Two First Printings of Boccaccio (or Pseudo-Boccaccio) Texts, In a "Masterpiece" of Renaissance Binding, the Fletcher of Saltoun Copy


(Milan: Zanotti Castiglione per Andrea Calvo, 10 February 1521; Bologna: Franciscus Plato de Benedictis, ca. 1492-93). 210 x 133 mm. (8 1/4 x 5 1/4"). [110] leaves, including final blank; [34] leaves, single column, 26 lines in roman type. Two separately published works bound in one volume. FIRST PRINTING OF BOTH WORKS.

HANDSOME RENAISSANCE INTRICATELY DECORATED BLIND-STAMPED CALF BY CLAES VAN DOERMAELE, covers with outer frame of medallion and foliate roll, inner frame of long-stemmed lilies and scrolling vines, large central panel containing a medallion with three-quarter portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, a sword in one hand, an orb in the other, the collar of the medallion with the inscription "Carolus V Roma. Imp. Semper August. Etat Sue XLII," a large escutcheon containing a double-headed eagle above the medallion, a banner with Charles V's motto "Plus Ultra" suspended between two columns below it, binder's small "CvD" escutcheon stamp below the central panel; raised bands, early ink-titled paper label, small paper shelf number of a private library at foot of spine, unobtrusive expert repairs to head of front joint, tail of both joints, and upper corners, lacking ties. In a (slightly worn) linen clamshell box. Front free endpaper with 16th century ink ownership inscription of Johannes Hoyel; rear pastedown with inscription of A. Fletcher (i.e., Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun--see below). For provenance: Willems "Bibliotheca Fletcheriana," p. 34; First work: Brunet I, 994 ("edition rare"); Second work: Goff B-762; BMC VI, 826; for the binding: Goldschmidt 184; Weale 94; Fogelmark, p. 125. Title page just slightly soiled, two leaves with minor browning to lower corners, two tiny marginal stains, otherwise A FINE, FRESH COPY IN A VERY WELL-PRESERVED BINDING, the leather lustrous, and the blind-stamped details remarkably sharp.

This is a fortunate combination of two Boccaccio first editions in a wonderful Renaissance binding by a known binder, and with distinguished provenance. "Amorosa" tells of a dream of love in 50 cantos of terza rima, the text here with Boccaccio's own revisions, as well as with additional work by the humanist editor Claricio, who includes a defense of Boccaccio's poetry. The tale follows a dreamer led by a female guide through a castle to the garden where his beloved awaits, plot elements that are clearly reminiscent of Dante, and modern critics now see "Amorosa" as having exerted influence on Petrarch. The bound-in incunabular text here, the novel "Urbano," was represented originally as a newly discovered work by Boccaccio, but it is now known to be a spurious work variously attributed to Giovanni Buonsignori, Buonaccorsi da Ginestrata, or Cambio de Stefano. The hero, Urbano, is the son of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa and a peasant girl whom he raped. Urbano bears a strong resemblance to the emperor's legitimate heir, Speculo, and is tricked by unscrupulous Florentine merchants into marrying the daughter of a sultan who believes him to be the emperor's heir. After numerous dramatic twists that include the death of Speculo, the plot is resolved when Frederick acknowledges Urbano as his heir. The first dated work by our Bolognese printer Franciscus de Benedictis (known by the nickname "Plato") appeared in 1482, and he began printing regularly in 1487, mostly for publisher Benedictus Hectoris. He issued several undated works in Venice, but continued printing in Bologna until six months before his death in August of 1496. BMC notes that he was known as a "Printer of mark" and was respected by his patrons as "a man of probity as well as of some cultivation." Binder Claes (Nicholas) van Doersmaele (or Claus Duermale) was active in Antwerp beginning in 1533. Goldschmidt notes that he was "appointed 'Stadsboekbinder' for the town of Antwerp" after the death of Willem Vorsterman in 1543, and that "the account books in the Antwerp achives after that date are bound by him." His name contines to appear in the archives as a binder until 1549. Our binding was probably executed around the time van Doersmaele became the state bookbinder, as the panel gives the age of Charles V (b. 1500) as 42. This particular panel stamp is celebrated: in his "Flemish and Related Panel-Stamped Bindings," Staffan Fogelmark says that, among cast panels, "it has been acclaimed a masterpiece never to have been surpassed." Our copy was was once owned by Scottish patriot, political theorist, and book collector Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1653?-1716), who amassed a library of over 6,000 volumes, the largest private library in Scotland. Fletcher kept a meticulous manuscript catalogue of his books, and the library remained largely intact until the 1960s, circumstances which allowed bibliographer P. J. M. Willems to compile a reliable catalogue of the contents. Our volume's long residence in a private library no doubt accounts for its outstanding condition.

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PJP Catalog: STL19.014