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ARIOSTO, Ludovico


Orlando furioso et di nuovo postoui i cinque canti.

Venezia, appresso Pietro Deuchino, 1574.


24mo in twelves. Three vols, ff. 166 + 166 + 228. Roman letter with Italic. Printer’s device to t-p (a bit dusty), 49 handsome woodcuts (some repeated) of scenes from the poem, decorated initials, a.e.g. Slight age yellowing, occasional very minor foxing, the odd small light water stain, upper margin trimmed fractionally touching page number and running titles in a few places. A very good, crisp, clean copy in French crimson morocco c.1700, triple-ruled border gilt, gilt rosettes to each corner, gilt inner dentelles, light old stain to covers of vol. 3. Spines in five compartments, gilt borders and large fleurons to each, raised bands with gilt foliage, one joint a bit cracked, loss to border of vol. 1 at foot. Printed C19 ex-libris of the Earl of Ellenborough to front pastedowns, C19 stamp ‘Earl of Ellenborough Heirlooms. Book No. 1430 390’ to second ffep, early inscription ‘1733’ to verso of third, vol. 1 with tiny early inscription (price?) to t-p and modern bookplate.

The finely-gilt fleurons on the spine resemble very closely the mid-C18 French tool used in Barber, ‘Printed Books and Bookbinding’, SP 58 W.Cat.632.

Uncommon, illustrated small Elzevir-style edition of Ariosto’s magnificent poem. One of the greatest authors of the Italian Renaissance, Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) studied law and classics at Ferrara before entering the service of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este and later of Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara. For his patrons, he fulfilled diplomatic and political functions, including emissary to Pope Julius II, whilst composing poems, comedies and satires mostly in the Italian vernacular. His masterpiece—‘Orlando furioso’—is a chivalric poem in ottava rima intended as a continuation of Matteo Maria Boiardo’s ‘Orlando innamorato’ (1483). The first 40 cantos were published in 1516; the final version in 46 followed in 1532, later joined by five extra cantos. In Ariosto’s poem, Orlando’s love for Angelica, as narrated by Boiardo, turns into ‘fury’; at her rejection, the paladin loses his mind and abandons the battlefield. The very complex plot interweaves narratives of the paladins’ war against the Turks, Angelica’s flight from the furious Orlando and their adventures, and the love story between the Christian Bradamante and the Saracen Ruggiero. ‘Orlando furioso’ became an instant classic and was extensively reprinted in Italy and France in the C16.

The handsome engravings are based on Gabriele Giolito’s edition of 1548. Praised by Giorgio Vasari, Giolito’s woodcuts elaborated on those in Zoppino’s edition of 1530—the first to adapt to Ariosto’s text the iconographic structure of the illustrated ‘libri di battaglia’ (poetic sequels in ottava rima to the great chivalric romances) so popular in Venice. Giolito abandoned the programmatic plainness of Zoppino’s illustrations to create finer and more complex scenes bringing together two or three episodes from each canto, functioning both as a figurative commentary and aide-mémoire. The anonymous craftsmen of Deuchino’s edition copied Giolito’s woodcuts as closely as possible, whilst adapting them to the smaller 24mo format. Like the ‘fratelli Guerra’ and Guillaume Rouillé in the 1560s, Deuchino sought to capitalise on a readership interested in an illustrated as well as portable ‘Orlando furioso’.

Edward Law (1790-1861) was a British Tory politician and owner of Southam House, near Cheltenham. He served as Governor-General of India between 1842 and 1844, and later created 1st Earl of Ellenborough.

Only Chicago copy recorded in the US.

USTC 143138; Graesse I, 199. Not in BM STC It., Gamba, Fontanini or Sander. Carlo Alberto Girotto, ‘“Ariosto d’oro e figurato’: Le principali edizioni illustrate del Cinquecento’, in L’‘Orlando furioso’ nello specchio delle immagini, ed. M. Bray, Rome, 2014, pp. 1-34.