PETRARCA, Francesco


PETRARCA, Francesco Il Petrarcha con l’espositione d’Alessandro Vellutello

Venice, appresso Gabriel Giolito de Ferrari, 1547


4to. ff. [viii], 215, [i]. [* , A-2D .] lacking quire S and T1, the Babylonian sonnets, censored as often, text in Italic, commentary in Roman. Fine woodcut architectural title with Giolito’s phoenix device, portraits of Laura and Petrarch on a woodcut funerary urn surmounted by the Giolito phoenix, full page map of the Vaucluse, six woodcuts in the Trionfi, fine historiated initials, woodcut ornaments, Giolito’s woodcut device on recto of last, bookplate of Maurice Burrus on pastedown. Light age yellowing, offsetting and slight smudging to the text at the beginning and towards the end, perhaps partly washed. In a magnificent contemporary Bolognese red morocco binding, covers double gilt ruled in an highly intricate interlaced strap-work border around a central panel with a diapered strap-work design, semé of small tools within borders, four large rose tool to central panels, “Il Petrarcha” gilt lettered at centre of upper cover, cupid device with crossed arrows on lower cover, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, large fleurons gilt in compartments, all edges richly gilt and gauffered to a geometric design, head and tail of spine very expertly restored, end leaves renewed.

In many ways the epitome of the Italian Renaissance book; the poetry of Petrarch in a magnificent Bolognese Renaissance binding, beautifully printed with fine woodcut illustration and decoration. The stunning contemporary morocco binding is undoubtedly made by the same binder who made bindings for Nicolas von Ebeleben and his cousin Damian Pflug. De Marinis illustrates two examples, one (Marinis 1372, illustration A17) a three volume set of Pietro Aretino’s letters, bound for Ebeleben, which uses identical tools in a very similar design, and has very similar geometric gauffering of the gilt edges. The second is De Marinis 1368 illustrated on plate CCXXXIII that also has identical tools, and a similar but more simple strap-work design, that belonged to Cardinal del Monte. This binding however is more densely and richly worked than either of those two bindings; the cupid device and the choice of Petrarch’s love poetry perhaps suggest that it was given as a wedding gift. For further information on a similar Bolognese binding made for Ebeleben held at the Landesbibliothek Stuttgart see Isabelle Reichherzer ‘Die Erschließung ausgewählter Einbände aus der „Einbandsammlung“ der Württembergischen Landesbibliothek Stuttgart.

One of a hugely popular series of Petrarca editions with the commentary by Vellutello on the Italian works of the great author. This is an almost identical reprint of the first edition printed entirely by Giolito with Vellutello’s commentary printed in 1544. When Vellutello undertook to prepare a new commentary on the Italian Poems of Petrarch he decided to write, as prefatory material, a new life of Petrarch and an essay on the dwelling place and identity of Laura and the place their love story occurred. He visited Avignon twice and explored the surrounding region. His commentary was first published in a quarto Canzoniere printed in Venice by Sabbio in 1525. The results of Vellutello’s topographical investigations appear chiefly in a full-page pictorial map of Vaucluse and the surrounding region, the map in this edition is a copy of the double-page woodcut map of the 1525 Da Sabbio, which, being the pride of Vellutello’s heart was placed immediately after the table of contents. The site of ‘Valclusa’ [i.e. Vaucluse], the lovely town of Provence, not far from Avignon, is where Petrarca, sitting by the spring of the river Sorgue, wrote his famous ‘Chiare, e fresche e dolci acque’. The work is divided by Vellutello into three parts. His commentary and ordering of the text differ sharply from that of the Bembo-Aldine edition. “As Vellutello’s misgivings about the ordering of the Aldine-Bembo production grew, so did the animosity of those in Bembo’s circle who found Velutello’s rearrangement less authoritative. One can trace Vellutello’s disaffection with Bembo and Aldus in the prefaces to the second and third edition of his Petrarch commentary. Whereas Vellutello had acknowledged Bembo’s authority in the first edition of his Petrarch commentary, by the third edition (1532) Bembo has been edited from the preface altogether. Although Vellutello’s reordering of the Canzoniere is largely seen as a misguided enterprise today, it represented a significant intervention in the Renaissance. By 1568 Vellutello’s Petrarch commentary had been republished twenty two times.”. His commentary was hugely influential not least on English authors, including Shakespeare; see “Commentary into Narrative: Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Vellutello’s commentary on Petrarch.” William J. Kennedy. Shelley describes Petrarch’s verse perfectly as “spells which unseal the inmost enchanted fountains of the delight which is the grief of love”.

The “Babylonian Sonnets”, critical of the decadence of the Papal Courts at Avignon and Rome (entitled “Flames from Heaven”, “Greedy Babylon”, and “Font of Sorrow”) were placed on the index of books banned by Pope Clement VIII in 1595. These poems were ordered to be erased in all prior editions of Petrarch’s Canzoniere. This self censorship often took various forms. In some copies they were pasted over or entirely erased, or even torn out. In this copy the entire quire in which they occurred has been removed, darkless prior to Clement VIII.

A masterpiece of Italian Renaissance binding.

BM STC It. C16th p. 504. Adams P 813. Bongi Giolito I p. 200. Brunet IV p. 548.
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