NATURAL SIMPLICITY IN ITALIAN VERSE
L’ Alceo. Favola pescatoria …. Fatta recitare in Ferrara dall’Ill. mo S. Enzo Bentivogli mentre la seconda volta era Principe dell’Accademia degl’Intrepidi. Con gl’Intramezzi del Sig. Cavalier Batista Guarini.
Ferrara, Vitt. Baldini, 1614.
FIRST EDITION thus. 4to., ff. 8, pp. 9-40, ff. 41-48, pp. 49-306, (ii). Roman and Italic letter. Title within architectural border with putti and heroic figures at sides, arms of the dedicatee at center, floriated woodcut initials, borders and head and tail pieces, typographical and woodcut ornaments. Feint C18 library stamp on title and second leaf of the ‘Libraria Colonna,’ one of Italy’s greatest families, on pastedown. Light occasional marginal spotting, a very good copy, crisp and clean, in dark blue paper over boards c. 1800, spine gilt in bands, surface tear from upper compartment, all edges yellow.
Excellent edition of Ongaro’s pastoral, ‘L’Alceo,’ with the first edition of Guarini’s intermezzi, effectively the great poet’s last work, with explanatory essays by Arsiccio on the intermezzi and the production of the work in Ferrara in 1613. Little is known about Ongaro, who died very young, shortly after the first publication of this, his only major work. He was in the service of the Farnese at Ferrara where he would have seen the first production of Tasso’s ‘L’Aminta’ in 1572, and which had such an influence on him. Tasso’s success inspired him to write the present work, though instead of using shepherds as the pastoral subject, he chose fishermen.
The work was well received, and although criticised for its use of coarse fishermen’s language, the beauty of its verse was recognised. It was however so closely based on ‘L’Aminta’ that malicious tongues called it the “Aminta bagnato” (the wet Aminta). It was widely published well into the eighteenth century. “If any of our pastoral writers deserve to be compared with Tasso, it was this Ongaro, in my humble opinion, always abating the merit of invention, which nobody can dispute with Tasso.” Baretti, ‘The Italian Library.’
This edition is valuable for its publication of Guarini’s intermezzo and the explanatory essays by Arsiccio, giving valuable insight into the production of plays and musical intermezzo at the turn of the sixteenth century. The producer of the play and the instigator of its publication in this edition, Enzo Bentivogli, describes having produced the work in honor of the arrival of a dignitary in Ferrara. The dignitary did not come, so the work was never performed except at one public rehearsal, which so impressed Bentivogli with its production and the beauty of the musical interludes that he decided that it must be recorded for posterity. He managed to produce the work, at great expense, in 1616.
A most interesting edition, with excellent provenance: from the library of the great and celebrated Italian Family of Colonna, which played an such important role in medieval and renaissance Italy. Their libraries were dispersed throughout the C19th.
BM STC It. page 457. Fontanini 1 p. 484. Gamba 1541, (later edition).