THE ROBERT HOE-JOHN BARRYMORE COPY
Bibliothecae Alexandrinae icones symbolicae.[Milan], G.B.Bidelli, 1628
4to. 140 signed ll. plus 28 unsigned plates and their descriptions. Roman letter, with Italic. Engraved architectural t-p with Sts Paul and Alexander, 16 engraved plates with female figures within arch, decorated initials, head- and tailpieces. Large light (wine?) stains to first few ll., very slight marginal marking in a few places. A very good, wide-margined copy retaining numerous uncut edges, in C19 red morocco, triple gilt ruled, rebacked, gilt spine retained, inner gilt dentelles. Bookplates of Robert Hoe, John Barrymore and ‘The Lamberts’ to feps.
A very good copy of the second edition of this attractively illustrated Baroque celebration of the ‘artes liberales’. Cristoforo Giarda (1595-1649) was an Italian bishop in Castro, where he was appointed by the Pope without consultation with the local ‘signore’ Ranuccio II Farnese—an event which sparked a war between the dukedom and the Pontifical States. He was also interested in emblems. ‘Iconae symbolicae’ is rooted in the C16 emblematic tradition as a monument to knowledge epitomized by the disciplines celebrated by the destroyed Library of Alexandria. It presents female personifications of the ‘artes liberales’—e.g., Astronomy, Law, Theology, Philosophy and Eloquence—in statuary form accompanied by learned glosses. For instance, after celebrating the discipline in which there are ‘as many heads as there are diagnoses’, he explained that Medicine was depicted with flowers, herbs, books and a vulture, which stood for medicaments, assiduous study and the possibility of the patients’ death. ‘Icones’ was rooted in the reading of Greco-Roman iconography promoted by the ground-breaking C16 manuals of Cesare Ripa and Natale Conti who interpreted the allegorical personifications and emblems of the classical tradition through multiple meanings. Unlike them, ‘Icones’ imposed on them a specific, single meaning, following the new interpretations of the Baroque period. Indeed, to Giarda the doctrine of symbols was an instrument useful ‘to explain everything’ and helped man ‘to imitate divine perfection’.
Robert Hoe of New York was one of the great collectors of the turn of the C20. His personal library catalogue was published between 1903 and 1919 in 16 vols and its sale fetched over £400,000.
John Barrymore (1882-1912) was a celebrated American actor of stage and screen. His first choice of career had been an artist, studying at the Slade, which may explain his appreciation of the present volume. It was however a gift to him from ‘the Lamberts’ (Constance Lambert?) in 1925 as recorded over the bookplate on the pastedown. Given Barrymore’s long-standing drink problem, the early staining is almost certainly wine, not ink.BM STC C17 It., p 395; Praz 349; Landwehr, Romantic Emblem Books, 320. Not in Brunet, Graesse or Adams.