Bruno, Giordano (1548-1600).
Figuratio Aristotelici Physici auditus... Ad illustrem admodum atque reuerendum dominum D. Petrum Dalbenium Abbatem Belleuillae. Paris, Pierre Chevillot, 1586. [bound with:] Idem. Dialogi duo de Fabricii Mordentis Salernitani propè diuina adinuentione ad perfectam cosmimetriae praxim. Paris, Pierre Chevillot, 1586.
Two works in one volume, 8° (163x101 mm). I. Collation: ã8, A-E8, F2, 2A-B8. , 14,  leaves. The copy is incomplete, and contains the preliminary quire ã8 (title-page, dedicatory epistle to Pietro Dalbene, Iordanus Brunus Nolanus de Quindecim imaginibus auditionis physicae figuratiuis, the woodcut on fol. ã6v, and the Divisio Universae Philosophiae), and 2A-2B8 (Iordani Bruni Nolani De Physico auditu Aristotelis liber quintus ad septimum & octauum illius, including 2B7 2B8 blanks). Lacking are quires A-E8, and F2, with the text of Iordani Brun. Nolani De physico auditu, Arist. propositum. De intentione, & ordine octo librorum Physicae auscultationis: item de eiusdem intentionis & ordinis ratione. Roman and italic type. Woodcut printer's device on the title-page. One half-page woodcut on black ground on the verso of fol. ã6. Woodcut headpieces and decorated initials. II. Collation: ã4, A-B8, C4. , 20 leaves. Roman and italic type. Woodcut printer's device on the title-page. Three half-page woodcuts on black ground on fols. B2r, B6r, and C4r, illustrating the compass. Woodcut headpieces and decorated initials, on seven lines the one on fol. ã2r. Contemporary vellum over pasteboards. Smooth spine, title inked vertically. A volume in good condition. Leaves of the first edition browned, and waterstained; title-page with old repairs (not affecting the text) and minor loss to the blank lower corner; the outer blank margin of fol. A2 damaged, without any loss. In the second bound edition pale waterstains, slight foxing. Some bibliographical notes on the verso of the front flyleaf, in different hands.
Provenance: Jean Viardot (see Binoche et Giquello, Paris, Livres précieux – Bibliothèque Jean Viardot, 1 June 2016, lot 22).
This exceptional, miscellaneous volume – presented in its contemporary binding – contains two of the scarcest works by the celebrated Italian philosopher, the Figuratio Aristotelici Physici auditus, and the Dialogi duo de Fabricii Mordentis Salernitani. No copy of the Figuratio has come up at auction since the early nineteenth century (see below), while the Dialogi duo has never appeared on the market before this copy.
The Figuratio Aristotelici Physici auditus deals with Aristotle's physics and was likely published by Bruno at the beginning of 1586, during his second stay in Paris (for his first Parisian stay see no. 154). Only four copies of the Figuratio are recorded in the institutional libraries: those preserved in the National Library in Turin, the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC; the copies in Paris and in Turin are both imperfect.
The copy of the Figuratio presented here contains on fol. ã6v the famous woodcut designed by Bruno himself. This illustration enlists a curious mnemonic iconography based on ten loci to depict – albeit in rough form – the geometrical schema of a human body. The design reveals the influence of the famed homo ad quadratum by Vitruvius, along with other contemporary pictorial models, an iconographic tradition originally re-interpreted by Bruno, transforming the different parts of the body into triangles, squares, and other geometrical shapes.
The second work bound here is even rarer: in fact, the Dialogi duo de Fabricii Mordentis Salernitani prope diuina adinuentione is known by only two copies, one in the National Library in Turin and the other at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris – in both cases the work is bound, like the present miscellany, with a copy of the Figuratio Aristotelici Physici auditus.
In the Dialogi duo, which appeared in Paris in April 1586, Bruno praises the proportional eight-pointed compass invented by Salerno mathematician Fabrizio Mordente (1532–ca. 1608), who had provided a detailed description of his invention in his Compasso con altri istromenti mathematici, published in Antwerp in 1584. Mordente's instrument is considered to be a forerunner of Galileo Galilei's proportional compass. “Bruno knew Mordente who was in Paris at the time and was immensely struck by the compass. He mentioned it to his patient listener, the librarian of the Abbey of St. Victor [i.e., Guillaume Cotin], describing Mordente as the “god of geometricians”, and adding that, since Mordente did not know Latin, he, Bruno, would publish his invention in Latin for him. This he did with a vengeance, for he wrote four dialogues about Mordente's compass, in which he patronised the inventor for not having seen the full meaning of his divine invention, as he, Bruno, has seen it. We know from Jacopo Corbinelli's letters that Mordente, not unnaturally, “fell into a brutal rage”; that he bought up the edition of the dialogues and destroyed them (missing the two copies, one complete, the other incomplete, which have reached us” (F. A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, p. 295).
Bruno's work is divided into two parts entitled Mordentius and De Mordenti circino, respectively, and supplemented with two woodcuts executed by Bruno himself. The first woodcut shows the application of the operations of Mordente's compass (fol. B2r) and is known in two variants. In the first state there are three capital letters 'BIH' well visible on the left margin, whereas in the second state these letters were erased by Bruno, and the letter 'C' was added on the lower side. The copy presented here bears – like the copy of the National Library in Turin – the woodcut in its first state, before the correction made by Bruno, who was in effect an 'improvisational' designer and block cutter. A second woodcut illustrating Mordente's instrument is printed on fol. B6r.
The last leaves of the edition contain a short text bearing the title Insomnium, and includes on fol. C4r a third woodcut designed by Bruno, the content of which is particularly enigmatic and may relate to an oneiric vision. It is the most mysterious image of Giordano Bruno's entire Corpus iconographicum.
On the verso of the front flyleaf is an annotation in an anonymous French hand: “je n'ay trouvé les ouvrages contenus dans le volume dans aucun des catalogues qui donnent l'enumeration des oeuvres de Jordanus Brunus, ce qui doit sans doute en augmenter le prix car tous les ouvrages de cet autheur sont fort recherchés, et rares”. The 1815 sale catalogue of the library collected by Justin MacCarthy Reagh lists eight editions by Bruno, including the Figuratio Aristotelici Physici auditus. The MacCarthy Figuratio – now in the Bodleian Library – was sold for the sum of 56 francs, the highest price paid in this sale for an edition by the great Nola philosopher.
I. Salvestrini, Bibliografia, no. 153; Sturlese, Bibliografia, no. 13; M. Gabrieli, Giordano Bruno. Corpus Iconographicum, Milano 2001, pp. 281-294; M. Matteoli, “La Figuratio Aristotelici Physici auditus di Giordano Bruno: luoghi e immagini per una 'nuova' Fisica di Aristotele”, Rinascimento, 55 (2015), pp. 331-362. II. Salvestrini, Bibliografia, no. 155; Sturlese, Bibliografia, no. 14; M. Gabrieli, Giordano Bruno. Corpus Iconographicum, pp. 295-318; F. Camerota, Il compasso di Fabrizio Mordente. Per una storia del compasso di proporzione, Firenze 2000, pp. 83-105; F. A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Eadem, Selected Works. II, London-New-York 2001, pp. 294-298; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 161.