A 1483 edition of Saturnalia by Macrobius, priced Aus$120,000 by Peter Harrington at Melbourne Rare Book Fair.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

It appears in a 1483 edition of Saturnalia by Macrobius, itself one of the earliest printed books in existence, published within the first 50 years of the invention of printing.

This month a copy of the volume comes to an event in a now very much known southern land: Australia. The Melbourne Rare Book Fair runs from July 27-29 at Wilson Hall, The University of Melbourne.

Saturnalia, named for the ancient Roman winter festival, was written after c.431AD. It comprises an account of discussions held during the festivities and covers discussions on history, mythology, grammar and much else.

The original text did not contain a mention of the southern landmass, but the 15th century printing – the earliest printing of the book – includes it as part of a woodcut world map, highlighting the Renaissance acceptance of these distant places.

London calling

It will be offered for Aus$120,000 by London dealership Peter Harrington Rare Books, which anticipates regional institutional interest.

The firm also offers the first published account of Malaspina’s voyage from California to Alaska by Francicso Javier de Viana and a first edition of Philip Parker King’s Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Wester Coasts of Australia from 1826.

The fair is sponsored by the Australian and New Zealand Association of Antiquarian Booksellers (ANZAAB), and is part of Rare Book Week, an annual Melbourne-wide programme of talks and events that runs from July 23-30.

Other exhibitors include Asia Bookroom, Books for Cooks and Sokol Books.