GLI ASOLANI DI MESSER PIETRO BEMBO.

(Firenze [Florence]: Filippo Giunta, 1505). 152 x 96 mm. (6 x 3 3/4"). [114] leaves.

Early 20th century stiff vellum, yapp edges, smooth spine divided into panels by gilt rules, red morocco label. Front pastedown with engraved bookplate of Major Bryan Palmes; title page with a stamp of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina ("Bibliot. Bossianae Alexandrinae"). Lowry, "World of Aldus Manutius," pp. 155-58; Edit16; CNCE 4985; USTC 813362; Brunet I, 776. First leaf with two neat repairs to wormholes (one affecting a couple of letters), a third of the leaves with faint dampstain to half the page, occasional minor marginal smudges or faint foxing, but still an excellent copy, generally clean and fresh, in a nearly unworn binding.

Containing an important Renaissance text by a major figure in Italian literature, this book is also an accomplished piece of piracy, reproducing both the content and the appearance of the first edition printed by Aldus Manutius. Pietro Bembo (1470-1547) was a cardinal, poet, and scholar whose greatest influence was on the development and standardization of the Italian language. Convinced that the vernacular was the equal of Latin as a literary medium, he was able, through the example of his own writings, to rescue Italian from the disordered stylistic eclecticism of his day and to raise it again to the exalted levels of his models, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. The present text is one of his most famous works, a dialogue on Platonic love, reflecting the notions promulgated by humanist philosopher Marsilio Ficino. Lowry calls it a "fascinating glimpse of high society, an important literary experiment, a popularisation of Ficino's theories of love, and an edition which commands attention because of the personalities concerned, and because of its connection with political developments in Rome and Ferrara." Aldus Manutius printed the first edition in March of 1505, utilizing the italic type and octavo format that would become hallmarks of the Aldine press. While Lowry notes that there were numerous mediocre reproductions of Aldine titles by various rivals (particularly in Lyon and Brescia), he singles out our printer, Filippo Giunta, for his far more sophisticated counterfeits, calling his work "plagiarism of a new and subtle kind, wholly different from the crude forgery of the Lyonnais." Though the present work, printed by Giunta in July of 1505, is not an exact facsimile, its appearance is nonetheless extremely convincing and could easily be mistaken for a true Aldine. The Giunta edition includes the dedicatory preface to Lucrezia Borgia, present in only some copies of the Aldine first edition and either suppressed thereafter for political reasons, or delivered to the printer too late to make it into every copy (for a detailed discussion of the different states of the Aldine edition, see C. H. Clough, "Pietro Bembo's Gli Asolani of 1505" in Modern Language Notes, vol. 84 (1969), pp. 16-45. In addition to its obvious appeal as an intriguing piece of printing history and a masterfully executed counterfeit, this edition rarely appears in the marketplace, being much more difficult to obtain than the 1505 Aldine.
(CEH1909)