Bindings decorated by the motto “Susque deque” View larger

Bindings decorated by the motto “Susque deque”

Five bindings are known with the motto “Susque deque” lettered in the centre of each cover, accompanied (above and below) by a monogram composed of the Greek letters “α ι” (alpha, iota). This motto, derived from the Greek (Ἄνω καὶ κάτω), had appeared in Erasmus’s collection of Greek and Latin proverbs (Chilias 1, Centuria 3, 283), with examples from Plautus, Aulus Gellius, and Marcus Terentius Varro. It means literally “up and down,” and was used by those who wished to appear indifferent, in a derogatory sense, towards something or someone, hence - to indicate that he did not care about Octavian - Cicero wrote to Atticus “De Octavio, susque deque.” (14, 6, 1). The five bindings cover books printed at Lyon by Sébastien Gryphe in 1547 or 1548. Judging from photographs, they are Lyonese work from a single shop, in all probability executed concurrently. All five are sextodecimos, and it could be that they formed part of a travelling library assembled at or near Lyon around 1548.

The volumes had entered the market by the 17th century: the Claudianus, now in the Bibliotheca Brookeriana, was on the shelves of the Monastère Saint-Bernard, Fontaine-lès-Dijon; the Sannazaro, now in Eton College Library, was in the library of Louis Émery Bigot (1626-1689), and sold at auction in 1706. Guglielmo Bruto Icilio Timoleone, Count Libri (Libri-Carrucci) (1803-1869) acquired the Suetonius, and offered it in the sale in 1862 of the “Reserved and Most Valuable Portion of the Libri Collection,” with a plate in his Monuments inédits ou peu connus faisant partie du cabinet de Guillaume Libri (London 1862). The Claudianus and Silius Italicus both passed in 1914 through the hands of a Parisian bookseller, Théophile Belin, who supposed that the Greek letters “α ι” identify the accomplished classical scholar Jacques Amyot (1513-1593).

Following an intense study of Greek and Hebrew in Paris at the Collège of Cardinal Lemoine and Collège royal, Jacques Amyot was appointed in 1536 or 1537 professor of Greek at the university of Bourges, and preceptor to the sons of Guillaume Bochetel, Conseiller du roi and Secrétaire des finance. Within several years Amyot had produced French translations from the original Greek of two plays of Euripides, commenced work on a translation of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, and completed his first published work, a translation of Heliodorus (1548). In the spring of 1548, he travelled with his patron Jean de Morvilliers to Italy, where he remained until 1552, making effective use of manuscripts in Venice and the Vatican. Returning to France, Amyot was appointed in 1557 tutor to the future kings Charles IX and Henry III, and in 1570 was appointed to the bishopric of Auxerre.

Jacques Amyot rarely entered his name in his books,1 and our knowledge of his library is dependent on a post-mortem inventory (6-12 February 1593), compiled by a doctor of theology and a lawyer, which lists 164 books located in a study near the deceased’s bedroom in Auxerre. This inventory (Archives départementales de l’Yonne, G 1838) is dominated by works of biblical exegesis, editions of the Fathers of the Church, etc, which Amyot presumably required for his pastoral work; it contains almost no works by ancient authors, nor humanist commentaries on them, or literature. None of the five books with motto “Susque deque” and monogram “α ι” corresponds to an entry in the post-mortem inventory. Sylvie Le Clech-Charton, who has edited the inventory, supposed that Amyot gifted books during his lifetime to his brother Jean, or to his nephews. A recent attempt by Romain Mellini to locate the physical books yielded little fruit: just three volumes, corresponding to varying degrees with inventory entries. However, Mellini identifies four, heavily annotated volumes, absent from the inventory, as indisputably belonging to Amyot, sustaining conjecture of disposals prior to Amyot’s death.2 As no use by Amyot of the motto “Susque deque” has been reported by literary historians, his ownership of these volumes remains at best questionable.

Roger Mazelier, a scholar focusing on messages hidden in literary texts during oppressive times, interpreted the lettering on the Silius Italicus as “OC Sursumque Deorsumque OC”, with “OC” a coded celebration of Occitan culture.3

1. Romain Menini, “La bibliothèque du traducteur: Amyot et ses exemplaires de travail” in Bibliothèques des humanistes français 10 (2018), ¶9 (“il semble que Jacques Amyot n’ait que rarement porté son nom ou son ex-libris sur les volumes dont il fit usage”; footnote 9: “Nous n’avons croisé cette devise [susqz deqve] nulle part ailleurs, non plus que localisé ces volumes [online, link]).

2. Sylvie Le Clech-Charton, Les Vies de Jacques Amyot, édition commentée de documents inédits (Paris 2013), pp.139-232; Sylvie Le Clech, Jacques Amyot à Auxerre, un évêque engagé (1570-1593). Colloque Jacques Amyot, une voix savante du XVIè siècle, Département de Seine-et-Marne, Musée d’arte et d’histoire de Melun, Université de Nanterre, 2013 [online, link].

R. Mazelier, “Chronogrammes et cabale chez les troubadours et l’Archiprêtre de Hita” in Cahiers d’études cathares 41 (1990), pp.1-205 (pp.47-49, with illustration taken from a Belin catalogue: “Sus était autrefois une préposition et un adverbe signifiant: ‘Sur’, ‘dessus’, ‘en haut’ et dérivait de Susum dont les latins se servaient au lieu de Sursum. Susque Deque était employé pour Sursumque Deorsumque, en haut et en bas, sceau des vicissitudes d’OC que le malicieux Sébastien Gryphe (pseudonyme tire de gryphos, qui, en grec, signife: énigme) l’hélléniste et hermétiste éditeur de Rabelais, mettait sous le signe de Silius Italicus, renommé pour son peu d’esprit d’après Pline: majori cura quam ingenio. Les cabalistes empruntaient à n’importe quel texte signifiant sa puissance sémantique en langue mélangée comme de nos jours les hebdomadaires satiriques cueillent et utilisent les perles de la presse quotidienne. Ici, c’est le titre latin qui a été retenu pour le jeu. De Bello punico donne, en langue macaronique: ‘Sur la guerre d’OC puni’.).

list of bindings


(1) Claudius Claudianus, Cl. Claudiani poetae celeberrimi Opera (Lyon: Sébastien Gryphe, 1548)

● unidentified owner using the motto “Susque deque” and monogram “ι α” (iota, alpha)
● unidentified owner, inscription on endleaf, in French, reporting an event in March 1618
● Monastère Saint-Bernard, Fontaine-lès-Dijon (Côte-d’Or), inscription, “Ex bibliotheca Fuliensi S. Bernardi Fontanensis” on title-page (17C)
● Librairie Théophile Belin, Paris; their Livres des XVe et XVIe siècles dans leurs reliures originales (Paris 1914), item 97 (FF 800 (“Jolie reliure française portant, sur les plats, le chiffre et la devise de Jacques Amyot … Une reliure semblable est reproduite à la planche 47 de Libri, Monuments inédits.”)
● Laure Eugénie (née Pillet) Belin [widow of Pierre-Victor-Théophile Belin (1851-1921)]
● René Boisgirard & Louis Giraud-Badin with Charles Bosse, Bibliothèque de Mme Th. Belin: précieux manuscrits à miniatures, livres à figures des XVIe, XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, riches reliures anciennes armoriées, Paris, 19-20 February 1936, lot 44 & Pl. 19
● unidentified owner - bought in sale (FF 3150) [“Les ventes: Livres et autographes” in Humanisme et Renaissance 3 (1936), p.214 (“Exemplaire réglé dans une reliure au chiffre et à la devise de Jacques Amyot. (Vendu 2.150 fr.)”]
● Henri Burton (1896-1968)
● Christie Manson & Woods International Inc., Printed books and manuscripts including science, early Continental literature from the collection of Henri Burton, New York, 22 April 1994, lot 94 (part lot; “contemporary calf gilt, gilt monogram and device of Jacques Amyot at center of covers and in spine compartments … long note in a contemporary hand on front flyleaf, later sixteenth- or seventeenth-century ownership inscription on title: ‘ex biblioteca fuliensi P. Bernardi fontanensis’”) (realised $5520) [RBH 7866-94]
● T. Kimball Brooker, purchased at the above sale via Martin Breslauer Inc. [Bibliotheca Brookeriana #2213; to be offered by Sotheby’s in 2024-2025]

Mellini, op. cit., ¶9 (“Des œuvres de Claudien (Lyon, S. Gryphe, 1548) auraient cependant porté son chiffre et sa devise (‘ia susque deque ia’): voir Livres des XVe & XVIe siècles dans leurs reliures originales, Paris, Librairie Th. Belin, 1914, no 97: ‘In-16, réglé, veau fauve, dos orné, comp. de fil. dor., droits et en losange, rinceaux de feuillages et fers azurés, tr. dor.’. Il est ensuite précisé: ‘Une reliure semblable est reproduite à la planche 47 de Libri, Monuments inédits’; voir effectivement la ‘vue d’artiste’ reproduisant la reliure en maroquin brun d’un Suétone (Lyon, S. Gryphe, 1548) dans lesdits Monuments inédits, Londres, Dulau et Cie, 1862, pl. xlvii (reliure où, de fait, nous peinons à lire les prétendues initiales ‘IA’). − Nous n’avons croisé cette devise nulle part ailleurs, non plus que localisé ces volumes.” [link])

(2) Titus Livius, Titi Livii patavini Latinae historiae principis, decas tertia (Lyon: Sébastien Gryphe, 1548)

● unidentified owner using the motto “Susque deque” and monogram “ι α” (iota, alpha)
● William George Arthur Ormsby-Gore, 4th Baron Harlech (1885-1964)
● Jasset David Cody Ormsby-Gore, 7th Baron Harlech (b. 1986)
● Bonhams, The contents of Glyn Cywarch the property of Lord Harlech, London, 29 March 2017, lot 237 (part lot; “ruled in red, later calf preserving old gilt stamped sides with triple rule border and foliate design enclosing central motto ‘Susqz Deque’ with monogram above and beneath (attributed to Jacques Amyot in old bookseller’s note)”) [RBH 24150-237]
● unidentified owner - bought in sale (£3125) [online, link]

(3) Jacopo Sannazaro, Iacobi Sannazarii opera omnia. Quorum indicem sequens pagella continet (Lyon: Sébastien Gryphe, 1547)

● unidentified owner using the motto “Susque deque” and monogram “ια” (iota, alpha)
● Louis Émery Bigot (1626-1689), inscription “Bibliot. Bigot. No. 5401. 35. 22 Juil. 1705” on lower pastedown
presumably Gabriel Martin, Bibliotheca Bigotiana: seu catalogus librorum, quos, (sum viverent) summâ curâ & industriâ, ingentíque sumptu congessêre viri clarissimi dd. uterque Joannes, Nicolaus, & Lud. Emericus Bigotii, Domini de Sommesnil & de Cleuville, alter praetor, alii senatores Rothomagenses, Paris, 1 July 1706, lot 5401 (“[Sannazarii Opera omina Poetica] id. in 16. ap. Gryphium. 1547” [link])
● “Goulley”, inscription
● Anthony Morris Storer (1746-1799), by bequest to
● Eton, Eton College Library, Cd.3.3.03 (opac ?16th century gold-tooled calf. Foliage tools and geometric pattern of interlocking fillets. ?Monogram, and motto reading ‘?Susq et deque’. Remains of ties. [link])

Robert Birley, The History of Eton College Library (Eton 1970), pp.54-55 (“… bears the motto svs qz de qve”, which has been ascribed to Jacques Amyot”)

(3) Silius Italicus, Silii Italici, poetae clarissimi. De bello punico libri septemdecim (Lyon: Sébastien Gryphe, 1547)

● unidentified owner using the motto “Susque deque” and monogram “ια” (iota alpha)
● Librairie Théophile Belin, Paris; their Catalogue de livres précieux, riches reliures ornées et blasonnées, provenances illustres. Manuscrits (Paris 1908), item 522 [illustrated]; Livres anciens de provenances historiques: Livres avec armoiries des rois, reines, princes, princesses, favorites et bibliophiles célèbres (Paris 1910), item 224 (“réglé, veau fauve, dos orn., comp. de fil., rinceaux de feuillages et fers azurés, tr. dor. (Rel. du XVIe siècle). Jolie reliure française portant, sur les plats, le chiffre et la devise de Jacques Amyot, traducteur de Plutarque: ia susqve de qve ia. Une reliure semblable est reproduite à la planche 47 de Libri, Monuments inédits.”)
● Raoul Warocqué (1870-1917)
● Morlanwelz, Musée royal de Mariemont, Réserve Précieuse, Rel. 9 (opac Reliure française du XVIe siècle en veau fauve; chiffre et devise de Jacques Amyot ‘Ia susqz de que ia’ [sic]. Inscriptions et marques: Belin, mars 1911 [link])

Musée royal de Mariemont, Cent reliures de la réserve précieuse: exposition organisée à l’occasion de la visite à Mariemont des participants à la “Semaine d’étude de la reliure” de Gand (Higro), Musée royal de Mariemont, 14 avril-8 juin 1981 (Morlanwelz: Musée royal de Mariemont, 1981), p.5 no. 13 (“Reliure française de veau brun. Décor de filets et de fers dorés sur les plats, le chiffre et la devise de Jacques Amyot. Milieu du XVIe siècle”)

(5) Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, XII caesares. De Romanis principibus, libri III (Lyon: Sébastien Gryphe, 1548)

Line drawing from Libri’s Monuments inédits

● unidentified owner using the motto “Susque deque” and monogram “ι α” (iota alpha)
● Samuel Weller Singer (1783-1858)
● S. Leigh Sotheby & John Wilkinson, Catalogue of a selected portion of choice & interesting copies of rare & valuable works collected by the late S.W. Singer, Esq., London, 24 May 1860, lot 244 (“in old ornamented binding, the sides covered with gilt scroll tooling, having impressed on the centre of each ck svsqz deqve in letters of gold”)
● Guglielmo Bruto Icilio Timoleone, Count Libri (Libri-Carrucci) (1803-1869)
● S. Leigh Sotheby & John Wilkinson, Catalogue of the reserved & most valuable portion of the Libri collection, London, 25-29 July 1862, lot 518 (“brown morocco, in compartments, gilt edges … A pretty French binding of the XVIth century, gilt in full in a very singular style. It will be found figured in Libri’s Inedited Monuments”)
● Beck (?) – bought in sale (£5 15s)

Monuments inédits ou peu connus, faisant partie du cabinet de Guillaume Libri et qui se rapportent à l’histoire des arts du dessin considérés dans leur application à l’ornement des livres (Paris 1862), Pl. 47 (“Reliure française du XVIe Siècle, en maroquin brun” [link])