Della Repubblica et magistrati di Venetia.

Venice, Aldus, 1591. (with)

Oracoli politici.

Venice, Aldus, 1590.


8vo. Two works in one, I) FIRST EDITION thus, pp. 384; II) FIRST EDITION, ff. (iv) 92, separate t-p to each. Roman and Italic letter. Printer’s device to t-p, decorated initials and headpieces. Some light age yellowing, occasional slight marginal foxing, clean marginal tear (pp. 337-38) and two loose ll. (pp. 327-30) to first work, the odd ink spot, first t-p a bit dusty, ink burn to fly. Good copies in French calf, c.1700, marbled edges. Spine with interlaced Cs to compartments, cracked at head, small loss at foot. Modern casemark to front pastedown, smudged autograph ‘Giuseppe (?)’ and C19 bibliographical pencil notes to fly.

The binding dates to the mid- to late C17 or early C18. The two interlaced Cs were the cypher for the great collector Charles d’Orléans-Valois, Duc d’Angoulême (1573-1650), illegitimate son of Charles IX, and his son Louis-Emmanuel d’Angoulême (1596-1653). Louis bequeathed the library to the Monastery of Guiche; it was dispersed with the Revolution.

Good copies of two Aldine editions of famous works on the philosophy of statecraft. A Venetian patrician educated at Padua, Gasparo Contarini (1483-1542) was ambassador for Charles V and later appointed Cardinal by Pope Paul III. Among the numerous personalities he met whilst accompanying the Emperor around Europe was Thomas More. It is More’s ‘Utopia’, first published in 1516, which may have inspired ‘Della Repubblica et magistrati di Venetia’, composed in the years 1520s-1530s. Contarini’s influential work is a thorough description of the government of Venice celebrating the perfection of its Republican institutions (the Doge, Senate, tribunals and magistracies) in the age of absolute monarchies, but also suggesting changes to improve them. Its readers should ‘marvel’ at the location, origins and functioning of Venice, ‘the common market of the world’, where political ideal and reality meet to create an exemplary State run by the patriciate. ‘Della Repubblica’ was first published in Latin in 1543 and quickly translated into French (1544) and Italian (1545). In this edition, it is followed by Donato Giannotti’s commentary and Sebastiano Erizzo and Bartolomeo Cavalcanti’s essays on the nature of the Republican government.

The humanist and scholar Niccolò Manassi (fl. 1590) had close ties with the Aldine press in Venice. In 1577, he was entrusted with the management of its type, of which he became the owner in 1585, when Aldus the Younger moved to Rome to run the Vatican press. ‘Oracoli politici’ is a collection of maxims drawn from the writings of Jewish, Greek, and Latin authors like Solomon, Pindar, Virgil, Plato and Plutarch. It is concerned with the Renaissance ideals of virtue and true nobility and their application to civic life and politics, as inspired by the wisdom of antiquity, seen as a prefiguration of Christian teachings. This delightful book, on subjects including love, friendship, faith, ambition, and flattery, is a ‘polished mirror’ for gentlemen and future magistrates based on the principles of true Christian nobility. 

I) BM STC It., p. 195; Brunet II, 242; Rénouard 247:9. E.G. Gleason, Gasparo Contarini:

Venice, Rome, and Reform (Los Angeles, 1993).

II) BM STC It. p. 407; Rénouard 245:6. Not in Brunet.


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