Tomai, Tomaso (d. 1593).
Historia di Ravenna... Diuisa in quattro parti. Nella quale oltre le cose notabili di questa Repubblica; breuemente si trattano principalissime guerre di diuerse nationi.... Ravenna, Francesco Tebaldini, 1580.
4° (196x127 mm). Collation: †4, 2†2, A-Z4, Aa-Dd4. , 214 [i.e. 216] pages. Roman and italic type. Woodcut arms of Pope Gregory XIII on the title-page. Woodcut decorated initials. In its original limp vellum binding, covers decorated with ink drawings by Cesare Vecellio (1521-1601): the upper cover depicts the church of Santa Maria della Rotonda in Ravenna, the lower one a part of the city ramparts. Traces of two pairs of ties on the fore-edge. Smooth spine decorated in ink with stylised acanthus leaves; painted edges, on the fore-edge a view of the city, and the inscription 'RAVENA'. Very good copy, lightly stained and spotted, more prominently on the leaves of quires M and T; pale waterstain at the blank outer margin of the first leaves.
Provenance: Odorico Pillone (1503-1593); Sir Thomas Brooke of Armitage Bridge House, Huddersfield (1830-1908; ex-libris on the front pastedown; see A Catalogue of the Manuscripts and Printed Books Collected by Thomas Brooke, F.S.A. Vol. II. M-Z, London 1891, no. 158, “Tomai, Tommaso. Historia di Ravenna. In Ravenna, 1580. 4to. v.”); from Humprey Brooke to Pierre Berès (P. Berès, Un group de livres Pillone. Catalogue no. 67, Paris 1957, no. 158; label on the front pastedown 'Livre no. 158 de la Bibliothèque Pillone Pierre Berès'); Sotheby's London, 25 May 2000, lot 97.
A splendid copy of the second edition of this rare work on the history of Ravenna, owned by the well-known bibliophile from Belluno, Odorico Pillone (1503-1593). In 1580, Pillone famously commissioned the painter Cesare Vecellio (1521-1601; see nos. 159 and 169) to decorate, with drawings or painted fore-edges, the bindings of 172 volumes preserved in his Villa Casteldardo in the Dolomites, in which he had established his Studio. Vecellio, a cousin and pupil of Titian who worked in his atelier until his death, thus decorated the fore-edges of the majority of Pillone's library, depicting characters and landscapes relating to the subject of each book. Vecellio is also famously the author of Habiti antichi et moderni, the well-known illustrated history of clothing, in which he mentions the library and other collections of the Pillone family, as well as their exquisite hospitality in their Villa.
The present example represents one of only twenty one volumes that Vecellio adorned with drawings on the covers, and one of the very few with both decorated vellum covers and painted fore-edges: the rich imagery features views of a fairy-tale Ravenna with Santa Maria della Rotunda and a fortification artfully drawn in a Mannerist style. The inked inscription 'RAVENA' embellishes the edge.
In 1874, a Pillone descendant sold the entire collection to English bibliophile Thomas Brooke for 20,000 lire. After the latter's death, Humphrey Brooke, the heir of the collection, entrusted the sale to Alan Keen, who compiled a catalogue of its contents (The Venetian Library Collected at the Close of the Sixteenth Century by Doctor Odorico Pillone and the Sides and Edges Painted by Cesare Vecellio, London 1951). The collection was then purchased in 1957 by the French bookseller Pierre Berès, who immediately put it on sale, publishing a catalogue with the help of Italian art historian Lionello Venturi. The collection, united until then, was thus dispersed.
P. Berès, Bibliothèque Pillone, Paris, 1957, no. 158; T. Conte (ed.), Cesare Vecellio, 1521 c.-1601, Belluno 2001; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 157.