BEAUTIFULLY ILLUSTRATED GEMSTONE SIGNETS
Hieroglyphica sive antiqua schemata gemmarum anularium.
Padua, Sebastiano Sardo, 1653
FIRST and ONLY EDITION. Folio. pp. (xx) 440 (xx). Roman letter, little Italic. Engraved vignette to t-p, engraved author’s portrait to ∫4, 65 c.½-page engravings of emblematic gemstone signets, decorated initials and tailpieces. Occasional light age browning, minimal marginal foxing, small tear with no loss at gutter of p. 397, touching one letter. A very good copy, on thick paper, in roughly contemporary vellum, yapp edges, morocco label, all edges green.
Very good copy of the FIRST and ONLY EDITION of this handsomely illustrated work on the emblematics of ancient gemstone signets. Born and raised in Rapallo, Fortunio Liceto (1577-1657) was a philosopher, physician and natural scientist who taught at Bologna, Pisa and Padua. His wide-ranging writings influenced by Aristotelianism include works on the movement of comets, teratology and the soul of animals. ‘Hieroglyphica’ was an excursion into the world of antiquarianism—a study of the iconography of ancient sculpted ‘gemmae anulariae’ (gemstones on signet rings). Traced back to the Egyptians, such gemstone emblems—e.g., three Cupids, a girl kidnapped by a Triton, a crow, Roman quadrigae, a skull with a moth—were popular in classical antiquity; moral and philosophical messages were communicated through their iconography, beautifully portrayed and learnedly explained by Licetus with the help of classical sources, the humanist methodology of numismatics, and the assistance of fellow scholars. For instance, the ‘Smithia gemma’, which represents a cross on a hill flanked by two fish, came from the collection of the famous Dutch antiquarian Johannes Smetius. The scholar Nicolaus Heynsius, who sent it to Liceti from Leiden in 1651, confirmed it to be a very precious relic of early Christianity, which Liceti read as a mystical representation of the apostles as ‘fishers of men’ who preached about the crucified Christ. An incredibly erudite and handsomely produced work of antiquarian scholarship.
BL STC It. C17, p. 487; Brunet III, 1069; Landwehr, French, Italian … Books of Devices and Emblems, 486.