PICO, Ranuccio.


PICO, Ranuccio. Vita di Gottifredo Duca di Buglione re di Gerusalemme

Venice, Giovanni Gueriglio, 1626


FIRST EDITION. 4to, pp. (xxiv) 86, missing final blank. Italic and Roman letter. Printer’s device on t-p, woodcut floriated initials, decorated headpiece depicting Christ ‘Salvator Mundi’ (as in the printer’s device), tailpiece, typographical ornaments. Early ms. ‘P.’ ‘v’ on t-p. Light age browning to first and penultimate gatherings, early crude repair to tear in margin of a2(verso) without loss, small hole to G3 affecting one word, t-p a little ink spotted, a few margins lightly marked, upper margins a bit short in places. A good copy in contemporary rose paperboards, small loss to corners and head and tail of spine.

First edition of this concise and extremely fascinating biography of Godfrey of Bouillon, written in Italian vernacular by Ranuccio Pico (1568-1645). A doctor of law and historian, Pico was the secretary of the Dukes of Parma, Ranuccio I and Odoardo Farnese. He is mostly known for his biographical works and for gathering a library of more than one thousand rare and important books.

Godfrey of Bouillon (1060-1100) was a French knight and one of the leaders of the first Crusade. After playing a key role during the siege of Jerusalem in 1099, he was elected the first ruler of the new Crusader State. Celebrated by many authors almost as a legendary figure, he is the protagonist of ‘La Gerusalemme Liberata’ (The freed Jerusalem, 1581), a long epic poem by the famous poet Torquato Tasso and one of the masterpieces of the Italian literature. In the preface to this biography, Pico praises the work written by Tasso at length, but he also points out that – due to the entertaining nature of poetry – many facts are historically incorrect or completely missing. Therefore, as all the other accounts of Godfrey’s life were in Latin and thus difficult to comprehend for the majority of readers, the author is confident that his ‘Vita di Gottifredo’ (‘Life of Godfrey’) will be useful and appreciated.

Remarkably, at the beginning of his work, Pico quotes a few verses written by the poets Francesco Petrarca and Giambattista Marino concerning Godfrey of Bouillon’s military achievements. After a list of the most important contents, the author presents the life’s story of the knight from his birth to the moment when he joined the Crusade with his brother Balduin, the siege of Nicea, the conquests of Antioch and Jerusalem, his election as King of Jerusalem and his death by illness the following year. Interestingly, although Pico tells us that Godfrey refused the title of ‘King’ – which he considered to be only appropriate for Christ – the author still refers to him as ‘Re’ (‘king’) in the title of his biography. In the end, Pico summarises the man’s best qualities, such as strength, humility and devotion, using various examples. The book includes nine final remarks (‘annotazioni’): in these short paragraphs, the author adds more information about Godfrey’s name and family, and discusses key historical facts that are reported in a different way by other historians or that he could not verify.

An example of Renaissance historical and literary erudition, this work is a very enjoyable read even today because of Pico’s simple and engaging style.

USTC 4005507; not in Graesse, Gamba, Brunet, this ed not in BL It. 17th century.
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