Manzoni, Alessandro (1785-1873).
Inni sacri di Alessandro Manzoni. Milano, Pietro Agnelli, 1815. Milano,
8° (200x127 mm). 37,  pages. Complete with the last blank leaf. Modern green half-morocco, marbled covers. A verygood, uncut copy. Light occasional foxing.
Provenance: Giorgio Fanan (engraved ex libris on the front pastedown).
The very rare first edition of one of the earliest works published by the outstanding Milanese writer and poet, a collection of five ‘Sacred Hymns' testifying to Manzoni's renewal of the Catholic faith. Manzoni was the grandson of progressive jurist Cesare Beccaria, the celebrated author of Dei delitti e delle pene. Educated in a liberal and laic milieu fostered by French Enlightenment thought, in 1808 he married Henriette Blondel (1791-1833), the daughter of a Genevan banker who was originally a Calvinist. Soon after the marriage, she converted to Roman Catholicism, and her conversion was favoured and prepared by the Jansenist priest from Genoa Eustachio Degola (1761-1826). Manzoni was deeply struck by Henriette's choice, and his spiritual crisis was accelerated by the reading of Gospels, Augustine, and numerous other religious books, as well as the frequent discussions with father Degola. Two years later, in 1810, here discovered and confirmed his Catholic faith, becoming one of the most important representatives of Italian Catholic liberalism. The conversion also marked the beginning of a new phase in Manzoni's literary production, of which the Inni Sacri offers especially striking evidence, revealing his road to spiritual redemption as well as the depth of his religious beliefs, permeated by notions of charity and human piety. Originally conceived as a cycle of twelve hymns celebrating the chief feasts of the Catholic liturgical year, only five hymns were actually composed by Manzoni: La Resurrezione, Il nome di Maria, Il Natale, La Passione and the famous and highly appreciated La Pentecoste. “It was the discovery of such humana caritas and pietas, together with the desire that the civitas Dei finally triumph on earth that inspired the Hymns and Manzoni's other poetic works” (E.G. Caserta, “Manzoni's Sacred Hymns”, p. 527).
Parenti, Rarità bibliografiche dell'Ottocento, I, pp. 167-168; Vismara, 196; E. G. Caserta, “Manzoni Sacred Hymns”, Italica, 50 (1973), pp. 524-550.