to give him a leg-up on competitors, and Artemidorus cautions him against making copies.

Artemidorus' work and the shorter treatise On Dreams by the Christian Neoplatonist Synesius, also included in this volume, are extremely important for the study of ancient folklore and superstitions.

Artemidorus drew a distinction between two types of dreams, the enhypnia, those which indicated only a present state of affairs, and the oneiroi, those which predicted the future either directly (theorematikoi) or allusively (allegorikoi). Artemidorus suggests that dreams are unique to the individual, and that a person's waking life will affect the symbols in his dreams. He shows awareness of the dreaming mind's capacity to use metaphors in its messages.

Artemidorus' Oneirocritica was praised by Sigmund Freud and was the main point of reference for Michel Foucault's The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3: "The Care of the Self", which analyzes the text as a practical, experiential guide rather than a moral reflection or evaluation.

"In later antiquity Artemidorus of Daldis was regarded as the greatest authority on dream-interpretation. His comprehensive works must serve to compensate us for the lost works of a similar nature." (Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams)

Artemidorus was "one of Freud's most vivid precursors [...] Freud, who allowed that Artemidorus furnished western culture with "the most complete and painstaking study of dream-interpretation as practiced in the Graeco-Roman world," took his title Die Traumdeutung (The Interpretation of Dreams) from Artemidorus's Oneirocritica. Both Artemidorus and Freud assume what moderns call the cleavage of the subject (conscious/unconscious), with the unconscious (psyche) either talking to the dreamer, as in Artemidorus, or waiting to be discovered down the "royal road" of dreams, as in Freud." (Diana de Armas Wilson, Quixotic Desire, p.60)

Born in Ephesus, one of the intellectual centers of Asia Minor, Artemidorus lived during the Antonine Age of the 2nd century AD, the era that witnessed a remarkable renaissance of learning. According to Artemidorus himself, the material for his work was gathered through thorough and methodical note-taking fieldwork during lengthy travels through Greece, Italy and Asia Minor, from diviners of high and low station. Another major source were the writings of Artemidorus' predecessors, sixteen of whom he cites by name. It is clear he built on a rich written tradition, now otherwise lost. Among the authors Artemidorus cites are Antiphon (possibly the same as Antiphon the Sophist), Aristander of Telmessus, Demetrius of Phalerum, Alexander of Myndus in Caria, and Artemon of Miletus.

"His fieldwork, his delineation of the types of dreams, his attention to the relevance of context to oneiric meaning, and his methodology for the "translation" of dream image to experiential situation: all these bear the mark of the systematizing intellectual curiosity of his age. ... Traveling in Asia Minor, Italy, Greece and its larger islands, to religious festivals and games, Artemidorus traversed a geographical range that was matched by the diversity of people from whom he collected dreams. In Lane Fox's pithy description, 'his conversation and notes embraced all classes, a well- to-do woman in Italy who dreamed she was riding an elephant, members of the upper classes in the Greek cities, orators, Roman knights, a tax collector, convicts and criminals, the poor, the sick and the slaves', as well as numerous athletes, rhetors and sophists." (Patricia Cox Miller. Dreams in Late Antiquity, p.78)

Artemidorus' method is, at root, analogical. He writes that dream interpretation is "nothing other than the juxtaposition of similarities" (2.25). But like other types of Greek divination, including astrology, celestial divination and pallomancy, Greek dream divination (Oneiromancy) became exceedingly complex, a given dream subject to a number of interpretations depending on secondary considerations, such as the age, sex, and status of the dreamer. At other times, subtle distinctions within the dream itself are significant. In a particularly memorable passage, Artemidorus expounds upon the meaning of dreams involving sex with one's mother: "The case of one's mother is both complex and manifold and admits of many different interpretations—a thing not all dream interpreters have realized. The fact is that the mere act of intercourse by itself is not enough to show what is portended. Rather, the manner of the embraces and the various positions of the bodies indicate different outcomes." (Trans. Robert J. White) There follows a lengthy and minute recitation of the divinatory significance of enjoying one's mother in various sexual positions.

Also included in this rare Aldine edition is a fascinating treatise On Dreams ["De Insomniis"] by Synesius (c. 373 - c. 414), a Greek neo-Platonist philosopher, a devoted disciple of the famous Hypatia. Synesius was born at Balagrae near Cyrene, of wealthy parents, who claimed descent from Spartan kings. He converted to Christianity and in 410 became bishop of Ptolemais in the Libyan Pentapolis.

"Synesius wrote his On Dreams before his conversion to Christianity. Supposedly penned in one night,"the treatise offers Neoplatonic theories on dreams, along with a bewildering eclecticism of Stoic, Platonic, Aristotelian, and Epicurean doctrines. Synesius considered dreams one important way to commune with God, with straightforward or non-symbolic dreams especially helpful in this respect. Symbolic dreams may also be a means of divine communion, but since they require interpretation, they should be treated with caution. Symbolic dreams should never be deciphered through dreambooks or by interpreters, for every dreamer has a unique and individual dream language. Synesius recommends every person to keep a daily journal of all dreams received and the results of those dreams in order to gain an empirical understanding of his or her own particular dream language." (Steven M. Oberhelman, Dreambooks in Byzantium, p.41-2)

Physical description:

Aldine Octavo (texblock measures 153 mm x 90 mm). Bound in 18th-century full calf, boards with blind-tooled borders; gilt dentelles to board edges. All edges sprinkled red.

Foliated: 164 leaves (forming 328 pages).
Signatures: a-u8 x4.
Collated and COMPLETE.

Woodcut Aldine device [Fletcher 3] on title-page and verso of final leaf (x4v). Capital spaces with guide letters. Printed mainly in Greek type (Gk4); Latin preface in italic (I1:79).

Includes dedicatory preface by Francesco Torresani to Giovanni Giacomo Bardellone (a2r,v) and table of contents (in Greek) for Artemidorus (a3r-a4v). Synesius' treatise occupies leaves t6r-x4r (preceded by a short introduction on t5v). Colophon and register on x4r (with printer's mark on verso).


Very Good antiquarian condition. Complete. Binding rubbed; spine-label perished and most of gilt-tooling faded and rubbed off from spine; top and bottom spine compartments restored. Title-page and verso of the final leaf (with printer's device) somewhat dust-soiled; title page with a minor harmless marginal repair at gutter (text not affected). A light and unobtrusive water-stain to bottom of the textblock, but mostly marginal. In all, a clean and solid example of this rare and important Aldine.


This copy belonged to Giulio Ballino (ca 1530-1592), Venetian lawyer, poet, editor, translator from Greek, and bears his ownership inscription ('Julius Ballinus') dated (24 Jan. 1560 on the title page. Giulio Ballino was a friend of Paolo Manuzio, and is mentioned as being present at the baptism of his granddaughter Paolina in a 1576 letter by Paolo's son Aldo Manuzio the Younger to Johann Craton (cf. Schück, Aldus Manutius und seine Zeitgenossen, p.165).

Also, with an 18th-century armorial bookplate of Richard Banner on rear pastedown, and an early 19th-century armorial bookplate of Rt. Hon. Sir William John Monson, J.P., D.L., Baron Monson of Burton, Lincolnshire.

Bibliographic references:

Adams A-2035; Ahmanson-Murphy 169; Renouard Alde 82:4; Hoffmann I, 382 and III, 465; Schweiger I, p.69.

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