ILLUSTRATED FOLK TALES

Le tredici piaceuolissime notti.

Venice, appresso Zanetto Zanetti, 1608.

£2,400

8vo. ff. 309 (vi), missing final blank. Italic letter, little Roman. Woodcut cartouche to t-p, 58 woodcut scenes from Straparola’s stories, decorated initials, head- and tailpieces. T-p a bit dusty, light stain to some upper edges and a few to lower, one leaf a bit browned, small tear to blank margin of fol. 57 touching running title, larger repair to outer margin of fol. 233 touching one letter. A good copy in reused early vellum over pasteboards, yapp edges, recased. Early casemark (?) ‘G. 203’ to t-p.

Scarce, beautifully illustrated edition of this incredibly successful, influential and entertaining florilegium of novellae, first published in 1551 in the wake of Giacomo Morlini’s collection of 1520. Very little is known of Gianfrancesco Straparola (1480-1557), except that, in half a century, his literary talent led to the publication of over 20 editions or reprints of ‘Piacevolissime notti’ in Italian and French. As in Boccaccio’s ‘Decameron’, the stories are presented as the pastime of a group of aristocrats who have gathered in the Venetian island of Murano for leisure, during ‘thirteen pleasant nights’. The stories are illustrated with fine woodcuts and follow accidents typical of traditional fairy and folk tales. They often narrate the difficulties of protagonists who are poor or unfortunate and eventually rise to become rich and powerful, as in the story of Costantino Fortunato, impoverished by his brothers but assisted by his magical female cat—the seed of Perrault’s ‘Puss in Boots’. Plotline themes like the subdivision of inheritance between siblings, the wrongdoings of stepmothers against their stepdaughters, the assistance of talking animals, unpleasant pranks which lead to undeserved prison and the consequences of lies provided the basic structure by which Straparola reinvented and brought to print the oral heritage of European folklore. His stories influenced authors of the likes of Shakespeare (Gillespie, ‘Shakespeare’s Books’, 474) and provided fresh material for innovative theatre practitioners like Robert Armin—the famous ‘clown’ and ‘fool’ of Shakespeare’s Jacobean plays—who published the English adaptation of one of Straparola’s ‘thirteen pleasant’ stories in 1609.

Only Princeton, Mississippi State and UCB copies recorded in the US.

BL STC It. C17, p. 881; Brunet V, 260 (mentioned). Not in Gamba.

L2887

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