PRINTING AND THE MIND OF MAN

Il libro del cortegiano.

Venezia, in aedibus haer. Aldo I Manuzio & Andrea I Torresano, 1528.

£39,500

FIRST EDITION. Folio. 122 unnumbered ff., *4 a-o8 p6. Woodcut Aldine device to t-p and verso of last (this with a little period colouring). T-p a little soiled at lower outer corner, a few thumb marks to first ll., small oil stain to upper margin of e-k4, single small worm hole from i2, a second to final ll. A remarkably clean, crisp, fresh copy, on thick paper, in C17 sprinkled calf, raised bands, spine in six gilt ruled compartments, large gilt fleuron and cornerpieces to each, repair to surface of joints and corners. Bookplate of T. Kimball Brooker to front pastedown and stamp to fep, early number inked to upper margin of t-p.

Remarkably fresh, crisp and clean copy, on thick paper, of the first edition of a work which shaped and changed the culture of the European upper classes in the Renaissance. This edition is the ‘first and most sought after’ (Brunet I, 1628), ‘handsome and rare’ (Renouard 105:3). Of noble origins, Baldassarre Castiglione (1478-1529) studied ‘literae humaniores’ at Milan and was at the service of the Sforza and Gonzaga before moving to the court of the Duke of Urbino. He spent the last few years of his life as Apostolic nuncio in Spain, where he died of the plague in 1529. It was the year before his death that the first edition of ‘Il libro del Cortegiano’ appeared in print; its success was foreseen by Aldus who obtained a 10-year monopoly. The work celebrates the characteristics of the ideal aristocrat and ‘has remained the perfect definition of a gentleman ever since’ (PMM 59). It was inspired by Castiglione’s time at Urbino and his social interaction with influential personalities including courtiers, aristocrats and literati, by then mostly deceased. It was thus intended also as a celebration of their achievements since, as Castiglione said in the preface, the ‘loss of so many friends’ had left him in a ‘painful solitude’. In this dialogue, refined courtiers discuss the virtues (e.g., honesty, magnanimity and good manners) and social skills (e.g., foreign language proficiency, dancing and fencing) a perfect courtier should have, often inspired by exempla from classical antiquity, as well as the ‘sprezzatura’—a fundamental nonchalance or ‘carelessness’ guiding his every action. The resulting idea of ‘self-fashioning’, or the crafting of a public persona following received standards, influenced, thanks to numerous translations, the behaviour of the European aristocracy for decades, especially in England where C16 literature and drama were imbued with the Italian ideals of the ‘cortegiano’.

USTC 819485; BM STC It., p. 156; Brunet I, 1628: ‘la première et la plus recherchée’; Renouard 105:3: ‘belle et rare’; Ahmanson-Murphy 252; PMM 59.

L3070

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