(Ferrara: Laurentius de Rubeis Valentia, 1497). 311 x 208 mm. (12 1/4 x 8 1/8"). 4 p.l., CLXX (i.e., CLXXII ). A2 and A3 bound in reverse order; CXXXIII, with the often-missing entry for Pope Joan, in very fine facsimile. Single column, 45 lines and headline in gothic type. FIRST EDITION.
Pleasing modern calf, blind-stamped in period style, covers with frame of blind rules and decorative rolls, raised bands, blind-ruled compartments, new endpapers. With frontispiece woodcut showing Jacobus presenting the book to Beatrice of Aragon, widow of Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, to whom it is dedicated; full-page engraving of scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary opposite opening of main text, both of these and the first page of the first chapter within elaborate woodcut frames; historiated opening initial depicting the Madonna and Child; 172 WOODCUT PORTRAITS OF ILLUSTRIOUS WOMEN printed from 56 blocks (i.e., 116 of them repeats); final leaf with woodcut printer's device (Kristeller 38). Title page with red circular ink stamp of "Lodoicus [Louis] de Foris / Genevensis." Goff J-204; BMC VI, 613; ISTC ij00204000; Lippmann, "Wood-Engraving in Italy," p. 153. Final leaf with small repairs to margins (well away from the text), occasional light marginal dampstains or finger smudges, final five quires with worming in lower right margin (sometimes two tiny round holes, sometimes longitudinal, but not near the text and not unsightly) other trivial imperfections, but by and large a fine copy, clean and fresh internally with very comfortable margins, in a new sympathetic binding.
This is a copy of one of the finest illustrated books of the Italian Renaissance, with brief biographies and woodcut portraits of famous women from the Bible, Classical mythology, European history, and contemporaneous Italy. Jacobus Phillipus, also known as Giacomo Filippo Foresti da Bergamo (1434-1520), was an Augustinian monk and the author of the popular world history "Supplementum Chronicarum" (1483). Influenced by Boccaccio's 14th century work—also called "De Claris Mulieribus" and first printed in 1473--as well as by Plutarch's "Lives," Jacobus constructed these brief biographies of real and mythological women, accompanied by woodcut portraits. He began, of course, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, continuing with women from the Old Testament (Eve, Sarah, Esther) and New (Mary Magdalene), before veering off into Greeks and Romans both mythological (Minerva, Juno, Diana) and real (Sappho, Nero's wife Sabina). Saints from the early Church through the Middle Ages are well represented, as are queens, empresses, and lesser-known noblewomen. Many of these are "archetypal" images--the warrior, the maiden, the queen, the empress, the saint, etc.—while others have identifiable accoutrements, as with the snake-haired Medusa, St. Catherine with her wheel, and St. Ursula sheltering a multitude of virgins. The final seven are portraits of women of noble Italian families who were contemporaries of Jacobus, and seem to be drawn from life, or from other current depictions. The women so represented are Bianca Maria Sforza, Catherina, Countess of Forli and Imola, Leonora of Aragon (wife of Ercole d'Este), Danisella Trivulzia, Cassandra Fidelis, Ginevra Sforza, and Bianca Maria d'Este, wife of Galeotto Pico della Mirandola (and sister-in-law of philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola). Lippmann notes that the woodcuts are "original and charming designs, displaying a rich abundance of variety in conception, costume, and accessories," and observes that they are the product of more than one artist, exhibiting the styles of different schools: "In one set, we may recognise the composition, drawing, and execution of the Venetian school; in another, a distinct evidence of relationship to Ferrarese art." Printed on 15th century paper, the facsimile leaf in our copy is an outstanding piece of work that would easily escape notice if we did not disclose it. (CEH1916)
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PJP Catalog: 75.113