The earliest and “by far the most detailed account of the coast of the United Arab Emirates”

Plinius Secundus, Gaius (Pliny the Elder). Naturae historiarum libri XXXVII. E castigationibus Hermolai Barbari quam emendatissime editi.

Venice, Bernardinus Benalius, 1497 (but not before 13 Feb. 1498).

Folio. 268 ff. Contemporary vellum with ms. title to spine.


Fine incunabular edition of Pliny's famous encylopedic work, covering the entire field of ancient knowledge. With his "Natural History", Pliny gives a mathematical and physical description of the world, discusses geography, ethnography, anthropology, human physiology, zoology, botany, mineralogy, sculpture and painting. As "a purveyor of information both scientific and nonscientific, Pliny holds a place of exceptional importance in the tradition and diffusion of culture" (DSB). Through the present work Pliny "gives us by far the most detailed account of the coast of the United Arab Emirates that has come down to us. Chapter 32 of Book 6 (§ 149-152), beginning near the Qatar peninsula, proceeds to describe the Emirates islands, tribes, and coast right up to the Musandam peninsula, before continuing on south along the coast of Oman. As such, it is a mine of invaluable information on the UAE in the late pre-Islamic era" (UAE History, online). Pliny "completed his 'Natural History' in 77 AD and, to judge from his account of the peoples and places of south-eastern Arabia [...], the area of the UAE was full of settlements, tribes, and physical features, the names of which he recorded for posterity" (Ghareeb/Al Abed 54).

"This appears to be the first edition of Barbarus' recension, the note of a 1496 edition by the same printer being probably due to a confusion (Hain 13099)" (BMC). Dated 1497 in the colophon, but the dedication is dated the Ides of February in the twelfth year of the Doge Augustinus Barbadicus (30 Aug. 1497 to 29 Aug. 1498).

Numerous contemporary marginalia. Slight worming to gutter and some waterstaining near end; spine restored. Late 19th-c. bookplate of Dr. J. Klauber on front pastedown.


HC 13101*. Goff P-799. GW M34321. Klebs 786.14. Proctor 4893A. BMC V 377. ISTC ip00799000.