CANTOS IN DEDICATION TO WOMEN OF THE ITALIAN ARISTOCRACY
Madrigali di Mutio Manfredi il Fermo Academico Olimpico &c. Sopra molti soggetti strauaganti composti, ne men di tre, ne piu di cinquanta sono per ciascun soggetto
Venice, Roberto Meglietti, 1606.
FIRST EDITION.12mo. pp. (x) 374. A-Q12. Italic letter. Title within fine engraved architectural border incorporating the printer’s device below, of two cockerels eating corn, the arms of the dedicatee Luigi Capponi above, putti at sides with the figures of Justice and Beauty above, woodcut initials and headpieces, typographical and woodcut ornaments. Some very light age yellowing in places. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in earlier limp vellum from an antiphonal leaf.
First edition of these madrigals by Manfredo Muzio, dedicated to the Cardinal Luigi Capponi, most of which are addressed to women. Manfredi, a poet and dramatist from Cesena, was a member of the noble Manfredi family of Faenza. He was employed at the French court in Nancy as secretary to the Duchess of Brunswick, where he wrote much of his most famous work. He was extremely well connected in Italian literary circles, Diomede Borghesi in one of his letters refers to having met with Tasso and describes him as “da costumi preclarissimi, e da bellisima letteratura.”
He is best remembered now for his plays however he wrote a considerable amount of poetry, nearly all of which was addressed to, and in praise of, female contemporaries. “Perhaps the supreme exponent in this period of the role of “celebrant of women” was the poet and courtier Muzio Manfredi of Fermo (1535 – 1607), a ubiquitous figure in the academic culture of the time, though now best remembered as a dramatist. (Semiramis ). … In his long career, Manfredi published numerous volumes of poetry, mainly madrigals, almost all devoted to the praise of women. One of his first works published, the anthology ‘Per donne romane,’ of 1575, is prefaced by an open letter “to the ladies” (Alle donne) in which Manfredi speaks of himself as having “placed all my efforts and study in that manner of letters I thought pleasing to you and most fitted to exalt your fame: that is the excellency of poetry, a truly divine art and one appropriate to your divinity.”
This devotion is manifested in four further volumes, ‘Cento donne cantate’ (1580), ‘Cento madrigali’ (1587), Cento sonetti … in lode delle donne di Ravenna (1602), and ‘Madrigali … sopra molti soggetti stravaganti composti’ (1606), the first three entirely devoted to women, the last including a handful of poems to men. … Compositely, these volumes portray Manfredi as engaged in an admiring and flirtatious dialogue not only with the cream of Italian aristocratic womanhood but also with ‘donne virtuose,’ as he refers to them in ‘Il contrasto amoroso’.” Virginia Cox, ‘Women’s writing in Italy, 1400-1650.’
Many of the poems addressed to women in this collection are prefaced by a short note describing their relationship, or an event from her life and many of them are addressed to prominent women writers, actors and singers. An excellent copy of this rare first edition.
BM STC It. C17th p. 527. Not in Gamba. See Axel Erdmann “My Gracious Silence” 16 for a description of another of his collection of Madrigals dedicated to women.