Sardi, Alessandro. Alexandri Sardi Ferrariensis, De Moribus ac Ritibus gentium Libri III. Nunc primum in lucem editi.

Venetiis: Ex officina Stellae Iordani Zilleti, 1557. 161 x 115 mm (6.25 x 4.5 in). Octavo. [16], 265, [3] pp. In Latin. Zilleti’s comet and stars printer’s device on the title page and verso of final leaf.

Bound in limp vellum. Manuscript edge title on bottom edge: ALEX.SAR.DE.MOR.GEN”. Early autograph on verso of flyleaf facing title page: Caroli Francisci Zampiccoli Foroliviensis.” Canceled autograph on title page. 

Good. A chip in the spine reveals sewing and parts of manuscript binding waste; another crack about one inch up from the foot of the spinet. Some old marginal soiling that may be red wine stains, otherwise the interior is quite clear and crisp. 

A successor to Johann Boemus’s Omnium gentium mores, De moribus ac ritibus gentium is considered one of the first ethnographic works in Europe. It is primarily a historical account discussing the manners and customs of several cultural and ethnic groups known from antiquity, covering both classical Greek and Roman customs as well as those of ethnic groups in Asia and Africa, which are often clustered together and referred to collectively as barbarians.” 

Everyday lives of the ancients. Topics such as family structure, marriage, inheritance, circumcision, and dining are covered. Several early chapters are devoted to women (specifically the roles of wives, daughters, mothers, and virgins). In a section on the liberation of the enslaved (chapter 16, pg. 31), an early reader has bracketed a passage on the dress of enslaved people at time of sale (“unde and servi aliqui propter vistutem pileati vendevantur”). 

Non-contemporaneity of extra-european peoples. During the 16th century, European humanists were increasingly concerned with daily life and religion. This was concomitant with encounters with non-European peoples in what are now known as the Americas. Accounts of ancient civilization became a point of reference for understanding encounters with extra-European peoples (Taylor 114). Thus, proto-ethnographic work such as this created the framework through which European explorers and settlers identified indigenous people they encountered with the barbarians of their past. Johannes Fabian coined the term the denial of coevalness” to name the view that people outside of normative definitions of civilization (e.g. inhabitants of the New World”) were in a state of arrested development and thus stuck in the past. This served as a rationale for colonial expansion and conquest for centuries.

This copy was once owned by Zampiccoli, one of the major book collectors of early 18th century Italy whose books and manuscripts are now at the Apostolic Vatican Library and the University of Padua.


Fabian, Johannes. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014 [1983].

Taylor, Kathryn. Ancients and moderns in sixteenth-century European ethnography.” History of European Ideas 46, no.2 (2020), pages 113–130.

USTC 854934

EDIT16 40891


In stock

Stock Code: 1145B16 Collection: Catalogue:


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