AN ACCOUNT OF A CHIVALRIC TOURNAMENT


Torneo fatto sotto il Castello d’Argio Da’ SS Cavalieri Bolognesi il di IX. Febraio 1578.

Bologna, Giovanni Rossi, 1578.

£3,450

FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. 112. Roman and Italic letter within printed line border, title with woodcut ornaments, woodcut historiated initials, discreet restoration at blank upper margin of title and gutter of last leaf, very light age yellowing in places. A very good copy in eighteenth century rose and gilt embossed paper boards, later eps.

Rare first edition of this fascinating description of a chivalric ‘tournament’ held in Bologna for the carnival of 1578, containing descriptions of the various scenes enacted for the occasion, including the names of the participants and details of the poems and songs recited. It is a blow by blow account with speeches, poems and songs reported verbatim. The local participants are identified by the stylised names of chivalric romance, ‘gli Cavalieri Ardenti, Fideli, placito’ and the rest by place of origin such as “Cavaliero di Scotia, Cavalieri Portoghesi”.

The ‘Knight of Scotland’ speech is of particular interest as he may be identified with the semi-mythical James Crichton better known as “The Admirable Crichton” who arrived in Italy at around this time having served in the French army. In his speech the ‘Scottish Knight’ makes many references to Merlin and to the ‘Great Queen of Scotland’ and his adventures and travels in France. The show was staged in the Piazza delle Scuole (now the Piazza Galvani) on a gigantic platform, which was built up above the heads of the surrounding onlookers.

This was the second and last tournament organized by the Accademia della Viola, initially founded in 1561 as the Academy dei Desti, by Ettore Ghisileri, Legnani Vincent and others, with the intention of reviving the ancient traditions of the knightly orders of Europe. The present account was compiled by Pompeo Vizani (1540-1607), also a member of the Academy of Viola, who signed the work under the pseudonym Antenor Garisendi. Vizani, a descendant of an important aristocratic Bolognese family, also helped organize the spectacle. At the end of the volume he recalls, not without some pride, that “questi signori Cavalieri per motivo proprio, et senza altra occasione, che del Carnovale, fanno quello, che a’ pena fanno altre Citta’ a’ contemplazione, et con l’aiuto de’ loro Principi, et con grandissime occasioni”.

A most interesting insight, and first hand account, of popular chivalric entertainment in late Renaissance Italy. This first edition is rare with few copies in libraries outside Italy. We were able to locate only three copies in the US.

Not in BM STC It. C16th or Adams Graesse or Brunet. Edit 16, CNC 20438. Cicognara. 1387.

L941

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