Very Charming and Extraordinarily Well-Preserved: a "Small Masterpiece" And "One of the Most Desirable Venetian Illustrated Books of the 18th Century"


(Venetiis [Venice]: Giambattista Pasquali, 1740). 132 x 90 mm. (5 1/4 x 3 1/2"). 20 p.l., 427, [5] pp. FIRST EDITION.

FINE CONTEMPORARY VENETIAN RED MOROCCO, GILT, covers with border of repeating botanical tools, raised bands flanked by decorative gilt rolls, green silk pastedowns, all edges gilt and gauffered. HOUSED IN THE ORIGINAL PULL-OFF MARBLED CALF CASE, the book and its case within a brown cloth chemise and matching slipcase. ENGRAVED THROUGHOUT, with numerous floral initials, 20 charming tailpieces, frontispiece and 15 full-page illustrations by M. Pitteri all designed by Giambattista Piazzetta. Front flyleaves with book labels of John Saks, Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow, and David R. Godine. See: Boorsch, "Venetian Prints and Books in the Age of Tiepolo," p. 20 and no. 98; Selby, Carol E., "A Small Masterpiece from the Eighteenth Century Publishing World." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts, vol. 43, no. 3/4, 1964, pp. 60-63. ◆A hint of rubbing to extremities, one tiny abrasion to front cover, flyleaves with offsetting from binder's glue, one page with tiny ink spot in margin but AN EXTREMELY FINE COPY, ENTIRELY CLEAN, FRESH, AND BRIGHT internally, in a beautifully preserved binding and case.

Preserved in its original pull-off case and in superb, unsophisticated condition, this is a very charming prayer book engraved by a trio of talented artists that is called "a small masterpiece" (in the "Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts" in 1964) and described in the June, 2013, Christie's catalogue of the Vershbow sale as "one of the most desirable Venetian illustrated books of the 18th century." The plates here were designed by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1682-1754), a painter and illustrator whom Britannica calls "one of the outstanding Venetian artists of the 18th century." Piazzetta was known for his masterful use of chiaroscuro and dynamic compositions--both of which can be seen to great effect in the present work. The engravings were executed by a close collaborator of Piazzetta, Marco Alvise Pitteri (1703-86), whom Selby calls "one of the most able and popular engravers in Venice, being in demand for the reproduction of works of his most distinguished contemporaries." Using his own unique blend of engraving techniques, described by Boorsh as "unprecedented and unimitated," Pitteri is able to translate Piazzetta's animated compositions into a small-scale format, with figures that are beautifully highlighted and seem to glow on the page. But perhaps the most impressive part of this work is the text itself. What at first glance appears to be more than 400 pages of letterpress is in fact entirely engraved--an extraordinary feat of precision and patient craftsmanship by Angela Baroni, daughter of engraver Giuseppe Baroni. It seems likely that Angela learned the craft from her father, but little else is known about her life. Regardless, Angela's talents speak for themselves through this work. As Carol Selby tells us, "Engraving a book like this one is an undertaking indeed. . . . The more than 400 pages must each have been engraved in reverse on copper plates which, being almost impossible to correct, allowed little margin for error. The effect is charming, lively, controlled, but free." Thanks to the original (and very pretty) pull-off case, this little gem has remained in outstanding condition inside and out. The volume has a distinguished provenance, having belonged to collectors known for their taste and discrimination in the acquisition of a range of especially desirable books: John A. Saks (who bought it from Bernard Quaritch in 1981), then Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow, then David Godine, who bought it at the Vershbow sale (for $3,000).

Price: $5,000.00