Altea. Tragedia di m. Bongianni Gratarolo di Salo

Venice, Francesco Marcolini, 1556.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. ff. 46 (i) (lacking last blank). Italic letter. Historiated woodcut initials, printer’s woodcut ‘Veritas filia temporis’ device on title repeated within oval frame on recto of last, bookplate of Allardyce Nicoll on pastedown. Light age yellowing, the occasional oil spot or stain, cut a little close in upper margin, fractionally shaving one or two running headlines. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, recased.

First and only edition of Gratarolo’s first work, a mythological tragedy, dedicated to Count Camillo Capriiolo of Brescia. The play is written in blank verse but with verses that end with two unaccented syllables, described by Quadro as ‘ritmo privo affatto di splendore e di noblità’. The plot is loosely based on the Greek myth: Melagro, Altea’s son, kills the boar sacred to Diana, and gives the spoils to Atalanta from whom in turn they are taken by Altea’s brothers. Melagro revenges this act by killing them. Altea, to avenge her brothers, kills her son. Then, after her daughter, Deianira, has announced to her the death of her own husband, Hercules, consumed by the famous shirt of Nessus, Altea dies and finally the wrath of Diana is appeased. Gratarolo’s work, unlike the confidently expounded theatrical tragedy of Giraldi and his followers, represents a shift away from theatre, and is a evidently intended for print rather than performance, a so called ‘closet drama’. He wrote three such tragedies Altea, Astianatte, and Polissena, published between 1556 and 1589, and a history of his home town ‘Storia della Riviera di Salò’, Brescia, 1599. A good copy of a scarce work.

BM STC It. C16th p. 311. Fontanini I p. 518. Censimento CNCE 21648. Not in Gamba.


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