ALBERTI, Leandro

ALBERTI, Leandro Descrittione di tutta Italia … Aggiuntavi nuovamente la descrittione di tutte l\'isole pertinenti ad essa Italia

Venice, Ludovico Avanzi, 1561


4to, ff. (41), 503. Roman and Italic letter, printed side notes. Large woodcut device on title page, historiated initials. Light age yellowing, t-p a little bit dusty, faint marginal water stain to first few leaves, small paper flaw affecting a few letters on fol. 4. A fine, crisp copy in contemporary limp vellum with Anton Fugger’s arms, (1586), gilt stamped on front cover somewhat oxidised, yapp edges, remains of ties. 1840 ex-libris and later inscriptions to fly.

First issue of this new edition of the “Descrittione”, the most important early modern travel guide to Italy, containing extensive information on chorography, history, ethnography and artistic culture, published without part 2 containing the “Descrittione di tutte le isole” and the added description of Venice. The two parts were issued together or separately. This fine copy belonged to Anton Fugger, a member of the German family of weavers who moved to Augsburg in 1367 and between the 15th and 16th century became one of Europe’s most powerful and rich merchant dynasties. Anton Fugger was the second son of Marcus Fugger (1529-1597), Augsburg banker, scholar and bibliophile, and grandson of Anton Fugger (1493-1560), financier to Emperor Charles V. Members of the Fugger family were among the biggest collectors in Central Europe. Their libraries, ranging from the latest European vernacular editions (atlases, travel literature, treatises on accounting and law, etc.), and a remarkably complete set of classical texts, to Medieval, Byzantine and even Syrian manuscripts, helped prepare coming generations for careers at princely courts, as well as in administration. In 1571 the entire library started by Hans Jacob Fugger (1459-1525) and increased by his nephew Anton (1493-1560), consisting of about 12,000 volumes, was purchased by the Bavarian Dukes. It later formed the basis of the present Bavarian State Library. Anton Fugger 3rd’s library, less known and extensive, but including mainly early modern Latin, German and Italian works, could not exclude Alberti’s bestseller, already very popular in Germany.

Leandro Alberti (1479-1552) was a Dominican scholar from Bologna, acquainted with Achille Bocchi and Andrea Alciato. He wrote numerous histories, serving the Inquisition as censor and then official inquisitor from 1550 to his death. He was mostly known for his anti-witchcraft activity. The “Descrittione” summarised his long travels (1525-1528) across the length of the Italian peninsula with the Dominican Order’s General Francesco Silvestro da Ferrara to visit Dominican convents and was later used as a model by the Dutch cartographers, such as Abraham Ortelius.

The work comprises chapters on 18 of the 19 regions of Italy, providing information on landscape, customs, important personalities, antiquities and monuments, especially fortifications and churches. A long introduction details Italy’s natural resources, its favourable geographical location and climate, as well as its topography and borders, the origins of its name and the earliest settlements between Lazio and Tuscany. Alberti mentions the foreign peoples who founded numerous cities across the centuries (French, Swiss, German and Spanish) referring to the current political situation as characterised by civil division and foreign domination. Each chapter focuses on a different region and encompasses etymological and historical excursus, with references to heroic figures and representatives of the world of culture. The most significant and extensive chapters concern the cities of Rome, its foundation and government, places of historical relevance and archaeological remains; and Florence, remarkable for its history and motherland of glorious rulers, scholars and artists. The account of the Southern provinces of Italy constitute a novelty since Alberti was one the first travellers who described the areas of Terra di Lavoro and Puglia, recording places name in dialects, nature and pilgrimage sites such as the Sanctuary of the Archangel Michael in the cave on Mount Gargano. The work was mainly inspired by Flavio Biondo’s “Italia illustrata” but Alberti did not adhere to its pattern completely, collecting first-hand information and using new sources such as local histories and maps, as well as other early modern authors.

BM STC It., 14. Adams and Graesse list other editions. Not in Brunet.
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