Le Tragedie.

Venice, Giulio Cesare Cagnacini, 1583.


FIRST EDITION thus. 8vo. pp (xvi) 135 (i), 143, 157(iii), 118 (ii), 127 (i), 142 (ii), 135 (i), 118 (ii), 149 (iii). Nine works in one, separate title page plus general title page and prefaces. Italic letter, Cagnacini’s woodcut device on recto and woodcut portrait of author within ornate frame on verso of all title pages, woodcut initials and ornaments. A little browning, light marginal water stain to a few leaves of first work, occasional slight yellowing, contemporary ex libris of Giuliano Roura(?) on general title page, acquisition note dated 1826 on front pastedown, early printed stubs in red and black Gothic exposed. A good clean copy in contemporary vellum over boards, a little cracking to upper joint and spine.

First edition of the complete collected dramatic works of Giraldi Cinthio (1506-1573), novelist and poet from Ferrara, professor of literature at the local university and between 1542-1560 private secretary to Duke Ercole II, for whom the plays were written and performed, and Alfonso II d’Este. He occupied the chair of rhetoric at Pavia from 1568 until shortly before his death.

The principal works of Cinthio were these nine tragedies and the Hecatommithi, a large collection of tales in the style of Boccaccio and Bandello whose plots he adapted as the basis for his plays. Cinthio was the single most important influence in C16 Italian tragedy and his Orbecche is the first known vernacular tragedy to have been produced on a modern European stage. Its influence was felt far outside Italy. A generation later, Luigi Giovio speaks of it as model for subsequent tragedies. Shakespeare borrowed freely from Cinthio for ‘Othello’ and ‘Measure for Measure.’ Cinthio’s ‘Cleopatra’ telling of her doomed love for Marc Anthony may have also inspired him.

Like Shakespeare, Cinthio liked exotic locations. His ‘Arrenopia’ takes place between Scotland and Ireland and ‘Gli Antivalomeni’ is set in London. These five act dramas are among the first to contain typical elements of modern European theatre, using psychological violence and horror in spectacular function, with dramatic action structured in real time. The series is rarely found complete as the plays were also sold separately.

BM STC It. p 305. Gamba 1435 “e assai rare questa Raccolta”. Brunet II 1607. Adams G715 (UL copy, parts 1-4 only).


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