BRANCACCIO, Giulio Cesare.

BRANCACCIO, Giulio Cesare. Della nuova disciplina & vera arte militare del Brancatio libri VIII.

Venice, presso Aldo, 1585


Folio in 4s. pp. 201 [i.e., 200, several misnumbered], lacking final blank. Italic letter, with Roman, text within typographical border. Woodcut Aldine armorial vignette to t-p, woodcut initials and tailpieces, some with grotesques and caryatids. T-p and first leaf with couple of marginal finger marks, a few ll. slightly browned from poorly dried paper, occasional very minor marginal spotting. A very good, wide-margined, clean copy in contemporary limp vellum, wanting rear fep, traces of ties, title inked to spine and lower edge, small scattered old stains. Occasional pencilled underlining.

Only Aldine edition of this famous military manual. Giulio Cesare Brancaccio (1515-86) lived the life of the ‘ideal courtier’ in northern Italy, as a gentleman-soldier, actor, singer (at the court of Ferrara) and writer. Alfonso d’Este allegedly imposed as a condition on Brancaccio’s coming that he should not brag about his military achievements (Newcomb, ‘The Madrigal’, 95), of which he was notoriously proud, after his campaigns with Charles V, Henry II and Francis I, as well as the Spaniards in Tunis, across the 1550s-70s. ‘Il Brancatio’, from its original title, was first published in 1582; this edition was a reprint. It is based on an abridged translation of Julius Caesar’s ‘De bello gallico’—‘no less useful than necessary to those who wish to know the true military discipline and art’. After a long dedication ‘to Princes’, Brancaccio presents a short treatise on the legions and arms of the Romans. The following chapters include extracts marked ‘Cesare’, with an excerpt from ‘De bello gallico’ usually focusing on specific battles, each followed by an ‘avvertimento’ by Brancaccio, based on his military experience, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the winners and the defeated. The work attempted ‘to bridge the gap in C16 military theory between simple translations of Latin treatises, which had been the staple fare for professional officers for at least the past hundred years, and practical contemporary experience, through which to mediate classical theory and modern realities’ (Wistreich, ‘Warrior’, 115). Aldus the Younger kept in his personal library a ms. copy of this work (Russo, ‘Machiavelli’, 254)—the only military one by a contemporary author, and one of only three on this subject, printed by the Aldine press.

Renouard 235:2; Brunet II, 1201; Cockle 557. F. Verrier, ‘Soldats et traités d’art militaire au XVIe siècle’, Lettere italiane 41 (1989), 366-97; E. Russo, ‘Machiavelli negli scritti di Aldo Manuzio il Giovane’, Italianistica 30 (2001), 241-72; R. Wistreich, Warrior, Courtier, Singer (Aldershot, 2007).