28. Confraternity Rosary, Florence
Compagnia ovvero Confraternita del Psalterio ovvero Rosario della gloriosissima Vergine Maria. Ordinazioni, istitutioni, capitoli, regole, privilegii ed indulgentie. [Florence, Antonio di Bartolomeo Miscomini, after 4 May 1485].
4° (250x136 mm). Collation: a12.  leaves. Text in one column, 25 lines. Type: 112R. Title on fol. a2r printed in red. Headings, initial letters and section marks printed in red throughout. On fol. a1v large woodcut within octagonal border, containing a rose garland framing a crown and a rosary with the letters 'rsm', at the bottom the inscription 'Questo e el segno della compagnia del Rosario della Vergine Maria'. On fol. a2r half-page woodcut vignette depicting the Annunciation. Old vellum, over paperboards; inked title on spine. A good copy, slightly washed, foxing in places. Repair to the outer blank margin of the first two leaves; some wormholes restored, some of them affecting the woodcuts on fols. a1v and a2r, and a few letters of text.
First and only edition of this exceedingly rare Florentine illustrated incunable, of which only four copies are recorded among institutional libraries, these being held in the Biblioteca dell'Archiginnasio in Bologna, the Biblioteca degli Intronati in Siena, the Houghton Library at Harvard University, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (incomplete).
This booklet, printed in red and black and supplemented with two fine woodcuts, belongs to the popular genre of so-called Libri da Compagnia, which includes statutes, bulls, privileges, and indulgences regarding the numerous religious confraternities or sodalities established in Italy during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, as a distinctive form of piety and devotion encouraged by mendicant orders. It contains the text, in Italian vernacular, of the statutes of the Florentine Compagnia del Rosario – the Rosary sodality being closely associated with the Dominican cloister of San Marco, where the Compagnia had obtained the privilege of the altar of the Annunciation in 1480/81. The practice of rosary has a Dominican origin, with the tradition claiming that this devotion would have been revealed by the Virgin Mary to St. Dominic, founder of the order.
The present edition – the printing of which was commissioned by the friars of San Marco – was issued entirely anonymously and without any date, although it is generally attributed to the Modena printer Antonio Miscomini, who was active in Florence between 1481-1485 and 1489 1495. Miscomini's production was focused both on 'high' Florentine humanist works – he published several by Marsilio Ficino, including the first edition of the De triplici vita in 1489 (see no. 30) – as well as popular texts in Italian vernacular, including statutes, sacre rappresentazioni, and devotional writings. The volume contains two woodcuts, whose subject is deeply related to the Rosary confraternity. On the verso of the first leaf is a large woodcut within an octagonal border showing the 'segno della compagnia del Rosario della Vergine Maria', a crown bearing a rosary and the inscription 'rsm' surrounded by a rose garland. The half-page vignette on the recto of fol. a2 depicts the Annunciation, recalling the privilege obtained by the Florentine confraternity. Both images contributed to the development of rosary iconography and of the Marian cult more generally. An identical crown symbolizing the Virgin is found in the Dichiaratione della Chiesa di Sancta Maria del Loreto, printed by Francesco di Dino in Florence in about 1483, in the printing press of San Jacopo at Ripoli.
GW M43809; IGI 3112; Goff S-758; Rhodes Firenze, 213; Sander 6574, and pls. 497-498 (the printing attributed to Francesco Bonaccorsi); A. Jacobson Schutte, Printed Italian Vernacular Religious Books (1465-1550. A Finding List, Genève 1983, p. 143; R. Rusconi, “Pratica culturale ed istruzione religiosa nelle confraternite italiane del tardo Medioevo: 'libri da compagnia' e libri di pietà”, Le mouvement confraternal au Moyen Age. France Italie, Suisse, Rome 1987, pp. 133-153; C. Dondi, “Libri da compagnia Printed in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century in Italy”, Quaerendo, 41 (2011), pp. 183-192; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 28.