PARTICULARLY RARE EDITION OF A POPULAR ITALIAN ACCOUNT OF SAINT FRANCIS’ LIFE

La vita & li miracoli che lui fece in vita.

Venice, Francesco Bindoni and Mapheo Pasini, 1541.

£2,950

8vo. ff. 96. A-M8. Roman letter. Title in red and black with large woodcut of St. Francis receiving the stigmata (reproduction Essling I 312) woodcut of the Archangel Raphael and Tobias on recto of last, white on black woodcut initial. Age yellowing, title somewhat dusty and spotted, the occasional light water-stain, the odd marginal spot or thumb mark. A good copy, re-cased in an early vellum antiphonal leaf over boards.

A very charming, rare, popular Venetian printing of this immensely popular work on the life and miracles of Saint Francis of Assisi and his followers, illustrated with two attractive woodcuts. The ‘Little Flowers of Francis of Assisi’ is the name given to a classic collection of popular legends about the life of St. Francis of Assisi and his early companions as they appeared to the Italian people at the beginning of the fourteenth century.

Such a work, as Ozanam observes, can hardly be said to have one author. It is rather the product of gradual growth and national imagination and must, as Sabatier remarks, remain anonymous. There has been doubt as to whether the “Fioretti” was written in Italian in the first instance, as Sbaralea thought, or was translated from a Latin original, as Wadding maintained. The latter seems altogether more probable, and modern critics generally believe that a larger Latin collection of legends, which has come down to us under the name of the “Actus B. Francisci et Sociorum Ejus,” represents an approximation to the text now lost of the original “Floretum,” of which the “Fioretti” is a translation.

The four appendices to the “Stigmata of St. Francis,” the life of Fra Ginepro and the life and commentary of Fra Egidio, which occupy nearly one half of the printed text of the “Fioretti” as we now have it, were not part of the original collection and were probably added by later compilers. Unfortunately, the name of the fourteenth-century Franciscan friar who translated into Italian fifty-three of the seventy-six chapters found in the “Actus B. Francisci” and immortalized them as the “Fioretti,” remains unknown. It has been surmised that the translator was a Florentine. However, the vernacular version is written in the most limpid Tuscan and is reckoned among the masterpieces of Italian literature. The “Fioretti” has been described as “the most exquisite expression of the religious life of the Middle Ages.”

Few copies have survived and this edition is particularly rare. Edit 16 gives one location only in Ferrara, Italy. Not in Worldcat.

CNCE 41979. Not in BM STC It. or Sander.

L1268

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