How To Protect Yourself in Post-Renaissance Italy, Bound with a Very Distinctive Edge Design


(Lugduni Batavor. [Leyden]: Ex officina Elzeviriana, 1635). 115 x 55 mm. (4 1/2 x 2 1/4"). 8 p.l., 608 pp. Second Printing.

Attractive 18th century calf, raised bands, spine gilt in compartments with fleuron centerpiece, palm frond cornerpieces, two tan morocco labels, marbled endpapers, EDGES PASTE-PAINTED, GILT, AND GAUFFERED (expert repairs to ends of joints). In a modern brown buckram slipcase. Engraved allegorical title page. Rahir 412; Willem 421. Leather a little crackled, gilt on spine a bit rubbed, corners lightly bumped, occasional tiny rust spots, but an excellent copy, the text clean and fresh, and the distinctive binding well preserved.

Replete with personal anecdotes, this is a guide to a successful life in post-Renaissance Italy by a brilliant but eccentric polymath, offered here in a binding with unusual edge decoration. First printed by Abraham and Bonaventure Elzevier in 1627 under the title "Proxeneta" ("The Negotiator"), "Arcana" provides guidance for household management, court and political life, academia, and intellectual pursuits. Cardano (1501-76) was a physician, astrologer, and philosopher in addition to being the leading mathematician of his day, making important contributions to probability theory and to algebra. The difficulties he had experienced from being illegitimate, sickly, and frequently impoverished had made him take a dim view of his fellow man, and more than a little of his advice in the text relates to protecting oneself from the wicked designs of others. The binding here is of fine quality, but what stands out is the unusual treatment of the edges: these have been painted with blue swirls like those on paste-paper, with two wavy lines of gauffering down the middle, and with the addition of a gilt-tooled frame featuring birds and flowers at either end, enclosing rows of gilt stars. The only similar example we have been able to find is on the binding of a 16th century German Bible in the Folger Library, attributed to Northern Germany in the late 18th century (call no. BS239 L8 1545).