The Lyonese counterfeit, even rarer than the original Aldine

Petrarca, Francesco (1304-1374).

Le cose vulgari di Messer Francesco Petrarcha. [Lyon, ca. 1502].

Petrarca, Francesco (1304-1374) Le cose vulgari di Messer Francesco Petrarcha. [Lyon, ca. 1502].

8° (145x92 mm). Collation: a-y8, z4, A8. [188] leaves. Complete with fols. u6, x5, y5, and z4 blank. Lyons italic type. Nearly contemporary vellum, over pasteboards. Smooth spine with title inked vertically by an early hand. Edges speckled brownish red, head-edge darkened. A few stains to the covers. A very good copy, the upper margin slightly trimmed, partly affecting the early inked foliation. A few spots, a small stain on fol. l7. An early hand has added in the final leaf an index of Petrarch's poems included in the volume.

Provenance: Alessandro Grassi (seventeenth-century ownership inscription on the recto of the first leaf); purchased by John Barker in Rome in 1671 (ownership inscription on the front pastedown, 'Roma, 15. d'Apr- 1671. di Sig.r Ales. Grassi, incontro il palazzo del Gouernatore'; also in Barker's own hand is the note on the front pastedown 'v. Hor. l. I. Sat. 10', and a passage taken from the Dell'Huomo di lettere by Daniello Bartoli on the recto of the front flyleaf 'Fauorino auuisa [Gell. l. 17 c. 12] che per aguzzare l'ingegno, quando dall'otio di molto tempo ci paia rintuzzato, e ottuso, ottimo mezzo sia prendere à trattare materie inutili, e allegre. P. Bartoli dell'Huomo di lettere, p. 339'); Kenneth Rapoport (ex-libris on the front pastedown).

The exceedingly rare Lyonese counterfeit, in its first issue, of the celebrated Petrarca volgare printed by Aldus in Venice in 1501, and edited for him by the outstanding humanist Pietro Bembo (1470-1547) on the basis of Petrarch's autograph manuscript of the Canzoniere, held at the Vatican Library. This is one of the three earliest of all Aldine counterfeits, alongside those of the Virgil and Juvenal.

The volume was issued entirely anonymously and without date, but the printing might be attributed to Balthasar de Gabiano from Asti (Piedmont) – according to Baudrier the originator of the Lyonese italic type –, or other printers who were active in Lyon, such as Jacques Myt, who, together with the dealer Barthélemy Troth, had immediately perceived the commercial possibilities of Aldus' revolutionary series of easily portable octavo-format volumes, printed in the fine italic type designed for the Venetian printer by the Bolognese punch-cutter Francesco Griffo. Despite the ten-year privilege granted by the Venetian Senate which gave Aldus exclusive right to its use, this font was imitated or counterfeited by certain unscrupulous Lyonese printers who produced a group of pirated editions closely imitating the Aldine format and layout, though obviously omitting the colophon, prefaces, and privileges. On 16 March 1503 Aldus was compelled to print the broadside Monitum in Lugdunenses typographos, a warning against the counterfeited Lyonese editions, in which he explained how to distinguish them from his genuine editions.

In the Lyonese Petrarch the original colophon, Aldus' address to readers, and the errata leaf are all omitted. Further, a few misprints are detectable: the general title on fol. a1r reads Le cose vulgari in place of the original Le cose volgari, the divisional title on fol. a1v is printed as Sonetti et canzone in vita di madonna Laura, and not correctly Sonetti et canzoni in vita di madonna Laura, while the Aldine divisional title Sonetti et canzoni in morte di madonna Laura on fol. n3 became Sonetti et canzoni in morte di madona Laura in the counterfeit. Further, the quire k is signed 'K'.

Two different issues of this Lyonese counterfeit are known; according to David J. Shaw they could have been printed in about 1502 and 1508, respectively. This copy belongs to the first group; an especially noteworthy point about this state is represented by the Provençal verse 'Dreç 7 [i.e., 'et'] rayson es quieu ciant em demori' printed on fol. d6v (Sonetto 70, Lasso me, ch'i non so in qual parte pieghi), which here faithfully adheres to the original, while in the late counterfeit datable to 1508 the same phrase is transformed, or better, translated into French as “Droit et raison es que Ie chante damor”.

Renouard Alde, 308.17; Baudrier VII, 15; Ahmanson-Murphy 1101; De Marinis, Appunti e ricerche bibliografiche, Milano 1940, p. 328, pl. CCLX; H. G. Fletcher, “The 1501 Petrarch”, Idem, New Aldine Studies, San Francisco 1988, pp. 95-99; C. Pulsoni, “Pietro Bembo e la tradizione della canzone 'Drez et razo es qu'ieu ciant em demori'”, Rivista di Letteratura Italiana, 11 (1993), pp. 283-304, esp. 285-290; D. J. Shaw, “The Lyons Counterfeit of Aldus's Italic Type. A New Chronology”, D. V. Reidy (ed.), The Italian Book 1465 1800. Studies presented to Dennis E. Rhodes, London 1993, pp. 117-133; C. Pulsoni, I classici italiani di Aldo Manuzio e le loro contraffazioni lionesi, Roma 2002; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 47.

$ 9.500