Aristophanis Comoediae (1783)

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by Aristophanes

Aristophanis Comoediae (1783)
George Wythe bookplate.jpg
Title not held by The Wolf Law Library
at the College of William & Mary.
Author Aristophanes
Published : Sumtibus J. G. Treuttel
Date 1783
Volumes volume set

Aristophanes (c.450/460-385 BCE) was one of the “leading comic dramatists” of Athens.[1] He was considered a master of “Old Comedy” in his own time and remains popular today. Old Comedy has several distinguishing features including: an invented, original plot (in contrast to Greek tragedy which was based on well-known myths), and a fantastical setting which allowed the hero to accomplish the impossible.[2] Aristophanes is believed to have written 40 plays, of which 11 survive. The plays are broad in their subject matter and examine contemporary Athenian politics (including the Peloponnesian War), philosophy, and the institutions of democracy including the jury system. Very little is known for certain about Aristophanes’ life beyond the date of production of his plays.[3]

Aristophanis Comodiae contains Aristophanes’s 11 surviving plays, and fragments of others. These plays are: Acharnians, Knights, Clouds, Wasps, Peace, Birds, Lysistrata, Women Celebrating the Thesmophoria, Frogs, The Assemblywomen, and Wealth.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Aristophanes Gr. Lat. 6.v. 8vo." and given by Thomas Jefferson to his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph. The Brown Bibliography[4] suggests that Wythe's copy matched the one Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress in 1815.[5] According to Sowerby, Jefferson's octavo edition consisted of six volumes edited by Richard François Philippe Brunck — a three volume Greek set with Latin notes[6] and a three volume Latin set.[7] Unfortunately, neither Jefferson's copy nor Wythe's copy survive to verify which edition Wythe owned. George Wythe's Library[8] on LibraryThing simply lists the three volume 1783 Greek set edited by Brunck.

See also


  1. Alan Sommerstein, “Aristophanes,” The Encyclopedia of Ancient History (Hoboken: Wiley, 2012), accessed March 24, 2015.
  2. Lois Spatz, Aristophanes (Boston, Twayne Publishers, 1978), 24.
  3. Kenneth McLeish and Trevor R. Griffiths, A Guide to Greek Theatre and Drama (London: Methuen Drama, 2003), 195.
  4. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012, rev. May, 2014) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  5. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 4:548-549 [no.4575]. Jefferson's entry for his 1815 catalog is similar to the one in the inventory of Wythe's books, but includes vital information the Wythe entry lacks, "Aristophanes. Gr. Lat. Brunck. 6. v. 8vo. Argentorati. 1783."
  6. Aristophanes, Aristophanis Comoediae, edited by Richard François Philippe Brunch (Argentorati: Sumptibus Joh. Georgii Treuttel, bibliopolae, 1783).
  7. Aristophanes, Aristophanis Comoediae in Latinum Sermonem Conversae, edited by Richard François Philippe Brunch (Argentorati: Apud socios bibliopolas Bauer & Treuttel, 1781.)
  8. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on November 19, 2021.