Poetry, fortune, and gambling. The Spello-Game.

[Spello?].

Vago e diletteuole giuoco della diuitia di Spello. Illustrated manuscript on paper, in Italian. Spello (?), end of the seventeenth century- beginning of the eighteenth century.

[Spello?] Vago e diletteuole giuoco della diuitia di Spello. Illustrated manuscript on paper, in Italian. Spello (?), end of the seventeenth century- beginning of the eighteenth century.

273x205 mm. 34 leaves. Complete. Four quires. Collation: 18 (the first blank leaf used as front pastedown), 2-38, 410. Blanks: 1/1, 1/2r, 4/10. Contemporary inked foliation in the upper outer corner (used here). Written in brown ink in a unique hand, in neat cursive. Twelve vignettes drawn in brown ink; twelve full-page ink drawings within rectangular frames, partly coloured in brown, red, and greenish wash; some details in red- and brown-pencil heightening. Contemporary cardboards, smooth spine. Covers rather abraded and stained, corners and spine worn. In a marbled cardboard box, leather spine with title and the note 'M.S. XVII SEC.' lettered in gilt. An unsophisticated manuscript, some stains and spots, numerous traces of use. On the recto of the first leaf the note 'Perugia', in a different early hand.

Illustration

The first section of the manuscript contains twelve vignettes, drawn in brown ink in popular style, depicting views and monuments of Spello and supplemented with captions, mainly in Italian vernacular. The subjects are as follows, as indicated by the inked captions:

fol. 3r: 'Colonia Iulia di Spello detta di Giulio Cesare' (below a Latin note 'Vel Hijspellum fuit prima Ciuitas per Ianum, id est Noè, Vmbria aedificata Vel Gornualia Hijspellum vocaretur – cornu Vallis per translationem');

fol. 3v: 'Antica Porta Venere. descritta con tre porte, e due Torri dalle bande, dall'Architetto Sebastiano Serlio Bolognese nel loco 3.° dell'Antichità';

fol. 4r: 'Carcere di Orlando Vicino alla Porta Venere di Spello, come ne scriue il detto Serlio Bolognese nelle sue Antichità';

fol. 4v: 'Misura di Orlando Nipote di Carlo Magno Imperatore, come nelle Mura di Spello nella publica Strada, che ua uerso Assisi';

fol. 5r: 'Antico Campo da Combattere Nel Territorio di Spello uicino la Via Flaminia, della cui antica virtù bellica ne fa anco mentione Silio Italico libro terzo Belli Punici';

fol. 5v: 'Antico Vocabolo Poeta al Colle uicino à Spello detto da Propertio Poeta, doue egli aueua la sua Villa Suburbium Propertij';

fol. 6r: 'Bagno del Fiume Clitunno dato à Spellani da Augusto Imperatore Oggi detto le Vene di Pissiniano';

fol. 6v: 'Nobile Antico Mausoleo uicino Spello circondato de Fenestrelle, doue Erano i lumi perpetui, oggi fatto Tempio alla Virgine Maria';

fol. 7r: 'Cerere Dea Rappresentata in Spello Con due Cornucopij per dimostrare l'abbondanza dell'antico Spello';

fol. 7v: 'Antiche tre Statue Gradi Consolari Poste nella uia Flaminia sopra la Porta principale di Spello';

fol. 8r: 'Antico Anfiteatro di Spello Colonia amplissima de Romani posto in mezzo alla gran Valle Spoletana, doue conueniuano tutti i Popoli dell'Umbria ai Spettacoli';

fol. 8v: 'Portone ò Arco uicino à Spello nella publica strada che ua uerso Assisi, doue con bel gioco uedrai se sei legitimo, ò no'.

The second part of the manuscripts contains twelve full-page drawings, in the same technique and style, depicting poets originating from Spello, with the indication of their names. The subjects are as follows:

fol. 9r: 'Il Poeta Mauro'

fol. 11r: 'Il Poeta Propertio'

fol. 13r: 'Il Poeta Vetruuio'

fol. 15r: 'Il Poeta Olorino'

fol. 21r: 'Il Poeta Dandola'

fol. 23r: 'Il Poeta Angelini'

fol. 25r: 'Il Poeta Gentile'

fol. 27r: 'Il Poeta Barbagnacca'

fol. 29r: 'Il Poeta Cecchi'

fol. 31r: 'Il Poeta Marcorelli'

fol. 17r: ‘Il Poeta Sforza'

fol. 19r: ‘Il Poeta Venantio'

An unrecorded, and extremely interesting variant of fortune-telling book, a genre that enjoyed wide popularity during the Renaissance. Manuscript versions of this game are all of the greatest rarity, owing to the fragility of supports and their extensive use at social occasions.

This manuscript is an adaption of the structure and rules of the game as developed in the Libro della Ventura of Lorenzo Spirito (ca. 1425-1496; see nos. 42 and 202) from Perugia, the first fortune-telling book produced in Italy which served as a source of inspiration for numerous later compilations, in print as well as in manuscript. Here the readers wandered not among celestial spheres, prophets, kings or philosophers, but rather among the history and cultural tradition of Spello in Umbria, the ancient Roman colony known as Hispellum. In fact, the anonymous author who produced – according to the title inscribed on the verso of the second leaf – this Vago, e diletteuole giuoco della diuitia di Spello sought to celebrate the ancient monuments of Spello, as well as the numerous poets born in this small Italian city over the centuries, such as the illustrious Propertius.

The game rules are explained in the preliminary pages. The players were to choose one of the questions listed ('Partiti da Proponersi dal Signore') pertaining to health, wealth, career, business, travel, and happiness in love and marriage. They then threw two dice and proceeded to locate the cast result in the following twelve tables of diagrams, each bearing, at the centre, a drawn vignette showing views or monuments of Spello. The diagrams would guide players to twelve sections of quatrains which provided answers to the chosen questions, each of them introduced by a full-page drawing depicting a poet born in Spello. Remarkably, the Spello-game – which doubles as a gambling game – also involves a stake with pecuniary value (called in the preliminary instructions Tesoro, and managed by a Tesoriere, or banker): in the quatrains the prediction of future events is therefore supplemented, in the final verse, with the notice of an amount to be payed or cashed out.

The last drawings portray poets active in the seventeenth century, a feature that allows us to date the execution of the present manuscript to the end of that century. In particular, the drawing on the recto of fol. 31 depicts the poet and musician Giovanni Francesco Marcorelli, who was an organist in the Collegiata Santa Maria at Spello between 1627-1634, and then active as maestro di cappella in the oratory of the Church of Santa Maria Nova in Rome. He also composed some oratories – in the present manuscript he is even shown writing a musical score – and he died around 1656.

T. De Marinis, “Le illustrazioni per il Libro de le Sorte di Lorenzo Spirito”, Idem, Appunti e ricerche bibliografiche, Milano 1940, pp. 67-83; M. Sensi – L. Sensi, “Fragmenta hispellatis historiae. 1. Istoria della terra di Spello, di Fausto Gentile Donnola”, Bollettino storico della città di Foligno, 8 (1984), pp. 7-136; A. Tini Brunozzi, “Appunti sulla toponomastica spellana”, ibid., 19 (1995), pp. 299-329; L. Nadin, Carte da gioco e letteratura fra Quattro e Ottocento, Lucca 1997; G. Proietti Bocchino, Spello città d'arte, Perugia 2011; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 220.

$ 18.000
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