RARE EDITION OF IMPORTANT TREATISE ON COSMETICS AND HYGIENE
Gli ornamenti delle donne.
Venice, Giouanni Valgrisio, 1574.
8vo. ff. (viii) 376 (xxxvi). a⁸, A-3E⁸, 3F3. (lacking last blank). Italic letter. Woodcut printer’s device on title, large floriated woodcut initials, typographical ornaments, early manuscript ex-libris on blank margins of title page, Gino Sabattini’s art deco bookplate signed ‘N. Nugino’ on pastedown. Light age yellowing,title page fractionally dusty, the occasional marginal mark or spoy. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in eighteenth century half calf over speckled paper boards, all edges red. slight loss at head and tail of spine.
Rare second edition of this important treatise on cosmetics and hygiene, a beauty manual (one of the few from Renaissance Italy to survive) by the celebrated physician and natural philosopher Giovanni Marinelli, the author of several works on medicine. “Two of his medical books were specifically concerned with women’s well being, and were composed in the vernacular, suggesting that he wanted women themselves to be enlightened about their health. One, Women’s Ornaments (Gli ornamenti delle donne, Venice 1562) is a practical manual of hygiene and beauty, from bleaching hair and whitening teeth to removing bodily odors. It is remarkable for its sane defense of women’s quest for physical attractiveness.” Letizia Panizza.
The work is crammed full of remedies for all sorts of ailments, cosmetic and hygienic, and includes many recipes for perfumes. Particularly revealing is the Venetian noblewoman’s penchant for tinting her hair blond, and Marinelli’s manual contains no less than twenty six recipes for hair dye. “It is a very detailed treatment of personal hygiene, and of the exacting demands of hygienic principles in the care of the human body. The author deals with the many ways to keep the single parts of the body in shape, with methods for removing defects which interfere with the symmetry of the body. There are chapters about hair, its care, remedies for thinning hair and for colouring. Other chapters are devoted to eyes eyebrows, ears, lips, neck, breasts. Recipes for the preparation of essences for baths, perfumes and balms are given, as well as reducing and weight gaining diets” Axel Erdmann.
Giovanni was the father of the noted feminist writer Lucrezia Marinella, author of ‘La nobilta et l’eccellenza delle donne, co’difetti et mancamenti de gli uomini’ (The Nobility and Excellence of Women, and the Defects and Vices of Men). “From his own writings and Marinella’s fond references to him, Giovanni Marinelli emerges as a kind, paternal figure who promoted his daughter’s studies and women’s education in general.” She certainly benefited from a full education, not the case for the vast majority of women of her background.
“His views on women were bold; indeed, they were feminist. Giovanni Marinelli dedicated his Gli ornamenti delle donne to all ‘chaste and young women’, in the device of repaying a debt of gratitude to them for showing such interest in his previous work on Italian grammar. (…) This handbook of advice on women’s health and beauty presents a striking departure from the contemporary tendency to stigmatize women’s concern with their physical appearance as vanity. Making an explicit point of his feminism, however, Marinelli also prefaced his text with a brief defense of women, which rehearsed the prominent features of the ‘querelle des femmes’ and underscored his status as a humanist contributing to this pervasive literary debate.” Sarah Ross ‘The Birth of Feminism’.
BM STC It C16th p. 417. Welcome 4059. Axel Erdmann, ‘My Gracious Silence’, no. 15. Durling 2963. Kelso, pp.387-388, no. 547. Not in Brunet, Graesse or Gamba.