CASTIGLIONE, Baldassare Libro del cortegiano

Venice, figliuoli di Aldi, 1547


8vo, ff. [5], 195, [8]. Italic letter; large Aldine device on title and verso of last leaf, within fine border with cornucopiae, cupids and mask; title and few other leaves a bit yellowed (tp formerly lightly coloured), similar spots on upper corner of first gathering and minor watermark to lower margins of 126-140; small tear from lower margin of last leaf. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum with yapped edge; well preserved; remains of original ties.

The most refined and complete edition by the Aldine press, appearing almost twenty years after the princeps of 1528. The Cortegiano was a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, depicting with unsurpassed ability life at the most elegant of European courts, Urbino under Duke Guidobaldo da Montefeltro. It is the first guide to successful courtly life in early modern times. Abandoning the medieval topos of the valourous knight in battle and love, the Renaissance gentleman was depicted as free-born, well educated in Latin and Greek and skilled in conversation, sport and political matters, in both war and peace. Taking inspiration from Cicero’s De Officis and De Oratore, the author was able to affirm the role of humanist men of letters within the new forms of patronage following the political development of Italy. The book had an impressive and persistent influence throughout Europe, including Elizabethan England with the translation of Thomas Hoby in 1561. A nobleman, diplomat and acclaimed author, Castiglione (1478-1529) stuck very well to his ideal. He spent his life writing and serving the ducal families of Gonzaga and Montefeltro, as well as the Medici pope Clement VII.

This pocketsize edition was printed with the famous italic font. It provides a correct text revised from the original manuscripts and includes, for the first time, three final indexes. Along with the remarkable subjects, one can find here a short list of the virtues required by exemplar courtiers and ladies. Among the traditional feminine attributes, smartness, affability with men and knowledge of letters were strongly encouraged. As for the perfect gentleman, he should be fluent in foreign languages, especially Spanish and French, so as best to serve his lord.

‘Cette edition très jolie, revue avec soin, et la première qui ait un Index, me semble la meilleure quel les Alde aient donnée de ce livre …’ Renouard, p. 140.BM STC It., 156; Adams, C 933; Renouard, 139:1.

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