[ESTIENNE, Charles]

[ESTIENNE, Charles] Abbregé de l\\\\\\\'histoire des vicontes et ducz de Milan […] Extraict en partie, du livre de Paulus Jouius. […]

Paris, Charles Estienne (ed., tr.), 1552


4to, A4-L4, M2 (46 ll.). Roman letter. Printer’s device on t-p, woodcut floriated initials, 10 fine ¾ page woodcut portraits of the Visconti of Milan. Slight age yellowing, minimal light waterstain to lower outer corners. A very good, clean, wide-margined copy in vellum over boards by Alfred Farez (French binder, active 1909-1930), covers and spine triple gilt ruled, a couple of small ink spots to lower corner of upper cover, gilt title and date to spine, inner edges double gilt ruled.

A very good copy of this beautifully illustrated biographical history of the dukes and viscounts of Renaissance Milan. By the erudite printer Charles Estienne, it comprises, for the most part, a summary of Giovio’s biography of the Visconti family, first published by his brother Robert Estienne in 1549. Paolo Giovio (1483-1552) was an Italian physician, historian and catholic bishop. In the dedication of this edition, Charles praises Giovio’s historical work and explains that he realised an abbreviated version for the readers who want to learn and enjoy “great things”, but do not have much time to dedicate to reading. Moreover, he adds that although Latin would have been more elegant, he translated the text into French because this is the language that the majority of people understand and that it is “nowadays even more spread across the entire world, than Latin was at the time of the Romans”.

However, this is not a just a simple summary of Giovio, as Charles specifies that he “included those [useful] pieces of information that the author might have omitted”. In fact, following a chronological order, Charles integrated Giovio’s biographies of twelve Visconti with those of other members of the family who are not mentioned by the first author (such as Eriprando, founder of the dynasty). Moreover, he included the history of The Della Torre family, which ruled in Milan before being ousted by the Visconti in 1277, and of the Sforza, which acquired the Dutchy following the extinction of the Visconti at the half of the 15th century. Charles also records the two periods of French occupation under Louis XII (1499–1512) and Francis I (1515-1521), concluding the work with the biography of Francesco II Sforza (1495-1535), the last of his dynasty.

This edition is embellished with ten nearly full-page woodcut portraits of the Visconti, reproduced here by Charles Estienne from the 1549 edition of Giovio. Charles states that these pictures make reading even more enjoyable and interesting, because “le visage est le mirouer du cueur” (‘the face is the mirror of the heart’). These splendid woodcuts were delicately engraved by the great Geoffroy Tory (1480-1533), French engraver, humanist and official printer of King Francis I of France. They are copies of the illuminated portraits that appear in the original manuscript of Giovio (preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France).

USTC 6241; Renouard 104:12; Adams G696; Brunet III, p. 584; Graesse III, p. 490.