Item Details

Price: $17,500
PJP Catalog: 65.554

Remarkably Fresh and Clean Contemporary Copy of
One of the Finest Illustrated Books of the Century


(Venezia: Stampata da G. Albrizzi, 1745). 457 x 305 mm (18 x 12"). 14 p.l. (including two frontispieces), 253, (i.e., 252), [1] leaves, followed by the final plate (complete).

Pleasing contemporary marbled calf, raised bands, spine ornately gilt, red label. WITH 84 ELEGANT ENGRAVINGS: two frontispieces (one of Apollo and the muses, with angels flying in a tondo portrait of the author, the other of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, to whom the edition is dedicated); charming vignette on title page of Tasso riding on a half shell into a Venetian dock, welcomed by a female personification of Venice petting one of a pair of lions; 20 vignette initials; 20 large vignette headpieces; 20 vignette tailpieces (19 large and one smaller); 20 VERY FINE LARGE PLATES, each within a decorative frame; and a final large plate showing Tasso and the publisher Albrizzi out in nature, all BY GIAMBATISTA PIAZZETTA. Ink stamp on front flyleaf of Starhemberg Family Library at Castle Eferding, Austria (see below). Cohen-de Ricci, p. 978; Brunet V, 666; Graesse VI, Iième, 33. Joints with slight wear, minor worming to top two spine compartments, covers with a bit of worming and a few marks, almost invisible repair to inner upper marginal corner of final plate and following blank, otherwise AN ESPECIALLY FINE COPY, THE TEXT EXCEPTIONALLY FRESH, BRIGHT, AND CLEAN.

This is a remarkably fresh and clean contemporary copy of one of the finest illustrated books of the 18th century. It is a wonderful oversized illustrated Venetian printing of a great Italian classic, which the normally reserved Graesse describes as a "magnificent edition in regards to the printing and the paper: the 20 plates and the headpieces by Piazzetta are beyond all praise." The engravings are highly detailed, romantic rococo illustrations of a major artist, Giambatista Piazzetta (1682-1754). Palluchini (as reported by Benezit) comments on the "subtle unity and vibrant luminosity" of Piazzetta's chiaroscuro, and he remarks that "Piazzetta's striking use of light, together with the bold compositions and handling seen in some of his works, make him an important precursor of Tiepolo." As for the author, Britannica says it as well as anyone: in his "Jerusalem Delivered," Tasso (1544-95) "aimed at ennobling the Italian epic style by preserving strict unity of plot and heightening poetic diction. He chose Virgil for his model, took the first crusade for [his] subject, [and] infused the fervor of religion into his conception of the hero Godfrey." But his inclination toward romance clashed with his original epical intentions, and the work became a classic early example of the poetry of sentiment. "This sentiment, refined, noble, natural, steeped in melancholy, exquisitely graceful, pathetically touching, breathes throughout the episodes of the 'Gerusalemme,' finds metrical expression in the languishing cadence of its mellifluous verse, and sustains the ideal life of those seductive heroines whose names were familiar as household words to all Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries." Unfortunately, the work, while still in manuscript, was condemned by contemporary critics on both religious and literary grounds, and the sensitive and conscientious author suffered a nervous breakdown, was later visited by a violent insanity, and was confined for seven years. When he was released, he discovered that his masterpiece had been published and that he was now famous. He was to have received the laurel crown with which Petrarch alone had been honored, but he died just before the presentation. Our copy comes from the collection of Starhemberg princes of Eferding, the best known of whom was Prince Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, who as vice chancellor of Austria in the 1930s made a stand against the German takeover. The prince is featured in the historical novel, "The Sceptre," by Dorothy Jane Mills.