A LIFE COMPENDIUM FROM THE 1500s


Discorso generale intorno alla generatione, al nascimento de gli huomini.

Venice, Giovanni Griffio for Giovan Battista Somasco, 1562.

£1,950

FIRST EDITION, 8vo., ff. (xxiv), 147 (i) (leaves in G inverted). Dedication in Roman letter, text in Italic; woodcut ornaments and initials, printer’s centaur device on title, large woodcut emblem of the Dadda family preceding dedication; some age yellowing, infrequent light spotting. C18th century white on black armorial library stamp of Oratius Luccesinus preceding title page. In contemporary purple dyed vellum, later silver panel with interesting Greek style decoration at corners and central arabesque enclosing large “L” on upper cover, floral decoration on lower; all in silver. Re-backed, original spine partially remounted. Lacking ties.

First edition of Venusti’s work on birth, death and the brevity of life. The text is divided into 139 chapters, covering a wide range of topics more or less controversial but all highly practical and of popular interest, including abortion, why good men die young, and why teeth cannot be destroyed by fire. The definition of the hermaphrodite is given, along with curiosities such as facts about the famous Milanese dwarfs, and explanations to conundrums of the lay person – why Turkish men have more wives and why lust is especially characteristic of the hairy and the lame.

The author starts by describing the dignity of marriage, the relationship of husband and wife and the treatment of moral, social and sexual behaviour. He moves on to medical prescriptions and superstitions in cases of pregnancy, birth and children, complete with indications on care and education, often referring to the opinions of Avicenna, Aristotle, Averroes, Cicero, Plato, Homer and the Bible. The result is a mixture of medicine and philosophy. The last section discusses natural and unnatural ways of dying and the division of time into years, days and hours. The origins of time measurement are debated including philosophical speculations on its nature.

Oratius Luccesinus was a member of a family prominent in Lucca in the first half of eighteenth century belonging to the nobility of the city. The decoration of the binding is unusual combining the Renaissance and the beginnings of Neoclassicism.

Antonio Maria Venusti (1529 – 1585) was a doctor from Grosio, a village near the city of Sondrio. He descended from a poor branch of the Venosta family, the Earls of Tirolo, which in the CXIV ruled that region. He lived in Milan at the court of Dadda family who undertook his education since his father had died during his boyhood and Venusti dedicated this work to the ten sons of Erasmo Dadda. Their motto, NEC VI NEC SPONTO, on p. b2v, is represented in the centre of a chain made up of ten diamond rings, compared in verse by Giovanni Battista Porro to the valour and strength of the Dadda family.

BM.STC. It. p.718; Wellcome I 6537; Durling 4570.

L659

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