Il Petrarcha con l’espositione d’Alessandro Vellutello.

Venice, Gabriel Giolito de Ferrari e Fratelli, 1552.


4to. ff. (viii) 216. Text in Italic, commentary surrounding in Roman. Architectural woodcut t-p with caryatids, putti, cornucopiae and printer’s device, full-page woodcut map of Vaucluse, 6 ¼-page vignettes of the Trionfi, woodcut device to last leaf, decorated initials and ornaments. T-p slightly dusty and trimmed, small hole affecting imprint, minor loss to lower outer blank corners of Q8 and 2D2 and fore-edge of last, handful of light marginal ink splashes, a little finger-marked. A very good copy in C18 sprinkled calf, marbled eps, C19 reback, double gilt ruled, raised bands, spine gilt with gilt monogram of Duke of Devonshire at head, edges sprinkled red, joints bit rubbed. Bookplate of Chatsworth Library to front pastedown, couple of C16 Italian marginalia.

Handsome edition—from the great collection of the Dukes of Devonshire—with intriguing marginalia referring to the ‘Index Librorum Prohibitorum’. It was edited by Alessandro Vellutello (b.1473), one of the greatest C16 commentators of vernacular authors whose work on Petrarch, first published in 1525, rivalled that of Pietro Bembo and Lodovico Dolce. This edition includes Petrarch’s ‘Sonnets and Songs’ (newly subdivided into three parts) and ‘Trionfi’. Vellutello was very critical of the Aldine edition, proposing a reorganisation of the sonnets according to a narrative based on chronological and biographical information. The ‘Trionfi’ were illustrated with six exquisite allegorical woodcuts; that of Fama reprised the design of its counterpart in the 1490 Venetian edition. These and the other superb illustrations, including a full-page map of Vaucluse drawn by Vellutello after two visits to Avignon, were the same used for the first Giolito edition of 1544. ‘This map […] struck the phantasy of the Petrarchists of the Cinquecento. It reappears, in one form or another, in twenty of the hundred-odd editions of the “Canzoniere” published in the next hundred years’ (Wilkins, ‘Vellutello’s Map’, 277). The map, together with a life of the poet and a brief essay on the identity of Laura and her place of origin, were new additions intended to assist the reader—‘hugely influential in satisfying the taste for both Petrarch’s poetry […] and details of his life and Laura’s’ (Trapp, ‘Petrarchan Places’, 4).

The contemporary annotator of this copy was interested in the philology of the Petrarchan sonnets: e.g., he glossed ‘E quei, che del suo sangue’ with ‘E quel’—a less frequent variant. He also marked the notorious four ‘Babylonian sonnets’ as ‘sospesi’ (‘suspended’) from publication. In them, the ‘avaricious Babylon’ stands as a harsh critique of the Avignonese schismatic church. Much admired by Protestants, three were added (without title) to the Roman Index of 1559, as they featured in Vergerio’s notorious (and prohibited) anti-Catholic pamphlet of 1555 (Stallybrass, ‘Petrarch’, 588-93). Whilst the ‘Canzoniere’ as such was never prohibited, the three sonnets, plus a fourth, were eventually listed individually in the Roman Index of 1590. The marginalia were thus probably added by an early reader (Inquisitors would have removed or inked over the text) after 1590.

Nebraska, Illinois and Cornell copies recorded in the US.

Catalogue of the library at Chatsworth III, p.195; Fiske Pet N 552a; Brunet IV, 550 (1547 imprint); BM STC It., p.505; Annali dei Giolito I, 356; Sander II, 962 (1547 ed.). E.H. Wilkins, ‘Vellutello’s Map of Vaucluse’, Modern Philology 29 (1932), 275-80; J.B. Trapp, ‘Petrarchan Places’, JWCI 69 (2006), 1-50; P. Stallybrass, ‘Petrarch and Babylon’, in For the Sake of Learning, ed. A. Blair et al. (Leiden, 2016), 581-601. 


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