Gondola Serenades

Caravia, Alessandro (1503-1568).

Naspo Bizaro. nuouamente restampato, con la zonta de lamento chel fà per hauerse pentio de hauer sposao Cate Bionada Biriotta.... Venice, Piero di Domenico, [ca. 1570/75].

Caravia, Alessandro (1503-1568) Naspo Bizaro. nuouamente restampato, con la zonta de lamento chel fà per hauerse pentio de hauer sposao Cate Bionada Biriotta.... Piero di Domenico, [ca. 1570/75].

4° (203x147 mm). Collation: A-L4. 43, [1] leaves, complete with the last blank. Roman and italic type. Woodcut printer's device on fol. L3v. Two different large woodcuts on both title-pages (fols. a1r and H4r), respectively repeated as full-page illustrations on fols. F2v and D2v. Six- to nine-line woodcut decorated initials. Fine nineteenth-century English gilt-tooled green morocco, over pasteboards. Covers within rich frames of fillets, friezes, and floral roll. At centre sun-shaped cornerpieces, and fleuron. Spine with five small raised bands, compartments tooled with floral motifs, title lettered in gilt. Board edges decorated with narrow frieze, inside dentelles, marbled pastedowns and flyleaves. Green silk bookmark, gilt edges. A good copy, carefully washed. Minor repair to the verso of fol. B3, with loss of a few letters.

Provenance: Gugliemo Libri (1803-1869; see Catalogue de la Bibliothèque de M. L****, Paris 1847, p. 268, lot 1667, 'Bel exemplaire'; the lot number '1667' is annotated on the verso of the front marbled flyleaf); sold for 19 francs to the Parisian bookseller A. Franck.

The exceedingly rare expanded second edition of this popular comic serenade composed in ottava rima and in Venetian dialect by the Venetian jeweller Caravia, whose name appears at the end of the dedicatory epistle to Antonio della Vecchia. The work first appeared in Venice in 1565, from the press of Domenico Nicolini da Sabbio, and at Caravia's expense. In both editions the fourth Canto is introduced by the separate title-page El fin de l'inamoramento de Naspo Bizaro. El qual per viver da christian batizao, sposa con alegrezza Cate Bionda Biriota.

The edition printed in about 1570/75 by Piero di Domenico 'al segno della Pigna', is, for the first time, supplemented with the zonta to the Canto Quarto (fols. L1v-L3r), entitled Lamento de Naspo Bizarro. The printer could maintain the same quiring as the 1565 edition by omitting, in comparison to the previous edition, the blank leaf H4 separating the third and fourth cantos as well as the plate on fol. L3, showing a wedding party.

The relevance of the Naspo bizaro in the history of Italian popular literature, especially in the context of the commedia dell'arte, is widely recognized. The edition is also rightly famous for its woodcuts, which follow the iconography of the Venetian characters Pantalone and Zanni. Responsible for their execution was the renowned publisher, engraver, and print dealer Niccolò Nelli (ca. 1530 - 1579/86), who had a shop at the Rialto Bridge.

The title-page of the 1570 publication bears the same large woodcut that decorates the previous edition and is signed with Nelli's monogram. The plate shows the Venetian Naspo Bizaro as a canterino, singing his hyperbolic serenade to the beautiful Cate Bionda Biriota – so-named after the rough district of Biri – while his servant Zan Polo eats in his gondola. The block is repeated as a full page illustration on fol. F2v. A second woodcut – likewise a re-use of the one previously employed – is printed, as a full-page, on fol. D2v, and repeated on the divisional title El fin de l'inamoramento de Naspo Bizaro, introducing the Canto Quarto: the scene depicts a different poet-musician, singing and playing under a window, with the city of Venice in the background. The source of this woodcut is different, and the blocks are signed 'AL'.

Adams C-626; Mortimer Italian, 105; Gamba, Serie degli impressi in dialetto veneziano, Venezia 1832, p. 83; E. Benini Clementi, Riforma religiosa e poesia popolare a Venezia nel Cinquecento: Alessandro Caravia, Firenze 2000; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 146.

$ 18.000