Caroso, Fabrizio (1526/31- after 1605).
Il Ballarino... diuiso in due trattati; nel primo de’ quali si dimostra la diuersita de i nomi, che si danno a gli atti, & mouimenti, che interuengono ne i balli... Nel secondo s’insegnano diuerse sorti di balli, & balletti... Ornato di molte figure.... Venice, Francesco Ziletti, 1581.
Two parts in one volume, 4° (233x172 mm). Collation: A-F4; a-z4, Aa-Zz4, †4. , 16; 184,  leaves. Roman and italic type. Woodcut printer's device on the title-page, and repeated on the separate title-page introducing the Trattato secondo. Engraved author's portrait on fol. B4v, within a border including Caroso's coat of arms, and signed by Giacomo Franco (1550-1620). Twenty-two full-page copper engravings in the text (partially repeated), within ornamental borders and executed likewise by Franco. Woodcut decorated initials, head- and tailpieces. Printed music and lute tablature. Red morocco signed by Georges Trautz-Bauzonnet (1808-1879), over pasteboards. Covers within triple gilt fillets. Spine with five raised bands, compartments richly tooled, title lettered in gold. Marbled pastedowns, inside dentelles, gilt edges. A very fine copy. Slightly browned in places.
First edition – dedicated to Bianca Capello – of the most important sixteenth-century Italian treatise on dancing, and one of the most beautiful dance books ever produced, and presented here in the issue bearing Ziletti's device on the title-page.
Born in Sermoneta, Fabrizio Caroso was a protégé of Felice Maria Orsini Caetani (d. 1596), Duchess of Sermoneta. He spent most of his life in Rome, where he was active as a dancer, 'inventore di scene', dance master, musician, and composer. He was the last proponent of Renaissance Italian dance style, opposing the French danse noble, which had begun to spread across Europe in the last decades of the Cinquecento. Caroso was not only a practicing dancer, but also a refined theorist, and his Ballarino – i.e., The Dancer – provides a vast amount of detail about the dances of the period.
The first part of this magnificent work illustrates fifty-five rules for steps, while the more lengthy second part describes seventy-six separate dances, including, among others, the alta, bassa, balletto, pavan, cascarda, saltarello, and spagnoletta. Each dance is supplemented with a poem in praise of a different woman – mostly members of Roman noble families – and includes musical notation for lute. Each of the dances under discussion is designed for one or more pairs of dancers. Throughout the work, Caroso celebrates the concept of 'nobil vivere', and the figure of the well-educated dancer-courtesan.
The work is especially praised for its illustrative apparatus, which includes twenty-two full-page copper engravings executed by the renowned artist Giacomo Franco. These illustrations depict the positions of dancers at the beginning of each of the various dances and cumulatively represent a precious iconographic source not only for the history of dance, but also that of fashion as well as culture more generally.
In 1600 Caroso published an expanded edition of his manual, entitled differently La nobiltà di dame, which likewise enjoyed wide popularity, and was reprinted in 1605 and 1640.
Adams C-755; Mortimer Italian, 106; RISM C, p. 1233; Gregory & Bartlett I, 53; Lipperheide 3055; P. D. Magriel, A Bibliography of Dancing, pp. 42-44; A. Feves, “Fabrizio Caroso and the Changing Shape of the Dance, 1550-1600”, Danse Chronicle, 14 (1991), pp. 159-174; P. Gargiulo (ed.), La danza italiana tra Cinque e Seicento. Studi per Fabrizio Caroso da Sermoneta, Roma 1997; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 158.