108 FINE ENGRAVINGS
Imprese illustri di diversi co i discorsi di Camillo Camilli et con le figure intagliate in rame di Girolamo Porro Padouano.
Venice, Francesco Ziletti, 1586.
FIRST EDITION. 4to. (in eights). 3 vols. in one. pp [viii], 182, [ii] (last blank) : 95 [i] : 56. Roman letter, verses in Italic. Floriated and historiated woodcut initials, grotesque tailpieces, headpiece containing a device of a plant being watered with motto “A poco a poco”, all three titles with a different engraved architectural border, each containing Ziletti’s star device at head, 108 fine engravings of Imprese by Girolamo Porro. First title fractionally dusty, the odd thumb mark. A very good copy, clean and crisp, the engravings in excellent strong impression, in C17 Italian speckled calf, spine, with raised bands, gilt in compartments with gilt fleurons at centers, tan morocco title label gilt, covers a little worn, joints cracked at head. a.e.r.
First edition of this fine book of imprese, richly illustrated with a long series of engravings of emblems or devices by Girolamo Porro, and Latin (or in a few cases Greek) mottos, all within different ornamental borders, each associated with a contemporary notable and accompanied by Camillo’s text of iconographic explanation, and verses. The work is dedicated to Ferdinando de Medici in which Camilli pays tribute to the engraver Porro “Nella qual opera, se io per insufficienza hauesi manca in qualche cosa, ho alemeno supplito nella nobilta, & bellezza delle Figure, lequali sono state per la maggior parte intagliate da M. Girolamo Porro”. Many are the imprese of important Italian families such as the Gonazaga or Borghesi.
Interestingly this work contains the imprese of Sir Henry Lee (part 2 pages 12-14), Master of the Ordnance under Queen Elizabeth I. Lee became Queen Elizabeth I’s champion in 1570 and was appointed Master of the Royal Armouries in 1580, an office which he held until his death. As Queen’s Champion, Lee devised the Accession Day tilts, held annually on 17 November, the most important Elizabethan court festival from the 1580s. He seems to have been well known to Camilli, and Camilli’s work was influential at the Elizabethan court, providing Elizabethans with devices for their pageants and tournaments. Books of imprese quickly became a favored genre of the Renaissance. They are, as here, crammed with news, from classical historiography to contemporary events, including animalistic, astrological and poetic curiosities, and the relation of customs.
The imprese’s proximity to emblems, with the love of encoded expression helped to explain their success. A typical example in this work is the impresa of Nicolaus Bernardinus Sanseverinus, Prince of Bisignano, whose device shows the optical illusion of a stick placed in water with the motto “Fallit imago”. This device was taken up by the Elizabethan author Chapman and used on the title page of his work ‘Ovids Banquet of Sence’ published in 1595 with the motto changed to ‘Sibi conscia recti’.
A very good copy of this fascinating, beautifully illustrated and influential work.
BM STC C16 It. p. 140. Mortimer, It. C16, 99. Landwehr, J. French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese books of devices and emblems, 202. Brunet I, 1514. ‘Porro n’a peut-être rien fait de plus beau que les 108 figures de ce livre.’ Praz p. 296. Cicognara 1870.