Baffo, Giorgio (1694-1768).
Le Poesie di Giorgio Baffo Patrizio Veneto. [London or Venice ?], 1771.
Large 12° (179x111 mm). , 250 pages, lacking the last blank leaf. Nineteenth-century half-calf, over pasteboards. Marbled covers. Spine tooled in gilt, title in gold on red morocco lettering-piece. Marbled flyleaves; edges marbled. A good copy, repair to the outer blank margin of the title-page, slight foxing in places. A few leaves browned.
Rare first edition, published posthumously and clandestinely, probably in Venice or, more likely, in London, as argued by some scholars, through the efforts of Consul Joseph Smith (1682-1770), a collector of paintings and great lover of Venetian literary culture.
A second edition was issued in London in 1789, and the complete, four-volume edition of all Baffo's works (Raccolta universale delle opere) appeared from the fictional place of Cosmopolis (Venice or London) in 1789 at the expense of the Earl of Pembroke, a great admirer of the poet. However, some of the poems, which had enjoyed anonymous manuscript circulation while the author was still alive, have remained unpublished until today. Baffo refused a large sum offered to him by some British travellers who wanted to see his compositions printed, and it seems that in the last years of his life he also destroyed many of his papers.
Born on 1 August 1694 into a family of the small Venetian aristocracy, Giorgio (Zorzi) Baffo completed his studies in law and embarked upon the obvious professional career to which a man of his rank was entitled. Following assignments in Peschiera and Asola, he entered the Quarantie (Venice's Supreme Court) in 1732, particularly the Criminal Quarantia. He used to walk in town wearing a toga and would recite his poems in cafés and shops, where his company was very much appreciated. He began to write poetry at a young age, in the name of a blasphemous and sacrilegious desecration and with a spirit of vengeance against the conformism and social rigor he was forced to endure in his position as a public official. His poetic motto, in stark contrast to the boredom of Arcadian poetry, was “Cazzo ghe vol” (“Fuck is needed”).
Apollinaire inserted a section from Baffo's poems in the first volume of his L'oeuvre libertine des conteurs italiens (Paris 1910), naming him “le plus grand poète priapique qui ait jamais existé et en même temps l'un des poètes les plus lyriques du XVIIIme siècle”.
J. Gay, Bibliographie des ouvrages relatifs à l'amour, aux femmes et au mariage et des livres facétieux, pantagruéliques, Lille 1899, III, p. 777; Gamba, Serie degli scritti impressi in dialetto veneziano, pp. 166-168; F. Govi, I classici che hanno fatto l'Italia, Milano 2010, no. 255; ; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 245.