Aldus in Dublin: well ‘Worth’ the trip


Portrait of Dr. Edward Worth (1676-1733)

As the anniversary year of Aldine celebrations draws to a close it was a delight to be invited to give a paper on the Manchester Aldines by Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the  Edward Worth Library at Dr Steeven’s Hospital, Dublin. Entitled ‘The fortunes of Aldus Manutius: merchant collectors of the Victorian age’ it was interesting to observe the parallels between the collecting practices of 19thC merchants and scholars and those of Worth in the late 17th and early 18thC. Edward Worth (1676-1733) was a notable Dublin physician whose beautifully conserved library of over 4,000 volumes is still stored in their original glass-fronted cabinets. Educated in Oxford before studying Medicine at the University of Leiden, Worth’s collection is predominantly medical in orientation but also contains editions of the Greek and Latin classics, together with works on history, travel and numismatics.


A valuable insight into how he built his collection is provided by some fifty-seven book sale and auction catalogues from the later years of his collecting between 1723-33, a period which saw a glut of early printed books come on to the market as a result of the stock market crash of 1720 and the bursting of the South Sea Bubble and the Mississippi Bubble. Worth purchased from both Dublin and London, but also employed agents in Amsterdam and the Hague to purchase books on his behalf including a significant number of early Aldine editions. In fact 37 of the 85 Aldines in the collection were books printed by Aldus himself. Given Worth’s particular interest in bindings and books as material objects, he specifically sought out copies which evidenced all of the new Aldine fonts.

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Worth Aldine no. 33: Alexander of Aphrodisias (1514)

Worth also showed a keen interest in the medical volumes published by Andrea and Francesco Torresani who took over the press after Aldus died. He purchased all five volumes of the editio princeps of Galen, the editio princeps of Hippocrates of 1526, and the editio princeps of Paulus Aegineta of 1528. Thanks to Elizabethanne’s diligent research and the on-line exhibition of the Worth Aldines, this part of the collection is now readily accessible:


The published Aldine catalogue

In addition, a handsome limited edition catalogue has also been produced which gives a full bibliographical description of all the relevant volumes together with a fascinating introductory essay. So, all the budding Aldine collectors out there… hurry whilst stocks last!: Aldines of the Edward Worth Library: A Descriptive Catalogue, ed. by Elizabethanne Boran (Dublin: Trustees of the Edward Worth Library, 2015). Thanks again to Elizabethanne for the invitation and for curating such a great exhibition and collection.


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