Il Ballarino.

Venice, Francesco Ziletti, 1581.


FIRST EDITION. 2 parts 4to. ff. [viii] 16 184 [iv]. Italic letter, occasional Roman. Ziletti’s star device on both title pages, Caroso’s engraved portrait on B4v, 22 full-page engravings (6 repeats), large woodcut initials and ornaments, musical scores. First title page slightly dusty with hole expertly filled (no loss), one corner missing (p. 78 – no loss), small marginal wormhole towards the end, a couple of very light marginal spots, small C19th armorial bookplate on pastedown. A very good, clean, unsophisticated copy in limp vellum.

First edition of this beautifully illustrated manual and one the most important works detailing late Renaissance Italian, French and Spanish courtly dance. In it, dancing master Caroso describes fifty-four steps, provides rules for style and etiquette, and illustrates specific choreographies for eighty dances fashionable at the time, most of them designed for one couple and each provided with appropriate music notated in Italian lute tablature. Divided into two ‘Trattati’, both dedicated to Bianca Cappello De’ Medici, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, the manual opens with various poems on the dedicatee and Caroso, and with his letter to the reader, in which he praises the art of the dance and says that he has been practising it for the past twenty-seven years. Next come Caroso’s finely engraved oval portrait at the age of forty-six, here in a particularly clear impression, framed by a scrollwork border containing Caroso’s arms and two half-satyr, half-angel female figures at the sides (repr. Mortimer, cit. infr.).

The first treatise comprises fifty-four rules on, i.a., bows and curtsies, fast and large steps, jumps and partner changes, how to wear cape and sword, how a graceful lady should return to her chair after the dance, etc. The second treatise explains in detail eighty dances, each dedicated to one of the most illustrious ladies of the time, including: Margarita Gonzaga d’Este, Duchess of Ferrara; Leonora d’Austria, Duchess of Mantua (repr. Mortimer, cit. infr.); Lucretia d’Este della Rovere, Duchess of Urbino; Felice Orsina Colonna, Duchess of Tagliacozzo and Paliano and Vice-Queen of Sicily. The fine engravings by Giacomo Franco show the correct position of the body and limbs at different stages in the measure, the manner of holding hands (repr. Mortimer, cit. infr.), and how to make a reverence. They are full-length representations of ladies and gentlemen wearing costumes of the period rendered in great detail.

The book ends with an index of the rules and of the dances. Marco Fabritio Caroso da Sermoneta lived in the second half of the C16th and died in 1605. Giacomo Franco (1556-1620) was a relative of the famous Giovanni Franco and a pupil of Agostino Carracci. Such copies as now appear in the market are generally throughly cleaned, resized etc. It is rare to find one, as here, in its original state.

BM STC p. 151. Adams C 755. Brunet I p. 1594 ‘Livre rare et recherché’. Graesse II p. 53. Fontanini II p. 461. Gamba 1294. Mortimer-Harvard It. C16th 106. Lipperheide II 3055.


Print This Item Print This Item