HANDSOME GIACOMO BONCOMPAGNI BINDING
De Thermis Andreae Baccii…libri septem.
Venice, apud Vincentium Valgrisium, 1571.
FIRST EDITION. Folio. pp. (lxxii) 509 (i). Roman letter with Italic, occasional Greek. Printer’s device to t-p, double-page woodcut plan of the Baths of Diocletian. T-p very slightly thumbed, two tiny worm trails at foot of first and last couple of ll., light water stain to some upper outer corners, including woodcut, very largely marginal. A very good, clean, large-margined copy in most handsome C16 Roman crimson goatskin, covers expertly laid onto modern morocco, blind-tooled to a triple-ruled panel design, second border with gilt double fillet, interlinked circles, and demi-dragons to outer corners, central panel with arabesque cornerpieces and gilt cartouche with arms of Giacomo Boncompagni surmounted by coronet, edges with diagonal dashes in blind, a.e.g. Spine in four compartments, blind- tooled double-ruled border and stamped demi-dragon to each, double raised bands, modern eps, green cloth ties. Armorial library stamp of Boncompagni to t-p.
The superb binding was made for Giacomo Boncompagni (1548-1612), Duke of Sora, Arpino, Arce and Aquino, Marquess of Vignola and illegitimate son of Gregory XIII, elected Pope in 1572. Twenty books have been traced to his collection, 17 of which feature a double- ruled blind-tooled panel design, an outer border of gilt interlaced-circles tools, solid gilt cornerpieces and a stamped oval with Boncompagni’s arms flanked by two angels supporting a coronet (Wittock, 105-6). Together with a copy of Mambrino Roseo’s ‘Supplemento…delle Historie del Mondo’ (Venice, 1583), this is the only Boncompagni binding in crimson morocco, the others being olive. This binding features the same cornerpieces and demi-dragons (e.g., Arrianus, ‘Ponti Euxini…periplus’, Genève, 1577), and gilt border (e.g., Plotinus, ‘De rebus philosophicis libri’, Bâle, 1559) as those from one of the two Roman ateliers employed by Boncompagni. His arms in this binding bear a stamped demi-dragon in the lower half and gilt hand-tooled keys surmounted by a pavilion, a heraldic symbol of the temporal power of the Church used by papal families (Galbreath, ‘Papal Heraldry’, 31). In 1576, Boncompagni was appointed to the patriciate of Venice, hence the coronet. This is the only extant instance with a centrepiece in which the coronet is outside the cartouche—probably an early experiment leading to the more famous design.
Very good, clean copy of this ground-breaking study of thermal waters and their medical uses. A protégé of Cardinal Ascanio Colonna in Rome, Andrea Bacci (1524-1600) was an Italian doctor, philosopher and polyhedral author of works on natural science (studies of wines and elks) and medicine (on medicaments, poisons and antidotes). A blend of these interests, ‘De thermis’ was intended as a reference manual for physicians and contributed to contemporary European debates on thermal medicine, which elicited great interest among the French and Italian elites, including authors like Montaigne. Assisted by the work of ancient, medieval and contemporary authorities including Galen, Bartolomeo Montagnana and Gabriele Falloppio, Bacci discussed the nature of mineral waters (from salts or metals), their therapeutic forms (cold, warm, scalding, filtered, distilled, etc.) and modes of
administration. He explained why, how, when, where and which spas should be chosen, according to the bather’s condition (from stomach ache to tumours and syphilis), the physical component and therapeutic power of waters. He advised on how to make beneficial use of baths, with practical instructions like fasting and recommendations for the safety of children, women and the elderly. In addition to spas abroad—e.g., England (Bath, as it were), Germany and Transylvania—Bacci listed numerous Italian localities still renowned for their thermal waters today, including Tivoli, Montecatini and the Euganean hills in the Veneto. Renaissance physicians increasingly promoted the forgotten ancient ‘art’ of balneology for both health and profit, addressing especially powerful patrons including, in this case, Cosimo de’ Medici.
The dedication to Cosimo I de’ Medici, which here occupies a whole quire, is recorded in few copies.
Only Pierpont Morgan, Michigan and Princeton copies recorded in the US.
BM STC It., p. 66; Adams I, 87; Cicognara I, 1565; Wellcome 600; Duveen 35: ‘This is the classic work on mineral waters, dealing with all the spas of the then known world’. M. Wittock, ‘Giacomo Boncompagni: heurs et malheurs d’une bibliothèque’, in Mélanges d’histoire de la reliure offerts à Georges Colin, ed. C. Sorgeloos, Bruxelles, 1998, pp. 103-18; W. Boutcher, The School of Montaigne in Early Modern Europe, Oxford, 2017, I, 156.