EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED

 

Oracoli politici.

 

Venice, Aldine Press, 1590.

£1,650

 

FIRST AND ONLY EDITION. 8vo. ff. (iv) 92. Italic with Roman letter. Aldus’s charming printer’s device to t-p, attractive C17 bookplate by Frederik Bouttats the Younger to fly, fine late C15/early C16 woodcut of the Ascension on rear, e.p. both with slight worming to one corner, woodcut initials and headpieces. Upper inner margin of first text leaf restored, wine (?) stain to preceding leaf, inked ms. title to upper edges, ms. ‘Per Nicolò Manassi’ to t-p (possibly editorial, included in other copies). Good, clean, well-margined copy in C18 ¼ calf over boards, spine gilt, C19 armorial bookplate to front pastedown.

A good, crisp copy of the first and only early edition of this fascinating Renaissance ‘mirror for gentlemen’. 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. The ‘Oracoli politici’ is a collection of maxims drawn from the writings of Jewish, Greek, and Latin authors like Solomon, Pindar, Virgil, Plato, Isocrates, and Plutarch. Dedicated to Jacopo Bellagrandi and Horatio Magnanini, it is imbued with the Renaissance ideals of virtue, true nobility, and their application to civic life, as inspired by the wisdom of antiquity, seen as a prefiguration of Christian teachings. This beautifully written and delightful book—‘a small volume’, Manassi wrote, ‘like a precious joy of great value bound in fine gold’—is a ‘polished mirror’ in which the dedicatees can see their own reflection as virtuous gentlemen and readers can learn the principles of true Christian nobility from ancient poets and philosophers on subjects including love, friendship, faith, ambition, and flattery.  

The remarkable added engravings in fine impression reflect the humanist, Christian message of the volume. On the front pastedown is an engraving by the Flemish artist Frederik Bouttats the Younger (1620–1676), known for his portraits of artists, princes, and political figures including Oliver Cromwell. It depicts (with light amusement) a group of men and women arguing in awe in front of the bust of a classical poet gazing at the onlooker, as a symbol of ancient wisdom. The attractive woodcut on the final pastedown was probably made by an Italian artist in the late C15 or early C16. Made of separate cuts, it shows Christ’s ascension, the Apostles, and the Virgin Mary surrounded by grotesque decorations with angels and scrolls, and inscriptions. It is probably from the Giunta press.

UCLA, Case Western Reserve, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, NYPL (with inscription Per Nicolò Manassi), Brigham Young copies recorded in the US.

USTC 806578; Renouard 245: 6; BM STC It. p. 407. Not in Brunet or Graesse.

L2710

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