[PATTERN BOOK] Corona delle nobili et virtuose donne. Libro primo [- quarto]

Venice, appresso Cesare Vecellio, 1601


Oblong 8vo in 4s. 4 parts in 1, separate t-ps, ff. [28] unnumbered, A-G4; ff. [28] unnumbered, AA-GG4; ff. [28] unnumbered, AAA-GGG4; ff. [32] unnumbered, AAAA-HHHH4. Roman letter. Woodcut printer’s device to t-ps, large woodcut with Venus and gentlewomen sewing to A3, 108 white-on-black woodcut sewing patterns, occasional text or figurative illustrations of female personifications, animals or grotesques, decorated initials. Occasional finger soiling, marginal ink smudges from contemporary annotations to few blank margins or versos, small marginal repair to blank verso of first t-p and DDD2-3, outer blank margin of C3 and CCC2-3 trimmed. A very good copy, in fresh impression, in probably C19 russet morocco, later marbled eps, double gilt ruled, ornate early crimson morocco panel inlaid from probably original binding, bordered with rolls of tendrils, gilt to a pointillé design of corner- and centrepieces with large fleurons and gouges, semé of gilt dots, raised bands. Morocco label of Robert Hoe to front pastedown, numerous annotations dated 1682-1708, few later pencilled annotations to margins.

A lavishly illustrated sammelband of scarce editions, elegantly bound and of illustrious provenance, of the four parts of this famous sewing pattern book for gentlewomen. Cesare Vecellio (1521-1601) was a Venetian engraver and painter. His most famous publication is ‘De gli Habiti Antichi e Moderni’ (1590), a visual encyclopaedia of world fashion in his time. ‘Corona delle nobili et virtuose donne’ first appeared in 1591 in 3 parts, dedicated to Viena Vendramina Nani and also sold separately; a fourth, with a different title, was issued in 1593. All were reprinted, with additions, several times. ‘Although the earliest examples [of textile pattern books] were intended for a diverse audience of artists, craftsmen, and art enthusiasts, over the course of the C16 the titles, illustrations, and printers’ introductions were aimed more and more at […] girls and women’ (Speelberg, ‘Fashion’, 42). The patterns illustrated in these works reproduce famous stitching points used in Venice—a centre of lace production—and Europe. The most important are ‘punto a reticella’ (‘made by drawing the threads of the cloth […] or by working the lace on a parchment pattern in button-hole stitch’), ‘punto tagliato’ (cut-work) and ‘punto in aria’ (‘worked on a parchment pattern’); others, like the ‘opere a mazzette’ mentioned in the title, have remained unidentified (Palliser, ‘History’, 43-46). Some patterns were specifically for handkerchiefs or ‘bavari’ (veils) in the Venetian style. The annotations in this copy, dating 1682-1708, reveal the serendipitous fate of such crafts book, this copy having been used as an unofficial account book before being elegantly rebound for a bibliophile’s collection. The writer was from mainland Veneto (e.g., ‘mastea’ for washtub). Although the notes mostly relate to the sale of wine and grains, mentioning debts paid by specific customers (both men and women), the business included sartorial services, for which the present work provided practical suggestions. Indeed, there are accounts concerning cloths—cream-coloured satin, and distaffs (‘fuseli’) of linen and hemp—and finished garments (a satin shirt). Robert Hoe (1839-1909) 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.

No copies recorded in the US.Catalogue of the library of Robert Hoe II, 1879; Brunet V, 1105 (1591 ed.); Berlin Cat. 940. B. Palliser, A History of Lace (London, 1869); F. Speelberg, Fashion & Virtue (New York, 2016).

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