PETRARCA, Francesco.


PETRARCA, Francesco Le cose vulgari

[Lyon, Balthasard de Gabiano the Elder for Barthélemy Trot, c. 1502?]


8vo. (lxiiii), 114, (viii). Text in Italic letter, title and headlines in Roman, blank spaces with guide letters for initials. Light age yellowing, title page a little dusty and browned, occasional yellowing, lower right edges slightly ink stained between o 1 and r 1. In English calf, c.1700 covers double ruled in gilt with central gilt coronet and ‘P’, gilt title to spine tooled in gilt with floral motif and early case marks on black morocco labels, a.e. sprinkled red, marbled e. ps., joints a little rubbed. Bookplate of William O’Brien (1832-1899) and Milltown Park Library labels.

The strawberry leaf coronet over the monogrammed ‘P’ demonstrates a Ducal provenance. During the period in which this binding could have been made, there were only two British Dukedoms, the Cavendish -Bentincks of Welbeck Abbey, supporters and favourites of William of Orange, created 1716 and Louise de Kérouaille, beloved mistress of Charles II, created Duchess in her own right in 1673 (age 24) and who lived another 60 years. Remarkably, she is an ancestress of Princess Diana, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Sarah, Duchess of York.

A good copy of the first of two Lyon counterfeit editions of 1501 Aldine Petrarch, and one of the earliest piracies of the Aldine octavo series. The Aldine edition of the “Canzoniere” and “Trionfi” was edited by the humanist scholar Pietro Bembo using Petrarch’s autograph (Codex Vaticanus Latinus 3197). It was one of the first vernacular text to be printed in Griffo’s Italic type and had an immediate success, attracting the attention of competitors and counterfeiters. The “Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta”, as Petrarch had called them, became during the 16 th century a European bestseller which influenced Italian, French and English literary cultures.

The Lyonese counterfeit contains the index of the poems at end but omits the colophon and the four leaves with Aldo’s address to the reader and errata. The book consists of two sections: 1) “Canzoniere” including chants, madrigals, sestinas and sonnets, inspired by Petrarch’s love for Laura, and divided into two parts, part 1 consisting of 227 poems focused on Laura during her lifetime, and part 2 of 108 sonnets about Laura after her death, with a final plea to the Virgin to end the author’s suffering; 2) “Trionfi”, a long allegorical poem in six parts (Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time and Eternity) that portrays the spiritual journey of the soul from the temporal world to eternity.

The book collector William O’Brien was an Irish judge and nationalist. His collection, which was housed within Milton Park Library since 1899, included, among many others, a number of Aldine imprints, along with some counterfeits produced in Lyon and Florence.

Adams P788; Brunet, IV 543 ; Amhanson-Murphy, 1136; Baudrier VII 15; Ren. 308 18, Shaw, 31
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