8° (158x97 mm). 196, [4 of 6] pages (including the imprimatur ed errata, lacking the penultimate blank leaf). Later Jansenist style brown morocco. Spine with five small raised bands. Title in gilt lettering in the second compartment, imprint at the foot, likewise in gold. Marbled pastedowns and flyleaves, inside dentelles. Gilt edges. A very good copy, the first and last leaves slightly browned.
Rare first edition of the first poetic collection published by the celebrated poet from Recanati, one of the greatest poetic voices of all time. The volume contains ten canzoni composed by Leopardi between 1818 and 1823, only three of which had already appeared in print, i.e. the so-called ‘patriotic poems', All'Italia and Sopra il Monumento di Dante, which were published in Rome in 1818, and the Canzone ad Angelo Mai, which was issued in Bologna in 1820. The other seven canzoni are more intimate in character, and were published here for the first time: Nelle nozze della sorella Paolina, A un vincitore nel pallone, Bruto minore, Alla primavera, Ultimo canto di Saffo, Inno ai Patriarchi, and Alla sua Donna. Although Leopardi called his first ten published poems canzoni, their structure is already freer than the conventional canzone form, revealing his gradual loosening of traditional metric, and his progressive passage from a ‘public' poetic voice to a more intimate one that explores emotional experiences; this stylistic and personal itinerary would culminate in the publication, in 1831, of his Canti, the most important collection of Italian poetry of the nineteenth century. Around 500 copies of the Canzoni were printed in August 1824, and according to the publisher Pietro Brighenti, fifty copies – bound in boards – were personally given to Leopardi. The book was only put on the market in October, and “the Bolognese edition of his canzoni (1824) brought him endless trouble with the censorship in the Papal States and elsewhere. When in 1826 he went after a government post in Bologna (a papal legation at that time) the Vatican was informed that it would be ill-advised to employ Leopardi because he had shown sentiments favourable to politically subversive opinion in his canzoni” (P. Williams, An Introduction to Leopardi's Canti, Leicester 2004, p. 27).
Mazzatinti & Menghini, Bibliografia leopardiana, 647; Catalogo del fondo leopardiano, 73; Benedettucci 21; G. Leopardi, Canti edizione critica, ed. De Robertis, pp. xxxix-xliv.