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Rare Books

Robert Patterson '76 Collection of Editions of Horace.
Location designator: PTT.

About 1200 volumes, separately classed, arranged, and shelved. For particulars refer to: A Preliminary Catalogue of the Horace Collection Presented to the Library of Princeton University by Robert Wilson Patterson. Class of 1876. (Princeton, 1917) [(PTT) 0461.476.73; ( 93p.)] [full text]. This catalogue has much valuable information about provenance and other copy-specific particulars.

The collection is noteworthy for its extent and variety no less than for the rarity of individual items, and illustrates the history of bookmaking as well as the scholarly study of Horace. It ranges from 15th-century manuscripts to the most recent editions, imitations and translations.

Robert Wilson Patterson (b. December 28, 1850, d. May 30, 1921) practiced law in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Noteworthy incunabula:

1. Milan edition of 1476 by Lavagnia
2. Milan, 1486. Zarotus
3. Florence, 1482. First edition with Landini's commentary.
4. Venice, 1498. One of the earliest containing the four Horatian commentaries.


Specimens from the Italian presses of Manutius, Giunta, and Sessa. From Paris, Colines, Estienne, and Ascensius. From the Low Countries, Plantin, Blaeu, and Elzevir.

In addition to fundamental works there are numerous volumes remarkable for rarity or beauty. Editions with bindings by Simier, Bozerian, Smeers, Zaehnsdorf, Stikeman and Co., etc. Many volumes have personal associations, interesting bookplates, autographs; others are translations, imitations and travesties.

Further reference: Torsten Peterson, "An Exhibition of Horace" in Biblia VII, 1 (February, 1936) pp. 4-6 [full text] . See also: Howard S. Leach, "Princeton Association Horaces" in The American Library Institute Papers & Proceedings, 1917 (Chicago, 1918), pp. 17-18. [full text]

In the introduction to the 1917 catalogue of the Horace collection, Princeton Dean Andrew Fleming West wrote the following:

The Patterson Horaces

When the emperor Augustus sat with Virgil on one side and Horace on the other, the two poetic glories of his reign, and the two writers who were to commend his name to immortality in literature, he little dreamed of the influence their poems were to have on later ages,- Virgil especially in medieval times and Horace as the favorite Latin poet of the modern world. It is fortunate that Princeton possesses the stately collection of Morgan Virgils and the beautiful collection of Patterson Horaces, the latter the gift of Robert W. Patterson of the class of 1876.

Here the lover of Horace may find many a volume of artistic beauty and historical interest. Here he may pick up Wordsworth's copy and recall him saying: "Horace is my great favorite. I love him dearly", or he may read in the copy of Mrs. Browning, or of the poet Gray, or of Gladstone; and if he wishes royal company, he may read in the volumes which belonged to Louis XIV and Louis XV of France, who perhaps admired their copies more than they read them. There are also five manuscripts in the Patterson collection, not of great authority, and yet samples of the way Horace looked to the eyes of a reader in the Middle Ages. A pleasant hour can be spent in such company, and if the visitor who takes one or another copy to inspect can linger long enough to read a little, he will renew his acquaintance with the most human, most winning, and most modern of all the Latin poets.

Andrew F. West
May 24, 1917