Il libro del cortegiano

Venice, Girolamo Scoto, 1556.

£1,450

8vo. ff. 204. A-2B8, 2C4. Woodcut printer’s device on title, first line of title within small woodcut border, large historiated woodcut initials, C18th engraved armorial bookplate on pastedown with ms. shelf mark above, occasional underlinings.  Light age yellowing, title page fractionally dusty, occasional marginal spot, small oil-stain at gutter of last few quires. A very good, clean copy in contemporary limp vellum.

Rare edition, revised and corrected by Lodovico Dolce from the authors’ manuscript, of the prototype courtesy book and one of the most enduringly popular and influential works of the Italian Renaissance. “The Courtier depicts the ideal aristocrat, and it has remained the perfect definition of a gentleman ever since. It is an epitome of the highest moral and social ideals of the Italian Renaissance, many of them inspired by classical examples. (…) Another section provides similar rules for the conduct of a lady and the book ends with the celebrated pronouncement on platonic love by Bembo.” Printing and the Mind of Man. The work was soon translated into most European languages and Cervantes, Corneille, Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson and Shelley are but a few of those who are clearly in its debt. The book is based on a nostalgic recreation of Castiglione’s experience at the court of Duke Guidobaldo da Montefeltro of Urbino at the turn of the sixteenth century. It describes the ideal court and courtier, and relates the philosophical, cultured and lively conversations that occurred at Urbino, presided over by Elizabetta Gonzaga. The conversation, which takes place over a span of four days in the year 1507, addressed the topic, proposed by Federico Fregoso, of what constitutes an ideal Renaissance gentleman and is written in refined and elegant prose, spiced with humour. The speakers, prominent nobles and literati in the court of Urbino, include Giuliano de Medici, Pietro Bembo, Ludovico da Canossa Emilia Pia, Elizabetta Gonzaga amongst many others.

Ludovico Dolce, the Venetian humanist, was a prolific author or ‘poligrafo’ who produced several hundred volumes bearing his name, whether as author, editor, translator or critic. He edited 184 texts for the Giolito press alone. “As the most active writer and editor for the most productive Venetian press, Dolce played a decisive role in the dissemination of culture in the cinquecento. (…) Dolce played an important role in promulgating vernacular literature, whether by publishing corrected editions of such classics as Petrarch’s Canzoniere, Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier and Ariosto’s Orlando furioso; by translating Homer, Euripides, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Seneca, and other minor authors; or by publishing original works in the literary genres of widest appeal.” Ronnie H. Terpening. He is known today primarily for his Dialogue on Painting which was much influenced by Castiglione’s ideas in the ‘The courtier’. A very good copy of this attractively printed edition, rare in libraries outside Italy.

Not in BM STC It. C16th. Adams, Gamba, or Index Aurelensis. Cf. PMM 59 (first edition).

L1407

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