MACHIAVELLI’S PRECURSOR IN ITALIAN POLITICAL THOUGHT, IN BEAUTIFUL À LA CIRE BINDING

Compendiosa Epitome commentariorum

Paris, apud Hieronymum de Marnef & Gulielmum Cauellat, 1570.

£6,500

16mo. in eights. pp. 392 (xxxii), lacking final blank. Italic letter, ruled in red throughout. Woodcut printer’s device on title, small floriated initials head and tail pieces. Light age yellowing, some minor spotting in places, tiny water-stain to outer margin of a few leaves. A good copy, in stunning contemporary calf gilt à la cire, covers with gilt ruled borders painted in white and niger, central panel with large gilt hatched corner blocks, gilt hatched central block around a blank oval, all with interlacing ribbon work painted in niger, semé of small tools gilt, spine with gilt ruled bands painted in white and niger, richly gilt in compartments, joints and corners very expertly restored, all edges gilt.

A beautifully bound copy of Patrizi’s ‘Compendiosa,’ charmingly printed by Guillaume Cavellat, one of a series of identical editions made by him between 1566 and 1578. The binding is particularly finely and richly worked for such a small work; it is made up of large gilt corner and central blocks of interlacing ribbon strap-work, painted in black, in architectural motifs against a background of a semé of small tools. The model for this architecturally-derived type of ornamentation may well have been the title-pages with scrolled ornaments which occurred chiefly in Paris and Lyons printing from about 1540.

The flat spine is particularly finely worked in an unusual fashion. It has alternating small and large compartments divided by gilt bands infilled in white and black, the compartments themselves finely worked in gilt. The overall effect is most charming and striking for such a small volume, which is of very high quality, and in excellent state of preservation. It is very similar in style, though with different tools, to a binding in Henry Davis Gift Volume III no. 79, “A Paris binding, possibly made by Claude de Piques for Claude Berbis.”

Francesco Patrizi (1413 – 1492), writer, politician, and humanist, was appointed bishop of Gaeta by Pope Pio II in 1460. Involved in the Sienese conspiracy in 1456, he was forced into exile in Verona, where he came into contact with various humanists, including the circle of Antonio Brognanigo. He wrote in Latin, being translated into Italian only 40 years later, by Aldus. This is an epitome of his two political treatises on monarchies, the ‘De regno et regis institutione libri IX,’ and the ‘De institutione reipublicae libri IX.’ Patrizi’s treatises on governments are considered precursors of Macchiavelli’s ‘Prince’ and were the source for Thomas Elyot’s ‘Governor.’

Patrizi however remains strangely understudied. His political works cover a wide range of subjects including the arts, sciences, agriculture, commerce, architecture, and town planning. His approach is pragmatic, exploring the ways such matters can affect the citizens and rulers of a state, and how they can be used for the public good. Patrizi subordinates economic life to ethics, and criticizes Platonic communism for the limits it imposes upon individual initiative. A large part of ‘De regno’ deals with both the personal side of princeship and the institution of the monarchy. ‘De Reipublicae’ was widely disseminated in France throughout the sixteenth century, but curiously not in Italy. Domenico Bassi suggests that both works were used in schools in France. A sumptuously bound copy.

This edition not in BM STC Fr. C16th, Adams or Brunet.

L1432

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