Auli Gellii Noctes Atticae

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by Aulus Gellius

Auli Gellii Noctes Atticae

Title page from Auli Gellii Noctes Atticae, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Aulus Gellius
Editor Joannes Fredericus Gronovius
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published Amstelodami: Apud Ludovicum Elzevirium
Date 1651
Edition Editio nova et prioribus omnibus docti hominis cura multo castigatior
Language Latin
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages [48], 498, [126]
Desc. 12mo (14 cm.)
Location Shelf J-4
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]
Bookplate of Charles Voiriot, front pastedown.

Aulus Gellius (c. 125–after 180 CE) was a Roman miscellanist -- one who collects or compiles writings on miscellaneous topics. The only information about him is from Attic Nights.[1] Gellius spent most of his life in Rome, though he spent a year in Athens for his education.[2] A judge of private cases, Gellius was more interested in ancient law than in modern practice.[3]

Throughout the centuries, Gellius has been seen as “an ancient litteratus with whom [people have] a community of interests.”[4] He collected material throughout the winter nights in Attica and later arranged it for the “amusement and instruction of his children."[5] In this compilation of Greek and Roman writing, Gellius “quotes and discusses portions of some two hundred and seventy-five ancient authors” including more than eighty passages from Cicero, sixty difficult sentences from Virgil, and choice information about Julius Caesar.[6] The thousands of passages contained in his work make Gellius a valuable source for much early Latin literature that is not extant.[7]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Auli Gellii noctes Atticae. p.f." and given by Thomas Jefferson to his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph. The precise edition owned by Wythe is unknown. George Wythe's Library[8] on LibraryThing indicates this, adding "Probably a portion of the work only." The Brown Bibliography[9] lists the quarto edition published in Leiden in 1706 based on the copy Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress.[10] Brown also mentions a second Jefferson copy—one in duodecimo, published in Amsterdam in 1651—sold by his grandson, Francis Eppes in 1873. This copy matches Jefferson's Wythe inventory designation of "p.f." (by which he always meant a size smaller than octavo) better than the quarto version sold to the Library of Congress. The Wolf Law Library purchased a copy of the 1651 Amsterdam edition.

Unsigned bookplate, title page verso.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in quarter calf with marbled boards. Spines feature gilt bands and decoration and a black morocco label with gilt lettering. Includes the armorial bookplate of Charles Voiriot with the French motto "Libre et Brave" (Free and brave) on the front pastedown and an unsigned bookplate on the title page verso. Stamped on the front free endpaper with "Ch. Voiroit" written above and "Chambery" written below the stamp. Purchased from Liseronsblancs.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

Stamp and inscription, front free endpaper.

See also


  1. "Gellius, Aulus" in Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World, ed. by John Roberts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Charles N. Smiley, reviewer, "The Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius by J. C. Rolfe'" The Classical Journal 24, no. 4 (Jan. 1929): 295.
  5. "Ge'llius, Aulus" in The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, ed. by M.C. Howatson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
  6. Charles N. Smiley, "The Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius by J. C. Rolfe,” 295.
  7. "Ge'llius, Aulus" in The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature.
  8. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on February 28, 2014.
  9. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  10. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 5:161 [no.4905].