GIOVIO, Paolo Historiarum sui temporis

Paris, Michel de Vascosan, 1558-1560


Two volumes. Folio: 1): ff. (20), 236, (2), with final index in gatherings a-c4 bound after preliminaries; 2): ff. 349, (19). Roman letter, little Italic; large ornamental initials and fine decorative headpieces; first title a bit soiled, small marginal damp stains to first gathering and occasionally to lower outer corner, small white mark to t4r and C5r affecting one or two letters in volume I; small marginal light red water stain on endpapers, fly, and first gatherings, and light marginal damp stains in places in volume II. A very good set of wide-margined copies, both in contemporary French limp vellum, panelled and gilt with fleuron to corners and large elegant Arabesque central piece, flat spines with gilt compartments and floral decoration, original silk ties alternately dyed yellow and red, all edges contemporary gilt, gauffered and red (oxidised) painted with foliate design, both dated 1561, in the style adopted in Geneva by the King’s binder, and a few years later by the Goldestat Meister (M. M. Foot, The Henry Davis Gift, numbers 224-226, 228-229); very slightly soiled, lacking four of eight ties; small crack to spine and minor light red stains to front and small loss to rear of volume II; contemporary red ruling throughout; original spine wrapper from a folded late fourteenth-century legal manuscript commentary, probably Northern France, volume I.

Sumptuous copy of an early edition of a famous contemporary account of Italian political history in the first half of the sixteenth century, first published in Florence in 1550. A physician, historian and high-ranking Catholic prelate, Paolo Giovio (1483-1552) was a highly respected Renaissance scholar, linked to the Medici and later the Farnese family. In his famous villa in Como, he gathered a vast amount of ancient and contemporary statues and portraits, forming his beloved Museum. His works range from ichthyology, science and occultism, to philosophy, history, biography, iconography and ethnography, including a description of the British Isles and a very famous collection of imprese.

The Historiae was his lifework, meant to leave an indelible trace of his scholarship. Giovio focuses on the Italian wars, sprung from the invasion by King Charles VIII in 1494, up to the late 1540s. A sharp mind, he foresaw the disastrous outcome of the conflict between France and the Holy Roman Empire for the control of Italy on the cultural and political life of the peninsula. The work is dedicated to Giovio’s close friend, Andrea Alciato, and each volume closes with verses by Benedetto Varchi.

This two volume set retains a very interesting contemporary binding. Gauffering of such a remarkable quality – certainly the work of a very skilled artisan in Geneva anticipating the style of Goldast Meister, such as the King’s Binder (see I. Schunke, Der GenferBucheinband, 1937) – is usually combined with lavish tooled-blind and painted calf over pasteboards rather than gilt limp vellum on books as large as these ones. It is likely that the copies, gauffered in Geneva in 1561, were completed by another local binder, following afterthoughts of the patron. Even so, the bicolour silk ties were matched with the gauffering, formerly painted red.

BM STC Fr., 202; Adams, G654; Brunet, III, 583; Graesse, III, 490.
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