IN SUPERB PERIOD-COLOURING – C17 FAN BINDING

La Gerusalemme di Torquato Tasso figurata da Bernardo Castello.

Genoa, appresso Giuseppe Pavoni, 1617.

£4,250

Folio in 8s. 3 parts in 1, pp. (xvi) 255 (i), 71 (1), 36 (iv), first blank cancelled as usual. Italic letter, with Roman, double column. All plates in fresh period-colouring and gold leaf: engraved architectural t-p with putti, portrait of dedicatee (Carlo Emanuele, Duke of Savoy), heraldic shields with compass, crown with sceptres, armour and weapons, and standing allegorical figures; engraved architectural half-title with putti, author’s portrait and landscape view of harbour of Genoa flanked by river personifications; 20 full-page engraved illustrations with scenes from the poem within architectural frame; woodcut decorated initials (gilt) and ornaments. Light water stain to preliminaries and outer margin of next gathering, intermittent to outer margin, occasional mainly marginal finger-soiling or foxing, minor waterstaining and spotting, pls 4 and 5 onlaid (editorial), traces of glue to verso, a little see-through from colouring, tiny worm trail from upper edge of B7-C3 of first part. A very good copy in splendid C17 crimson morocco fan binding, marbled endpapers, triple gilt ruled with one dotted fillet, bordered with gilt roll of fleurons and tendrils, gilt and decorated quarter fan cornerpieces with gilt rosettes and star, large gilt fan centrepiece encircled by gilt rosettes, outer edges gilt, raised bands, spine gilt into six compartments, gilt large fleuron and cornerpieces to each, one gilt-lettered, a.e.g., corners and joints bit rubbed, nick at head of upper joint, spine with few minor cracks and small worm holes at head and foot, couple of minor scratches to boards. Modern armorial bookplate to front pastedown and ffep, Williams of Cheltenham stamp on ffep.

Superbly bound, illustrated and hand-coloured copy—most probably intended for presentation—of this masterpiece of Italian literature. It is encased in a fine example of ‘fan binding’ fashionable in the mid-C17. The rounded spine with raised bands, gilt to a design of lozenges and arabesque cornerpieces, and the realistic attention to floral detail suggest the influx of French and Germanic ideas; the neat and elegant design defying the ‘horror vacui’ of Spanish and Roman bindings points to a provincial, as well as skilled and sophisticated, workshop. The copy was probably bound in the north-western regions of Italy, either Piedmont or Liguria.

With ‘Gerusalemme liberata’, Torquato Tasso (1544-95) joined the likes of Ariosto in the pantheon of vernacular literature. This internationally successful epic poem portrays the battles between Muslims and Christians, the latter led by Godfrey of Bouillon, during the Siege of Jerusalem of the First Crusade. The narrative lingers on the amorous and chivalrous struggles of Ruggiero, Rinaldo, Tancredi, Armida, Clorinda, Erminia and the Saracens, following an epic tradition imbued with psychological insight, inspired by Virgil. This is the fourth reprint of the first illustrated edition of 1590, published in quarto by Bartoli in Genoa. The engravings were by Agostino Carracci and Giacomo Franco after drawings by the renowned, local artist Bernardo Castello, which had been approved by Tasso. Pavoni’s 1617 was the first illustrated folio edition. It used the same notes by Scipio Gentili e Giulio Guastavini as the 1590; the illustrations, which portray similar scenes from the poem, were recut by Camillo Cungi after new drawings by Castello. In the illustrations of the 1617 edition, ‘the mannerist prospect, much aggregable to Tasso, […] leads to the birth of a new iconography which restores some of the themes left aside in the 1604 edition, such as the demonic-angelic and the bellicose. The arcadian tone blends this time with a return to the epic, a feature inspired by the dedication to the Duke of Savoy, whilst the moralising elements may be linked to the monitoring gaze of the Inquisition’ (Martini, ‘Tasso istoriato’, 219). Castello’s illustrations inspired engravings on the same subject by Antonio Tempesta as well as frescos in the palaces of Genoese aristocrats. In this copy as in that at the Casanatese, plates 4 and 5 have been laid on to redress the printing of the wrong plate; they were probably early issues.

Only Brown (Hay) and Getty recorded in the US.

Brunet V, 666; BL STC C17, p.893 ; Cicognara 1113. Not in Fontanini. E. Martini, ‘Il Tasso istoriato’, in Le sorti d’Orlando (Lucca, 2013), 213-31.

L3082

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