(London: printed by T[homas]. S[nodham]. for Iohn Stepneth, and are to be sold at his shop at the west-end of Paules Church, 1612). 205 x 155 mm. (8 x 6"). 18 p.l., 611,  pp. (601-08 misnumbered 561-68),  leaves. FIRST EDITION.
New unlettered limp vellum by Courtland Benson in imitation of the original binding. STC 1896. Half a dozen gatherings a little browned, occasional mild foxing or small rust spots, additional trivial imperfections, otherwise an excellent copy, clean and very fresh, in a pleasing new binding.
This conversation manual by an Italian teacher based in London offers an intriguing glimpse into the lives and concerns of the wealthier classes in 17th century Europe. An early effort to teach language through dialogue, the book is part cultural history, part guide to better health, and it is clear evidence of the importance of the study of Italian in Elizabethan and Jacobean England. The seven dialogues cover subjects from health to travel to servants, with Italian and English text on facing pages. Many of the dialogues begin with phrases that will be familiar to all beginning language students: greeting others, selecting items of clothing, asking prices or directions, ordering food. As the conversations progress, they explore various topics that one might expect to encounter in polite society. An early morning exchange between master and servant evolves into a discussion of the importance of sleep, the optimal amount of sleep for good health, and the significance of dreams. A dialogue that begins with ordering meals leads to an involved colloquy about the benefits and disadvantages of fasting and abstinence; the virtues and defects of bread, butter, meat, dairy, and eggs; diet recommendations for the healthy and the sick; the best diet for each season; and the importance of a walk after dinner. Other dialogues include advice for travellers, observations on the political situation and life at court, and finally a discussion of that most eternally fascinating topic: love. This work is of continuing interest and value to linguists, as it documents the Benevento Italian dialect, which is in need of preservation. It's an extraordinarily rare book, probably because it was the sort of volume subjected to hard use: in addition to ours, we could trace only two copies in ABPC and RBH since 1948. (ST13801)
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PJP Catalog: NY20BF.010