Wotton’s Binder C, for the enigmatic banker Girolamo Fioravanti

Piccolomini, Alessandro (1508-1578).

De la institutione di tutta la vita de l’huomo nato nobile, e in citta libera, libri .X. in lingua toscana... dove e Peripateticamente e Platonicamente, intorno à le cose de l’ethica, Iconomica, e parte de la Politica, e raccolta la somma di quanto principalmente può concorrere à la perfetta e felice vita di quello.... [Venice], 1543.

Piccolomini, Alessandro (1508-1578) De la institutione di tutta la vita de l’huomo nato nobile, e in citta libera, libri .X. in lingua toscana... dove e Peripateticamente e Platonicamente, intorno à le cose de l’ethica, Iconomica, e parte de la Politica, e raccolta la somma di quanto principalmente può concorrere à la perfetta e felice vita di quello.... [Venice], 1543.

8° (156x97 mm). Collation: *8, A-Z8, AA-LL8. [8], 271, [1] leaves. Complete with the last leaf blank. Roman and italic type. Blank spaces for capitals, with printed guide letters. Exquisite contemporary Parisian binding executed by Wotton Binder C (fl. ca. 1540s-1550s). Calf over pasteboards. Covers within border formed by two gilt fillets and painted yellow, interlaced strapwork painted blue and yellow with a pointillé field, decorated with hatched foliate tools. Central monograms combining the different letters of the name 'Hieronimus' on both covers, front cover lettered at the head, 'HIERONIMVS FIORAVENTIVS' (the letters alternate along two lines). Smooth spine divided into compartments by fillets and decorated with hatched and solid tools. Gilt edges. Binding lightly rubbed, with minor loss of paint, splitting on joints, spine ends and corners skilfully restored; ties lacking. A fine copy, light spotting and foxing in places; a few leaves uniformly browned.

Provenance: Girolamo Fioravanti (the name 'Hieronimus Fioraventius' and monogram lettered on the covers); Bartolomeo Fioravanti (ownership inscription on the title-page 'Di Bartolomeo Fieravanti'); 'Paulo Tolomei' (ownership inscription 'n.° 6. Del Cau.re Paulo Tolomei', on the recto of the front flyleaf; ex-libris of the Tolomei family from Siena, with the motto 'qvae tegit ornat', on the verso of the same leaf); the Roman book collector Franco Moroli; the great collector of French bindings Edmée Maus (1905-1971; small ex-libris on the front pastedown); Michel Wittock (ex-libris on the front pastedown; see The Michel Wittock Collection. Part I: Important Renaissance Bookbindings, Christie's London 2004, lot 90).

The second edition of this philosophical work, first issued in Venice in 1542 by Girolamo Scoto, and presented here in a deluxe Parisian polychrome binding. As the title-page states, the work was composed by Piccolomini 'a beneficio del Nobilissimo fanciullino Alessandro Colombini, pochi giorni innanzi nato; figlio de la Immortale mad. Laudomia Forteguerri. Al quale (havendolo egli Sostenuto à battesimo) secondo l'usanza dei Compari, de i detti Libri fa dono'.

Although an Italian bindery has been suggested for this volume by De Marinis, the binding was doubtless made in Paris. It was likely executed by the third binder in that city who worked for the great collector of fine bindings known as the 'English Grolier' Thomas Wotton (1521-1586/87), of Boughton Malherbe. This skilled craftsman – designated 'Wotton Binder C' by Mirjam Foot after his chief client – was active in Paris in the 1540s and 1550s, and his fine bindings, tooled with elaborate strapwork designs, were commissioned by other great collectors of the age, such as Alfonso II, Duke of Este; Henry II, King of France; Markus Fugger; Paolo Giordano Orsini; and the quite mysterious Italian nobleman Girolamo Fioravanti, whose name 'Hieronimus Fioraventius' is lettered in gilt on the upper cover of the volume presented here.

A binding realised for the same owner is recorded by Geoffrey D. Hobson in Maioli, Canevari and others. Hobson states that this copy of Piccolomini's work, bound for Fioravanti, was shown at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris in 1926, at the occasion of the exhibition devoted to Italian books: “A binding with the monogram of Hieronius [sic] Fioravanti was shown at the Exposition du Livre Italien (No. 920; Paris, 1926). The monogram closely resembles the complex monogram of Maiolus, and is possibly the work of the same designer. The binding was certainly French work of about 1550-60. I have not been able to trace the owner, but Girolamo Fioravanti is mentioned as a banker at Paris in 1563 and 1570”. (Maioli, Canevari and others, p. 48, note 2). Nixon had noted the resemblance of Fioravanti's complex monogram with that used by Thomas Mahieu, secretary to Queen Catherine de Medicis, stamped on the covers of the copy of 1543 Johannes Stobaeus (Zurich 1543) held by the Pierpont Morgan Library, which “has long been recognised as belonging to Thomas Mahieu, although some confusion has been caused by the fact that an Italian called Hieronymus Fioraventus in an occasion made use of a very similar monogram” (H. Nixon, Sixteenth-century Gold-Tooled Booksbindings in the Pierpont Morgan Library, p. 77)

Two other bindings for Fioravanti can be added to the present example: one on the Heures à l'usage de Rome printed in Paris in about 1524 (De Marinis, Legatura artistica in Italia, no. 1214), and another on the four-volume Opera musicalia by G. Le Heurteur, which was likewise published in Paris in 1535-1550 (ibid., no. 1218).

STC Italian, 513; E. Picot. “Les Italiens and France dans le XVI siècle”, Bulletin Italien, Bordeaux 1902, p. 8; Exposition du livre italien. Mai-Juin 1926. Catalogue des manuscrits, livres imprimés, reliures, Paris 1926; G. D. Hobson, Maioli, Canevari and others, p. 48, note 2; De Marinis, Appunti e ricerche bibliografiche, Milano 1940, p. 128 and pl. CCXLIIA; De Marinis, Legatura artistica in Italia, I, no. 1216, pl. CXCVII (attributing the execution to a Tuscan or Florentine binder); Cinc siècles d'ornements, no. 25; H. Nixon, Sixteenth-century Gold-Tooled Booksbindings in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York 1971, p. 77; M. Foot, The Henry Davis Gift. I, Appendix V. Bindings by Wotton's binder III (Wotton's binder C) for other collectors, no. 14 (this copy); Hobson-Culot, Italian and French 16th-Century Bookbindings, no. 44; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 100.

$ 42.000
Info