The Hoe Copy of One of the Most Historically Significant Bindings of the 16th Century


(Venice: Bartolomeo Imperador and Francesco Veneziano, 1543). 159 x 102 mm. (6 1/4 x 4"). 8 p.l., 132, [2] leaves.Translated by Mambrino Roseo da Fabriano.

IN A FINE CONTEMPORARY ROMAN RED MOROCCO APOLLO AND PEGASUS MEDALLION BINDING DONE FOR GIOVANNI BATTISTA GRIMALDI BY MARC ANTONIO GUILLERY, covers with gilt frame formed by two widely-spaced fillets with lobes interlaced at ends and sides, the space between the fillets decorated with broad foliate curls and small floral tools, inner panel of each board with gilt titling above a horizontal oval Apollo and Pegasus plaquette centerpiece showing Pegasus atop the black-painted heights of Parnassus, and Apollo racing his chariot (drawn by two straining steeds) across steep terrain with reins and whip held aloft and cape fluttering behind, the plaquette with gilt motto in Greek in the collar above and below the vignette, the (very expertly rebacked) spine with four thin and three thick raised bands decorated with gilt rope pattern or plain rules (this being the original backstrip?), newer (perhaps 19th century) endpapers, all edges gilt (apparently some remarkably skillful restoration at one or more corners and edges, perhaps some gold added as well to the chariot part of the plaquettes). Woodcut printer's device on title page. Front pastedown with the morocco bookplate and separate gilt monogram of Robert Hoe as well as the inscription and vellum bookplate of Swedish collector Thore Virgin; front flyleaf with ink ownership inscription of J. T. Payne dated 1850. Adams G-1502. For the binding: Hobson "Maioli" LVI (p. 155); "Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition of Bookbindings" G-6 (Pl. 47); Hobson "Apollo and Pegasus" 64. Covers with half a dozen insignificant tiny dark spots, title page faintly soiled, thin light brown stain just at top edge of leaves, small wormhole at upper inner margin (text not affected), occasional minor stains, other trivial imperfections, but no defects that are even remotely serious, and, in general, A REALLY EXCELLENT SPECIMEN OF A VERY SPECIAL BINDING, the text fresh, and the leather quite lustrous.

Made for a library of the greatest significance, this little volume can be counted among the most beautiful and historically important Italian bindings of the 16th century. After years of mystery and warring attributions, the owner of the Italian Renaissance library bound with the Apollo and Pegasus emblem was identified by Anthony Hobson in 1975 as Giovanni Battista Grimaldi (ca. 1524 - ca. 1612), heir to a large Genoese fortune. While visiting Rome as a teenager in 1543, Grimaldi met the humanist scholar Claudio Tolomei, founder of the Accademia della Virtù. At Grimaldi's request, Tolomei undertook to help the young man assemble a "complete" library to advance his education. According to Hobson, Tolomei "invented a device or 'impresa' for him" that depicted "Apollo driving the chariot of the sun, 'straight and not crooked,'" as the Greek motto informs us, towards Mount Parnassus, on whose summit Pegasus is standing. Apollo represented Grimaldi, who should aspire, like the god, to be a patron of arts and literature, while the straightforward course of the chariot symbolized the course of study Tolomei would devise for the young man, designed to lead him to the virtue and fame embodied in the winged Pegasus. Tolomei was an ardent advocate for treating modern languages as the equal of Greek and Latin in works of scholarship, and he included works in the vernacular in the Grimaldi library. These, like our volume, were bound in red morocco, while those in classical languages were bound in green or brown. Our binding was executed by Roman bookseller and binder Marcantonio Guillery (fl. 1544-65), described by Hobson as the best of the three craftsmen employed by Grimaldi to bind his volumes. It is almost identical to a Guillery volume pictured in plate IV of Hobson's book "Apollo and Pegasus Bindings," with only the tool used above and below the plaquette differing. Guillery executed 71 known Apollo and Pegasus bindings, out of an original library comprising approximately 200 volumes, about 150 of which survive. The text contained in this lovely binding is a fictionalized biography of Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, written by the Spanish Franciscan and bishop, Antonio de Guevara (1480?-1545), a learned writer perhaps best known as the author of the famous "Dial of Princes." Guevara presents the life as sober history, based on a Greek manuscript, when it would be more accurately described as an historical novel; regardless, as the mirror of the perfect prince, it was no doubt chosen for the young Grimaldi's library as an obvious source of edification. Our copy of the text has two unnumbered leaves at the end, which contain a table of contents and, on the verso of the final leaf, the colophon, giving the name of the publisher. These two leaves seem to be missing in most other copies, as indicated by Adams, STC Italian, and OCLC. Apollo and Pegasus bindings are uncommonly seen, are persistently sought after, and continue to command extravagant prices in the marketplace. According to Beverly Chew, the library of Robert Hoe (1839-1911), founding member and first president of the Grolier Club, was "the finest [America] has ever contained." Hoe acquired illuminated manuscripts, early printing (he owned a Gutenberg Bible on paper and one on vellum), fine bindings, French and English literature, and Americana, and when his library was sold in 1911-12, it fetched nearly $2,000,000, a record that held until the Streeter sale more than 50 years later. The volume has also graced the library shelves of Greek diplomat and bibliophile Joannes Gennadius (1844-1932), English collector John Thomas Payne, Liverpool oculist T. Shadford Walker (1830-85), and the Swedish collectors Thore Virgin and Rolf Wistrand.