A bibliographical puzzle

Castiglione, Baldassarre (1478-1529).

Il libro del cortegiano del conte Baldesar Gastiglione [sic]. Florence, Benedetto Giunti, 1531 [probably Rome, 1537].

Castiglione, Baldassarre (1478-1529) Il libro del cortegiano del conte Baldesar Gastiglione [sic]. Florence, Benedetto Giunti, 1531 [probably Rome, 1537].

8° (155x96 mm). Collation: A-Z8, AA-BB8. 200 leaves. Roman and italic type. Woodcut printer's device on the title-page and on the verso of the last leaf. Blank spaces for capitals, with printed guide letters. Contemporary limp vellum with yapp edges. Traces of ties, title inked by a contemporary hand on the tail-edge. Smooth spine, with inked title. A good copy, title-page slightly soiled, foxing in places; a few spots, stains, and fingermarks. Loss to the upper outer corner of the front flyleaf. minor wear to the upper board-edge and joint, a few stains. The price notice '2:10' inked by an early hand on the title-page. Some maniculae, and reading marks. Pencilled bibliographical annotations on the pastedowns and flyleaves.

Provenance: 'Joanne Caligario' (ownership inscription on fol. A2r, possibly Giovanni Andrea Calegari (1527-1613), Bishop of Bertinoro, and secretary to the Nuncio in Poland).

The extremely rare Cortegiano bearing the colophon 'In Firenze per Benedetto Giunti MDXXXI', and the misspelling of Castiglione – printed as 'Gastiglione' – on the title-page: a fascinating case study for bibliographers.

The first edition of the famous treatise by Castiglione was published by the Aldine press in April 1528 (see no. 80). The first Giuntina appeared a few months later, in October. Second and third editions were issued by the printing house run by the heirs of Filippo Giunta – his sons Bernardo, Giovanni, Benedetto, and Francesco – in April 1529 and April 1531, respectively. The Giuntina press subsequently “entered a severe decline [...] following the fall of the Republic, although the firm continued in its bookselling and stationery business” (Pettas, The Giunti of Florence, p. 43). Benedetto Giunti was admitted to the stationer's guild on 15 October 1532, and his activity as an independent printer started officially in 1533, after the return of political stability in Florence. Five books were published in 1533; however, Benedetto's activity ceased until 1536/37, mainly owing to financial difficulties.

The present edition is the only known publication pre-dating 1533 to feature his name as a printer, although it is generally believed that the Cortegiano might have been printed – as Camerini has suggested – in 1537, possibly in Rome. The colophon bears the fictitious imprint 'Florence 1531', suggesting an intent to show the Giunti press was still active in the city, despite the unfavourable political situation. This edition is apparently a reprint of the aforementioned Cortegiano, actually printed in 1531 by the heirs of Filippo Giunta, along with some relevant variants such as the misspelling of Castiglione as 'Gastiglione' on the title-page, and the use of a different printer's device. Further, there are two groups of four leaves in which the setting of type is different, including on the title-page and colophon: fols. A1, A4, A5, A8, 2B2, 2B3, 2B7, and 2B8.

The paper used throughout is watermarked with an anchor inscribed within a circle, a watermark frequently found in paper from Veneto.

In his correspondence with the British Library (which also preserves a copy of the rare Cortegiano bearing the colophon 'In Firenze per Benedetto Giunti MDXXXI'), Conor Fahy suggested this mysterious edition might have been printed in Venice, where Benedetto's brother, Bernardo Giunti had moved in 1533/34. In 1537, an edition of the Cortegiano was 'really' printed in Florence, in which the misprint 'Gastiglione' on the title-page is corrected.

Camerini Annali 236; Pettas 235-236; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 87.

$ 8.800