PHILOSOPHY AND WOMEN’S WRITING
Della vera tranquillità dell’animo.
Venice, In casa de’ figliuoli di Aldo, 1544.
FIRST EDITION. 4to. ff. 52 (xxii), these last inserted blanks. Roman letter. Printer’s device on t-p and last. Light age yellowing, slight marginal foxing to upper margin of first few ll., small light water stain to upper inner corner, spot to couple of outer margins. A very good, crisp, very well-margined copy in mid-C19 ¾ polished sheep over marbled boards, spine gilt. Silk marker.
An excellent, crisp, first edition of Ortensio Lando’s renowned treatise on the ‘true tranquillity of the soul’—a landmark in the success of women’s writing in early modern Italy. Ortensio Lando (1510-58) was an Italian humanist who, after travelling through Europe, settled in Venice. There he became a ‘polygraph’ involved in editorial and translation work and the authorship of texts from different genres, aimed at the vernacular market. Accused of sympathising with heterodox religious views—including the personal understanding of the Bible and justification by faith alone—Lando saw his works added to the Index of Prohibited Books in 1544 and had to write under pseudonyms. He famously used the personae of important women like Isabella Sforza (1470-1524), known at the time for similar heterodox views and related, as an illegitimate daughter, to the eminent Milanese family. Influenced by the stoic and Neoplatonic tradition as well as by mild Reformed ideas, the work presents the advice of a virtuous and cultured woman concerning ways of controlling one’s passions and maintain the tranquillity of the soul even despite illness and disability; the only way, the work concludes, is the knowledge of Christ. Beautifully written in a clear and engaging way, Lando’s treatise interweaves philosophical musings with popular proverbs, allegorical explanations of the deeds of famous figures like Diogenes, and biblical wisdom. For instance, whilst encouraging ‘her’ readers to win over their anger, Isabella advises them on the one hand to imitate Cato who did not react to Lentulo’s spitting and tearing up of his gown during a court debate, and on the other hand to be patient as an act of gratefulness towards Christ’s suffering for their salvation. In the context of learned debates on female authorship, Lando’s treatise generated a great interest in a book market increasingly keen on women’s writing.
USTC 837258; Brunet V, 331; Adams S1044; Renouard 129; Erdmann 121. M.K. Ray, ‘Textual Collaboration and Spiritual Partnership in Sixteenth-Century Italy: The Case of
Ortensio Lando and Lucrezia Gonzaga’, Renaissance Quarterly 62 (2009), pp. 694-747.