Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, 1519

Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, 1519

Title: Apulegio volgare, diuiso in undeci libri, novamente stampato & in molti lochi aggiontoui che nella prima impressione gli manchaua, & de molte più figure adornato

Author: Lucius Madaurensis Apuleius (M’Daourouch, Algeria ca. 124–after 170)

Designer: Design of illustrations attributed to Benedetto Bordone (Italian, Padua ca. 1455/60–1530 Padua, active mainly Venice from 1488)

Translator: Matteo Maria Boiardo (Italian, 1434–1494)

Publisher: Nicolo daristotele da Ferrara

Publisher: Vincenzo de Polo da Venetia (Italian, 16th century)

Published in: Venice

Date: September 3, 1519

Medium: Printed book with woodcut illustrations

Dimensions: 5 7/8 x 3 15/16 x 13/16 in. (15 x 10 x 2 cm)

Classification: Books

Credit Line: The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1956

Accession Number: 56.608.1

Boiardo’s popular translation of Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (also known as ‘The Golden Ass’), which originated in the Ferrarese court in the 1470s at the request of Ercole I d’Este, was only supplanted in 1549, when a new translation by Agnolo Firenzuola appeared.
The late classical work of Apuleius tells of the misadventures of a young man who, attempting to use magic in order to fly, is accidentally transformed into an ass. In this illustration, poor Lucius is punished for having escaped from the robbers who stole him. The narrator (Lucius) tells us that he would have been beaten to death if not for the malodorous aftermath—suggested in cartoon fashion in this illustration—of the vegetable feast he had enjoyed during his brief period of freedom.