(Leipzig: Typographia Giesecke & Devrient [for] Emilio Biel, Portugal, 1880). 400 x 305 mm. (15 3/4 x 12"). 2 p.l., LVI, 375, , XCII pp.
IMPOSING CONTEMPORARY BLACK CALF, upper cover with sunken central panel framed by gilt and blind rules, raised gothic window frame with gilt tooling, large ship embossed and painted at center, gilt lettering above and below, lower cover gilt-stamped "Companhia Portugueza Editora / Porto," raised bands, spine panels with blind-stamped floral frames, gilt lettering, patterned endpapers, apparently later hinges, all edges gilt and elaborately gauffered. In a later green felt-lined cloth slipcase. Illustrated half title, engraved portrait frontispiece, dedication, and portrait of the dedicatee, engraved decorative half frames at beginning of each Canto and tailpiece at the end, 10 section titles printed in colors, and 19 plates, all with original tissue guards. Front pastedown with modern color-printed bookplate dated 1980. ◆Spine slightly sunned, leather with a few minor scrapes, scratches, and other small signs of wear, plates variously foxed because of paper used (usually mildly or moderately, though occasionally more noticeably); nevertheless, a striking volume with its main attractions (the front cover and shimmering gauffered edges) retaining all of their appeal.
This is an impressive commemorative edition of the masterpiece of the Portuguese language's greatest poet, in a binding that celebrates that country's history of exploration. First published in 1572, the epic poem "Os Lusíadas" relates the adventures of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama (ca. 1460s - 1524), the first European to reach India by sea. Sailing via the Cape of Good Hope in 1497, he established the first ocean route from Europe to India, landing in Calicut in 1498. His navigation skills provided Portugal with more than bragging rights for accomplishing a feat attempted for decades at the cost of hundreds of sailors' lives: the Portuguese now had unprecedented access to the spices of the East, and came to dominate that market. A master of verse whose skills have been compared to those of Shakespeare, Milton, and Dante, Luís de Camões (ca. 1524/25 - 1580) also had firsthand experience of the voyage: he travelled to India on the carrack São Bento in 1553. He composed parts of this work while dwelling in a cave in Macau, and managed to save the manuscript when he was shipwrecked in the Mekong delta. After 17 years in the East, Camões returned to Portugal and completed "Os Lusíadas." When it was published two years later, he was rewarded with a royal pension. The binding here depicts a Portuguese caravel--the small, very maneuverable ship Portugal's explorers used in the Age of Discovery--at full sail on choppy seas, in a sunken space framed within a Moorish-style arch bearing the Portuguese Coat of Arms. Dedicated to Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, this luxurious production was issued to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Camões' death. (ST17890e)