BURCHIELLO, i.e. Di GIOVANNI, Domenico Rime del Burchiello.

Vicenza, Heredi di Perin Libraro, 1597


8vo. Pp. (xvi) 262 (xxiv). Roman letter, some Italic. Large Aldine device to tp, woodcut ornaments, floriated initials. Early shelf mark to fly, contemp. Slightly later monograms to either side of tp and early ms ex libris of Library of St Catherine of Genoa beneath. Light water stain to upper inner corners, largely marginal and very slightly at lower inner corner towards end. Paper flaw to one leaf at lower edge, some age browning to a few leaves. A good clean copy in attractive contemporary vellum with ties, printed binding stubs, fore edge of upper cover chewed.

This third edition of the poet Burchiello’s satirical verses contains seven new sonnets as well as Mattaccini from Annibale Caro’s Apologia and extensive commentary by Anton Francesco Doni (1513-74), the Florentine writer and editor. Burchiello was the pen name of the Italian poet Domenico di Giovanni (1404-1449), meaning ‘Little Boat’. He is the eponym of the Burchiello tradition, which followed his innovative paradoxical style and the apparently absurd usages of his sonnets. He was born in Florence in modest circumstances and began his life as an unschooled barber. Importantly, the barbershop was located on via Calimala, which was a literary and artistic melting pot, attended by figures such as Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) and Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446). Here he encountered the anti-establishment views that came to define his writing, including a potent opposition to the quasi-totalitarian power of the Medici family. Burchiello fled Florence in 1434, probably due to financial difficulties and increasing tensions with the Medici, and spent some time in Siena where he was imprisoned for a number of offences including a quarrel over a love affair. Finally, he moved to Rome and set a new barbershop, but died shortly after.

His ‘Rime’ were first published in 1553. Over two hundred sonnets of Burchiello’s remain; they have been subject to intense scholarly debate since their publication and continue to be shrouded in mystery. Even his choice of Burchiello as a pen name has been much debated, see Vivarelli, Ann West. ‘On the Nickname Burchiello and Related Questions’, MLN Vol 87, no. 1, 1972. This edition omits satirical sonnets on the topic of monks or priests and also modifies the language utilised, e.g. the sonnet entitled ‘Esso lo Papa’ becomes ‘Esso lo Bassà’. Burchiello, along with Pasquino, was considered one of the muses of the dir male, which means ‘malevolent satire’, a classical tradition which involved ridiculing authority through literature (Faini, Marco. ‘E poi in Roma ognuno è Aretino’: Pasquino, Aretino, and the Concealed Self. Renaissance and Reformation, 2017).

Anton Francesco Doni was a polemical and controversial writer, printer and commentator. Here he attempted to explain the text which is often purely phonic rhyming games and playfully fantastical verses. He discourses on the social and cultural context of the writing as well as comprehending well the connections between Burchiellesque and pasquinade poetry, in terms of political satire and the role and status of the author. He exhorts the merits of writing nonsense poetry and Burchiello’s invention of pseudo-etymologies. With this publication, Doni “shows a strategy of self-fashioning strongly inspired by Aretino” with an aim to emulate the Aretino-Titan relation (Faini, Marco. ‘E poi in Roma ognuno è Aretino’: Pasquino, Aretino, and the Concealed Self. Renaissance and Reformation, 2017).

Adams B 3299; Brunet I 1400; BM STC It. 223; Not in Gamba, or Fontanini.
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