Il libro del cortegiano

Venice, Girolamo Scoto, 1556.


8vo. ff. 204. A-2B8, 2C4. Woodcut printer’s device on title, first line of title within small woodcut border, large historiated woodcut initials, C18th engraved armorial bookplate on pastedown with ms. shelf mark above, occasional underlinings.  Light age yellowing, title page fractionally dusty, occasional marginal spot, small oil-stain at gutter of last few quires. A very good, clean copy in contemporary limp vellum.

Rare edition, revised and corrected by Lodovico Dolce from the authors’ manuscript, of the prototype courtesy book and one of the most enduringly popular and influential works of the Italian Renaissance. “The Courtier depicts the ideal aristocrat, and it has remained the perfect definition of a gentleman ever since. It is an epitome of the highest moral and social ideals of the Italian Renaissance, many of them inspired by classical examples. (…) Another section provides similar rules for the conduct of a lady and the book ends with the celebrated pronouncement on platonic love by Bembo.” Printing and the Mind of Man. The work was soon translated into most European languages and Cervantes, Corneille, Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson and Shelley are but a few of those who are clearly in its debt. The book is based on a nostalgic recreation of Castiglione’s experience at the court of Duke Guidobaldo da Montefeltro of Urbino at the turn of the sixteenth century. It describes the ideal court and courtier, and relates the philosophical, cultured and lively conversations that occurred at Urbino, presided over by Elizabetta Gonzaga. The conversation, which takes place over a span of four days in the year 1507, addressed the topic, proposed by Federico Fregoso, of what constitutes an ideal Renaissance gentleman and is written in refined and elegant prose, spiced with humour. The speakers, prominent nobles and literati in the court of Urbino, include Giuliano de Medici, Pietro Bembo, Ludovico da Canossa Emilia Pia, Elizabetta Gonzaga amongst many others.

Ludovico Dolce, the Venetian humanist, was a prolific author or ‘poligrafo’ who produced several hundred volumes bearing his name, whether as author, editor, translator or critic. He edited 184 texts for the Giolito press alone. “As the most active writer and editor for the most productive Venetian press, Dolce played a decisive role in the dissemination of culture in the cinquecento. (…) Dolce played an important role in promulgating vernacular literature, whether by publishing corrected editions of such classics as Petrarch’s Canzoniere, Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier and Ariosto’s Orlando furioso; by translating Homer, Euripides, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Seneca, and other minor authors; or by publishing original works in the literary genres of widest appeal.” Ronnie H. Terpening. He is known today primarily for his Dialogue on Painting which was much influenced by Castiglione’s ideas in the ‘The courtier’. A very good copy of this attractively printed edition, rare in libraries outside Italy.

Not in BM STC It. C16th. Adams, Gamba, or Index Aurelensis. Cf. PMM 59 (first edition).


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Libro del cortegiano.

Venice, figliuoli di Aldi, 1547.


8vo, ff. [5], 195, [8]. Italic letter; large Aldine device on title and verso of last leaf, within fine border with cornucopiae, cupids and mask; title and few other leaves a bit yellowed (tp formerly lightly coloured), similar spots on upper corner of first gathering and minor watermark to lower margins of 126-140; small tear from lower margin of last leaf. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum with yapped edge; well preserved; remains of original ties.

The most refined and complete edition by the Aldine press, appearing almost twenty years after the princeps of 1528. The Cortegiano was a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, depicting with unsurpassed ability life at the most elegant of European courts, Urbino under Duke Guidobaldo da Montefeltro. It is the first guide to successful courtly life in early modern times. Abandoning the medieval topos of the valourous knight in battle and love, the Renaissance gentleman was depicted as free-born, well educated in Latin and Greek and skilled in conversation, sport and political matters, in both war and peace. Taking inspiration from Cicero’s De Officis and De Oratore, the author was able to affirm the role of humanist men of letters within the new forms of patronage following the political development of Italy. The book had an impressive and persistent influence throughout Europe, including Elizabethan England with the translation of Thomas Hoby in 1561. A nobleman, diplomat and acclaimed author, Castiglione (1478-1529) stuck very well to his ideal. He spent his life writing and serving the ducal families of Gonzaga and Montefeltro, as well as the Medici pope Clement VII.

This pocketsize edition was printed with the famous italic font. It provides a correct text revised from the original manuscripts and includes, for the first time, three final indexes. Along with the remarkable subjects, one can find here a short list of the virtues required by exemplar courtiers and ladies. Among the traditional feminine attributes, smartness, affability with men and knowledge of letters were strongly encouraged. As for the perfect gentleman, he should be fluent in foreign languages, especially Spanish and French, so as best to serve his lord.

‘Cette edition très jolie, revue avec soin, et la première qui ait un Index, me semble la meilleure quel les Alde aient donnée de ce livre’ Renouard, p. 140.

BM STC It., 156; Adams, C 933; Renouard, 139:1.


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Les triu[m]phes de la noble et amoureuse Dame et l’art de honnestement aymer.

Paris, en la gallerie pro ou on va a la chancellerie par Jehan Longis, 1537.


8vo. ff. [xii], cccxc. Lettre Bâtarde. Woodcut initials in various sizes, engraved armorial bookplate of the Baron de Bellet on pastedown, that of Dr. Andre Van Bastelaer beneath, note in French recording purchase of the vol. in the Beckford-Hamilton sale, lot 78, 1883 -250”, on pastedown. Light age yellowing, t-p slightly dusty, tips of outer corners expertly repaired. A very good copy, crisp and clean and wide-margined, (some lower margins uncut) finely bound by Churton in early C19th diced russia, covers with border of double gilt rules, corners with small gilt fleurons, spine with raised bands finely gilt ruled in compartments, gilt fleuron at center, title and date gilt lettered in Batarde, inner dentelles and edges gilt, a.e.g., spine a little faded.

Rare and beautifully printed edition of the most successful work of the ‘Rhetoriqueur’ poet Jean Bouchet, first published in 1530, a mystical romance in prose and verse on divine love, in which the ‘amoureuse dame’ represents the human soul. Bouchet, 1476-c.1550 was a prolific author of great intelligence and imagination. He acquired fame at the court of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany, had a successful career as a lawyer, was tutor to the Prince de Talmont and became centre of the literary circle in his native Poitiers. He was one of the few poets of his era to live off his writing, without patronage, and thus had great control over the printing of his own works. “In this respect, despite his relative conservatism as a poet, Bouchet anticipates the more apparently personal and less overtly formalist poetics of the mid and late sixteenth century.” Adrian Armstrong ‘Script, Print, and Poetics in France, 1470-1550’. Among his friends was François Rabelais who addressed to Bouchet his first verses in French.

This Parisian edition seems to have been shared by Jean Longis and Jean Macé. “Brunet mentions that ‘ces triomphes sont un ouvrage mystique, en vers et en prose, où il s’agit de l’amour de Dieu: L’amoureuse dame est notre âme. On le voit donc, il n’y a là rien de bien érotique’. However, he omits to state that much of the matter is of more human interest than may be at first supposed. There are chapters on matrimonial conduct, the bringing up of children, (“Comment mary et femme doivent converser en leur lict de mariage; instruction pour les femmes grosses; comment les meres doyuent nourrir leurs enfans en enfance” etc), choice of foods, anatomy of the human body etc.” Fairfax Murray I 60, the 1541 edition. “In this guide for proper moral and social conduct are found many advices addressed to women. The work also contains dietetic advice for a healthy life and an extensive chapter on anatomy, in which are also described the reproductive organs”. Erdman, My Gracious Silence 57 (later edition).

William Thomas Beckford (1760–1844) was an extraordinarily wealthy English novelist, art critic, travel writer and politician, now chiefly remembered as the author of the Gothic novel Vathek and builder of the remarkable Fonthill Abbey, the enormous gothic revival country house, largely destroyed. Beckford’s fame rests as much upon his eccentric extravagances as a builder and collector as upon his literary efforts. The opportunity to purchase the complete library of Edward Gibbon gave Beckford the basis for his own library, which was extensive, and dispersed over two years in 1883-4.

BM STC Fr. C16th p. (Macé edition). IA. 122.891. Brunet (Macé edition). Erdman, My Gracious Silence 57 (later edn.). Fairfax Murray I 60, the 1541 edition.


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Inscriptiones historicae regum Scotorum.

Amsterdam, Cornelius Claessonius for Andrew Hart, 1602.


FIRST EDITION, first issue (variant), 4to., pp. (xiv), (ii) 60 (xx). Roman letter, double-page engraved arms of James I preceding text, ten full page engraved portraits of the Scottish Kings and Queens following text, printer’s ornaments throughout. Fore edge of last four portraits neatly strengthened on blank versos, title dusty and slightly soiled with two small repairs to fore edge, lower blank margin of next leaf and a few lower outer corners, all with old small repairs, nowhere affecting text. A few small marginal dirt or dust marks, but generally clean and good. Early autograph ‘W. Stonehouse’ plus price at head of title page, large armorial bookplate of the very distinguished collector William Stirling Maxwell on front pastedown, decorative label ‘Arts of Design’ circling ‘Keir’ on rear. Bound for Stirling Maxwell by Leighton C1900 in crushed dark green morocco, large decorative ‘Arts and Crafts’ style central panel on each cover incorporating Maxwell’s armorial devices, spine gilt (a bit worn), all edges gilt.

FIRST EDITION of this rare work by Johnston (?1570-1611), Scottish poet, who styled himself ‘Aberdonensis’ and whose family hailed from Crimond near Aberdeen where Johnston studied at Kings College before spending eight years at various continental universities. He became a friend of Justus Lipsius and doubtless of the other scholars whose epigrams preface the present work, among them Joseph Scaliger, Jan Dousa and Daniel Heinsius. He was also closely attached to Andrew Melville, who probably helped him to obtain the professorship of divinity at St. Andrews in c. 1593, when he was ‘Maister of the new college.’

The present work is a series of epigrammatic addresses to the Scottish Kings from Fergus I to James VI (to whom it is dedicated) highlighting their characteristics, exhibiting their virtues and referring to the principal events of their reigns. The verses are more interesting for their historical perspective than their poetry. The anonymous portraits of Robert II, Robert III, James II, James III, James IV, James V, Mary, James VI and Anne are very finely executed and in excellent strong impression. Neither their source nor maker has been identified.

In mid C19 hand on inserted fly: “A very rare book. The Roxburghe copy sold for £13.13. In addition to the 10 portraits this copy has a plate of the arms of James VI … which has not been mentioned by Lowndes, + 1 leaf of preliminary matters (beginning with the verses of J.C. Scaliger) seldom found. At a sale in 1854 or 5 (I think at W. Duncan Gardiner’s) a copy was sold for £10 to Lord Breadalbane.”


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GARISENDI, Antenore or VIZANI Pompeo


Torneo fatto sotto il Castello d’Argio Da’ SS Cavalieri Bolognesi il di IX. Febraio 1578.

Bologna, Giovanni Rossi, 1578.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. 112. Roman and Italic letter within printed line border, title with woodcut ornaments, woodcut historiated initials, discreet restoration at blank upper margin of title and gutter of last leaf, very light age yellowing in places. A very good copy in eighteenth century rose and gilt embossed paper boards, later eps.

Rare first edition of this fascinating description of a chivalric ‘tournament’ held in Bologna for the carnival of 1578, containing descriptions of the various scenes enacted for the occasion, including the names of the participants and details of the poems and songs recited. It is a blow by blow account with speeches, poems and songs reported verbatim. The local participants are identified by the stylised names of chivalric romance, ‘gli Cavalieri Ardenti, Fideli, placito’ and the rest by place of origin such as “Cavaliero di Scotia, Cavalieri Portoghesi”.

The ‘Knight of Scotland’ speech is of particular interest as he may be identified with the semi-mythical James Crichton better known as “The Admirable Crichton” who arrived in Italy at around this time having served in the French army. In his speech the ‘Scottish Knight’ makes many references to Merlin and to the ‘Great Queen of Scotland’ and his adventures and travels in France. The show was staged in the Piazza delle Scuole (now the Piazza Galvani) on a gigantic platform, which was built up above the heads of the surrounding onlookers.

This was the second and last tournament organized by the Accademia della Viola, initially founded in 1561 as the Academy dei Desti, by Ettore Ghisileri, Legnani Vincent and others, with the intention of reviving the ancient traditions of the knightly orders of Europe. The present account was compiled by Pompeo Vizani (1540-1607), also a member of the Academy of Viola, who signed the work under the pseudonym Antenor Garisendi. Vizani, a descendant of an important aristocratic Bolognese family, also helped organize the spectacle. At the end of the volume he recalls, not without some pride, that “questi signori Cavalieri per motivo proprio, et senza altra occasione, che del Carnovale, fanno quello, che a’ pena fanno altre Citta’ a’ contemplazione, et con l’aiuto de’ loro Principi, et con grandissime occasioni”.

A most interesting insight, and first hand account, of popular chivalric entertainment in late Renaissance Italy. This first edition is rare with few copies in libraries outside Italy. We were able to locate only three copies in the US.

Not in BM STC It. C16th or Adams Graesse or Brunet. Edit 16, CNC 20438. Cicognara. 1387.


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SANSOVINO, Francesco

Origine de Cavalieri.

Venice, Camillo & Rutilio Borgomineri, 1566


FIRST EDITION. ff. [viii] 152. Italic letter, small woodcut printer’s device on title, early autograph inked over, contemp. and early press marks on fly. Historiated woodcut initials, four full page woodcuts of the insignia of the orders of the Garter, Golden Fleece, Savoy and St. Michel, some light age browning to first two quires, small oil stains on three lls. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, small tear to spine.

First edition of Sansovino’s popular and interesting treatise on the history of the chivalric orders of Europe, dedicated to Cosimo de Medici, in which he describes their respective origins, rules, and membership. He starts with a good definition of a Knight “Onde si vede senza alcun dubbio che cavaliero, nell’una e nell’altra lingua, non vuol dire altro che dignità, provenuta nello uomo dallo essercizio dell’armi fatto a cavallo, percioché dicendosi cavaliero si intende persona di qualità e degna di onore”. In his introduction Sansovino divides the various orders into three categories; Knights of the Cross, the Collar and the Sword. He then discuses in detail the various orders of knights of Europe past, such as the Templars, and present such as the Knights of Malta, giving examples of specific knights and listing the names of knights of the highest orders, followed by thirty one short biographies of famous Italian knights. He finishes with interesting descriptions of the Islands of Malta and Elba. Born in Rome in 1521, Francisco Sansovino was brought to Venice following the sack of his native city in 1527. He studied law in Padua and Bologna, and after attempting a career at the court of Pope Julius III, returned to Venice. Sansovino typifies the figures who moved in the editorial circles of the period. A polygraph author of poetry, prose writings on literature, history and rhetoric, as well as a translator and editor, Sansovino not only compiled, translated, and annotated texts for Venetian printers, but opened his own printing house, publishing around thirty editions, many of good quality, between 1560-62 and in 1568. He was widely read during the Renaissance, especially his historical works. This first edition is quite rare and of one of Sansovino’s rarer works.

BM STC It. C16. p. 608. Graesse VI 267. Not in Adams, Gamba or Brunet.


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MARINEO, Siculo Lucio


Pandit Aragoniae.

Saragossa, Jorge Coci, 1509.


Folio. ff. XLIX. a8, b-h6 (lacking blank h6.) Gothic letter. Full page woodcut printer’s device of arms, held aloft by an angel, on title, fine white on black floriated initials in various sizes, each page with woodcut genealogical trees incorporating portraits of the kings of Aragon (many repeated) woodcut diagrams of coins and woodcut arms in text, large woodcut printer’s device on recto of last with St. Sebastian and St. Roch at sides. Light age yellowing in places, small tear restored in blank lower margin of f1, the odd insignificant marginal spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean, on thick high quality paper, with excellent impressions of the woodcuts, in modern vellum over boards, yapp edges, old Quaritch label to rear pastedown.

First separate edition of Marineo’s superbly printed and important history of the Kings of Aragon, commissioned by the Eight Deputies of Aragon for King Ferdinand, and one of the most beautiful early printed Spanish books. Marineo, an important literary figure of the age, was born in Sicily and studied in the Roman Academy of Pomponius Laetus. He moved to Spain where he taught poetry and Oratory at the University of Salamanca, and met Antonio de Nebrija, with whom he had a fractious relationship. He left Salamanca in 1497 to join the Catholic monarch’s court as chaplain and master and, in 1504, he was appointed chronicler of Aragon by Fernando the Catholic.

He published some poetry and a few works of Grammar but is chiefly remembered for this genealogy of the Aragonese monarchs, which was first published in Spanish as the ‘Cronica d’Aragón,’ in 1524 (this Latin edition is much rarer according to Salva) and his other histories of the period. His impact on the Spanish Renaissance was profound, especially through his disciple Alfonso Segura, in bringing to Spain the ideas of the Italian Humanists. His work remains one of the chief sources for the history of the period; he not only wrote about the early history of Aragon but also produced extensive accounts documenting the fifteenth-century reign of Fernando’s father, Juan II, and the reign of Fernando himself.

Coci (or Koch) is renowned as one of Spain’s great early printers. He began printing (with two other German printers) in 1499 and inherited materials from the press of Pablo and Juan Hurus, adapting their device for his own use. “Coci printed one other contemporary Latin work of some importance. This was a history of Aragon written by Lucius Marineus at the behest of the Eight Deputies of Aragon for presentation to King Ferdinand. It appeared in 1509, and it is on record that for their respective shares in the work Marineus received one thousand solidi, Jaca money, and Coci five hundred.” F. J. Norton, ‘Printing in Spain 1501-1520.’ One of the most striking early Spanish books in typography and layout, reminiscent of a miniature ‘Nuremberg Chronicle’ in its style and use of woodcut illustration. A very good copy.

BM STC Sp. C16th p.127. Norton 628; Lyell, Early book illustration in Spain, figure 93 (printer’s device). Adams M 593. Brunet III, 1432. Palau VIII 152144. OCLC records four copies in US libraries. Salva 3019.


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Dialogue treselegant intitule le Peregrin, traictant de lhonneste et pudicq amour concilie par pure et sincere vertu.

Paris, Jehan Petit, 1540.


8vo. ff (xii) 327, (lacks last, blank). Lettre Bâtard. Title in red and black, small woodcut white on black criblé initials, 3 charming woodcut illustrations introducing each book, bookplates of Camille Aboussouan, on pastedown and fly (the second engraved by Belmer). Title slightly dusty, mostly light age yellowing, cut a little close at head, a few headlines fractionally shaved. A very good, clean, copy in early 19th-century blue straight-grained morocco gilt, by C. Smith with his ticket on fly, covers gilt ruled to panel design, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, all edges gilt extremities slightly rubbed.

Rare, beautifully printed and illustrated popular edition of Francois Dassi’s French translation of Caviceo’s ‘Libro del Peregrino’, first published in the author’s native Parma in 1508, and remarkably popular, both in Italy and France, where it went through more than twenty editions during the following fifty years, though it has not been reprinted in its entirety since 1559, perhaps due to its robust attitude to physical love. Caviceo introduces his romance with the appearance of Boccaccio’s shade who praises the book’s dedicatee, Lucrezia Borgia; unsurprisingly the Peregino is full of echoes of Boccaccio’s writings, and is also imbued with the atmosphere of the Ferrarese court of Ercole I d’Este which Caviceo knew well. He appears also to have used Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia as a model, as the Peregrino similarly contains a multiplicity of digressions on a diverse range of subjects in a Latinate prose full of classical allusions.

As the title suggests much of the romance is concerned with travel, based on the author’s own experiences, including voyages to the Middle East, Mount Sinai and Cyprus. These adventures often serve as a pretext for a display of humanist erudition, courtly speeches, with disquisitions on natural philosophy and neo-platonic theories of love. A good deal of the work is comic, sometimes unsubtle, as in the episode when Peregrino steals, via a sewer, into what he believes is his ladies chamber only to discover, at a critical moment, that he entered a neighboring house and is in the wrong bed. All these disparate elements are woven into the story of Peregrino, an ardent lover, who after many trials on behalf of his love Ginevra, eventually wins her hand, only to witness her death shortly after the birth of her first child.

The story is innovative firstly in its narrative technique, the entire story is told by the hero’s shade and is in the first person, (much of the book is composed of dialogue) and secondly in its inclusion of a host of famous contemporaries in his fictional narrative, some recently dead, but most still living at publication. It is therefore quite surprising that the work was so popular in France where few of this gallery of local figures would have been known to its readers. The book was translated into French by Francois Dassi, a lawyer and secretary to Henri d’Albert king of Navarre. The first French edition appeared in 1527, at a time when there was considerable interest in France for all things Italian. Dassi made no attempt to modify the passages of the original which deal with specifically Italian figures, and his translation is complete and faithful.

Like the Fairfax Murray copy, this copy lacks the final leaf, ‘probably blank’. This Paris edition appears to have been shared by many printers, P. Sargent (BL copy), F. Gilbert (Fairfax Murray copy), A. Lotrian (BNF copy) as well as Jean Petit, all of which are extremely rare; we have not found a copy of the Petit imprint recorded online.

BM STC Fr. 16C p. 345, under Peregrino, (variant imprint). Fairfax Murray French, I 80 (variant imprint). Brunet I, 1701 (other editions).


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