Suetonius Tranquillus, Caius. XII Caesares, Et in eos Laevini Torrentii commentarius auctior et emendatior.
Antuerpiae [Antwerp]: Ex officina Plantiniana, . 262 x 181 mm (10 ¼ x 7 ¼ in). Folio. , 407,  pp. In Latin. Bound in limp vellum; gilt-tooled leather label at foot of spine: “Brussels 1591”; on spine is an impression from a previous label. Engraved title page with emblems of twelve Caesars as border. Large, engraved initials and woodcuts of Roman coins throughout. Bookplate of Olive Percival on front pastedown, with her signature above the first woodcut initial on A2r. Housed in a blue cloth folder and slipcase with morocco spine label. Very good. Covers have some soiling and some pages toned. Minor paper repair to the right margin of leaves A1 and A2. One-half of Bookplate discolored. Old, faded stain (1 ½ by ¾ in.) and light wear to slipcase.
The Twelve Caesars, a collective biography of Roman rulers from Julius Caesar to Domitian, is the most substantial surviving work by the Roman historian Suetonius. Suetonius is believed to have been born in Hippo Regius, what is today Annaba, Algeria, around the year 69. He was an associate of Pliny the Younger who helped him secure favor with Trajan and various official and academic posts.
An important source for early accounts of christianity in the roman empire. The book has sections for each Roman emperor that begins with a description of the individual followed by a description of various events that occurred under their reign. This includes early accounts of Christians in the Roman empire, including mention of their punishment under Nero for practicing “new and mischievous superstitions.” Suetonius’s Caesars is also noted for a reference to someone named “Chrestus,” who was instigating Jewish people in Rome, noting that this led Claudius to expel the Jewish people from the city. There has been much debate around whether or not Chrestus was an unknown agitator or Jesus Christ, or if this passage is at least an early mention of the spread of Christianity in Rome. Laevinius Torrentius’s commentaries accompany each section of the biographies. Torrentius was the second bishop of Brussels and wrote poetry in addition to commentaries on the Classics. This is a notable edition for the fine copper engraved title page and for the learned commentary of Torrentius.
From the library of a southern california intellectual. This copy bears the signature and bookplate of Olive Percival, which has a line illustration of her home in the Arroyo Seco area of Los Angeles (with the text “Olive Percival, Her Book”). While Percival is most remembered for her collection of English children’s literature, the present work signals her broad horizon of interests. Percival longed to be a writer (and did publish several works) but supported herself and her mother by working as a clerk for the Home Insurance Company. Despite having only modest means, Percival built a book collection numbering 10,000 volumes at the time of her death in 1945, at which time it was bought en bloc by Dawson’s Book Shop and sold to various institutions including UCLA and the Huntington Library. Percival often hosted gatherings of artists, feminists, and Progressive-era improvement clubs at her home, thus contributing to early 20th century Southern California’s intellectual life. Indeed, the bookplate in the present volume evokes the Arts and Crafts sensibility associated with “Arroyo Culture.” For Percival, book collecting was more than a pastime or exercise in autodidacticism—it was debauchery. ucla graduate student Ingrid Johnson cites one of Percival’s diary entries where Percival explains that her desire to buy books “is much the same sort of sin as getting drunk, in order to forget.” Despite her reputation as a bon vivant, Percival’s years were spent providing for herself and others, a fate she described as a “business grind” which “ground to dust” her youth and enthusiasm.
An interesting association copy from the library of an important, but less often remembered, California figure; a serious and self-taught collector who approached her avocation with a sobering realism.
Johnson, Ingrid. “Book Collector Extraordinaire: The Life and Times of Olive Percival.” 2014. https://pages.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/maack/OlivePercival.htm
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