RENAISSANCE PSEUDO-SCIENCE, PRINTED ON VELLUM
De fulminum significationibus.
Rome, Antonio Blado, n.d. [not before 1 August 1517].
FIRST EDITION, 8vo., 36 unnumbered ll. A-I4. Italic letter, neat small underlinings and marginal markings in red, full page cosmographical printed diagram. A few ll. a bit age yellowed, a fine, well margined copy, in English crushed blue morocco gilt, thistle border and spine gilt, contrasting gilt pattern à la doublure, pink watered silk liners over vellum e.p.s, joints rubbed. Bookplates of Sir John Thorold, Syston Park on pastedowns.
The first book printed by Blado, in his signature Italic (its one or two predecessors were in old fashioned Gothic) and the first edition of this uncommon cosmographical/astrological text. Valerianus (1477-1558) from a poor noble family studied at Venice under Valla and Lascarius before being taken up by Pope Leo X and entrusted with the education of his nephews. He continued in the service of the Medici until the late 1530’s when he returned to study and write. This is Valerianus’ first published work. Dedicated to Giulio de’ Medici, the present work ‘on the meaning of storms’, discusses both their scientific causes and their influence as portents on human affairs, including a particularly interesting account of the cosmography of the Etruscans, as well as Roman soothsayers whose purpose was to interpret thunder and lightning as omens. For example he tells the story of the lightning which struck the gates of Florence, interpreted as auguring the election of one of its citizens to the Pontificate. Valerianus also produced a popular and successful edition of the Sphaera of Sacrobosco.
Antonio Blado, official printer to the Papacy from 1535 to 1567, and one of the greatest printers of 16th century Italy, acquired in 1537 the celebrated Italic type of the calligrapher Lodovico Arrighi, used here by him ten years earlier. It is one of the most elegant and famous typefaces of all time and interesting to compare with the Aldine developed in Venice at roughly the same time. Apart from its beauty it is clear, simple and easy to read.
All 16th century printing on vellum is rare, and in the field of science, almost unknown. “Sir John Heyford Thorold (1773-1831) was a truly great collector. From 1828 until his death, he built up in an incredibly short time a beautiful collection of incunables and Aldines”, deRicci p 160. Thence to the incomparable scientific library of Robert B. Honeyman (sale May 1981).
Not in BM. STC It. Brunet, V 1042. Riccardi I, 2 570. Van Praet (Nat) Vol III 5:6 and (Royale) vol VI 124:5. (same single copy on vellum). Bernoni 1:1. Not in Houzeau and Lancaster or Cantamessa. Honeyman VII 3019 (this copy).