An incunable counterfeit

Petrus Ravennas (Pietro Tomai, ca. 1448-1508/09).

Phoenix seu De artificiosa memoria. Add: Verses by Antoninus Aegidius Canisius, Johannes Antonius Plebanus, Marcus Picardus, Hieronymus Butigella and C. Lycinius. [Bologna, Bazalerius de Bazaleriis, about 1492].

Petrus Ravennas (Pietro Tomai, ca. 1448-1508/09) Phoenix seu De artificiosa memoria. Add: Verses by Antoninus Aegidius Canisius, Johannes Antonius Plebanus, Marcus Picardus, Hieronymus Butigella and C. Lycinius. [Bologna, Bazalerius de Bazaleriis, about 1492].

4° (201x141 mm). Collation: a-d4. [16] leaves. Text in one column, 28 lines. Type: 114R. Blank space for capital, with printed guide letter, on fol. b3r. Contemporary cardboard, sewing visible on the spine. A very good copy in pristine condition. Some small stains and fingermarks. Α portion of the upper outer blank margin lost, probably due to rodent damage. Marginal annotations in Greek and Latin (some slightly trimmed) in two early hands, the earliest of which added on fol. a1r the author's name, 'Thomasij', and 'Petri Thomasij Eq.s ac IC Rauenn. Προλεγομενου' on the upper margin of fol. b2r. Some early underlining; a rough drawing in ink of a human body on the margin of fol. c2r. The small letter 'R' inked on the upper cover.

The extremely rare Bolognese counterfeit of the Phoenix seu De artificiosa memoria by Petrus de Ravenna, one of the principal works on mnemonic art produced during the Renaissance.

This counterfeit is even rarer than the first edition published in Venice in January 1491/92 by Bernardinus de Choris (Goff P-531). The volume was likely printed a few months after the appearance of the Venetian edition. The printing has been attributed to Bazalerius de Bazaleriis, Caligola's brother and a native of Bologna who was active there between 1489 and 1493 and who had already published another mnemonic treatise in October 1489, the Roseum memoriale by Petrus de Rosenhaym (see no. 24). This nearly contemporary counterfeited edition closely copies both the text (with a few slight variations in orthography, abbreviations, and signature marks) and the layout of the Venetian edition, including the colophon bearing the original imprint and the name of Bernardinus de Choris (‘Bernardinus de Choris de Cremo[n]a impressor delectus impressit Venetias Die. x. ianuarii. m.ccccxci'). The only distinguishing feature concerns the large de Choris' device on the verso of the last leaf, here lacking. “Like most piracies of this kind, it presumably followed the archetype at no long interval. Type 114R. was employed continuously from 1489 onwards by both brothers De Bazaleriis, but its use in bulk seems at the time to have been confined to Bazalerius, to whom the present tract is accordingly assigned” (BMC VII, 1151).

Petrus de Ravenna, also known as Pietro Tomai or Tommai, lectured on canonical law at the Universities of Bologna, Ferrara, Pavia, and Padua. His Phoenix, which owes considerable debt to Ciceronian theory, significantly contributed to increasing European interest in the ars memorativa and greatly influenced such philosophers as Giordano Bruno and Agrippa von Nettesheim.

The small treatise was reprinted several times during the sixteenth century, and a translation into English, by Robert Copland, appeared around 1545.

According to ISTC, there are only three copies of the Bolognese counterfeit in United States (Harvard Law School Library, Library of Congress, and The Newberry Library).

GW M32696; BMC VII, 1151; IGI 7667; Goff P-532; P. Rossi, Logic and the Art of Memory. The Quest for a Universal Language, Chicago 2000, pp. 20-25; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 33.

$ 28.000
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