22. Livius, Titus (59-17 BC)
Historiae Romanae decades [Italian]. apud Sanctum Marcum (Vitus Puecher), 30 May - 20 July 1476.
Three volumes, folio (372x260 mm). I. Collation: [*8, 1-310, 46, 510, 68, 7-910, 108, 11-1410, 15-168, 1710, 188].  leaves, first and last leaves blank. II: Collation: [*12, 1-510, 612, 76, 814, 9-1210, 138, 146, 1512, 1610, 176].  leaves, first and last leaves blank. III: Collation: [*10, 1-310, 48, 5-610, 7-88, 9-1410, 158].  leaves. Text in two columns, 55 lines. Type: 98R. On the opening leaf of each volume contemporary white vinestem two-side border on green, blue and crimson ground with clusters of gold-rayed discs at the extremities, including a five-line illuminated initial in gold on vinestem ground; on the lower panel laurel wreath with empty shield, surrounded by gold- rayed discs. Numerous penwork initials alternately in red or blue, with extensions in red, blue or violet. Contemporary, possibly Florentine, uniform binding, with light variants in tooling of the covers. Hazel brown goatskin over wooden boards, panelled in blind with fillets and borders of foliate motifs. The central spaces filled with small tools in geometrical pattern. At the centre of the covers of the third volume an eight-point star, decorated with knotwork motif. Brass clasps preserved (four in the first two volumes, three in the third one), cornerpieces. Spines with four large raised bands, title inked on parchment label. Parchment pastedowns and flyleaves. Minor losses to the spines. In modern brown boxes. A very fine set, printed on strong paper. Light foxing and browning in places; a few pale fingermarks.
Provenance: from the library of the Florentine Serzelli family; Jacopo Serzelli (sixteenth-century ownership inscription 'Jacopo Serzelli' on the recto of the first leaf in each volume); Biblioteca Bardi-Serzelli (nineteenth-century ex-libris on each pastedown).
Rare first edition of the Italian translation of Titus Livius' Roman History (Ab urbe condita), presented in a splendidly illuminated three-volume set in its original uniform binding. This is the fourth book issued from the printing house established in the palace of San Marco in Rome, which was active in the papal city between 1475 and 1477/78. This press seems to have been led by Vitus Puecher and used fonts similar to those employed by Jacobus Riessinger.
The text of Livius' History survives in ten books referred to as Decade, but only three of the original fourteen were known in the late Middle Ages, with the first, third, and fourth books eventually circulating together.
This Roman edition is of the greatest importance for the history of Italian literature, combining the names of two of the so-called 'Three Crowns', Giovanni Boccaccio and Francesco Petrarca. In fact, the translation into Italian vernacular of the third and the fourth Decade has been attributed to Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), who would likely have had the opportunity to work on a manuscript owned by his close friend Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374). Boccaccio met the great poet from Arqua for the first time in Florence in 1350, and it was Petrarca who encouraged him to study the Greek and Latin classics, transforming him into a great classical scholar and quintessential Renaissance Man. However, the identity of the translator for the first Decade, who worked from a manuscript containing the French version of Livius' text, remains unknown to this day.
Boccaccio's translation contributed significantly to Livius' renewed popularity during the Italian Renaissance, and the Historiae Romanae decades became a model for humanist historiography.
The first volume of the set presented here is complete with the dedicatory epistle from the 'Cartolaio fiorentino' Giovanni Bonaccorsi to Giovanni Bernardo di Nicolò Cambini, often lacking in the recorded copies.
Complete sets of this Roman edition are very scarce in the libraries, and rarely appear on the market. An additional noteworthy feature in the set presented here is in its original uniform binding, finely blind tooled with a geometric pattern, and in all likelihood executed in Florence. The central star-shaped tool used for the covers of the third volume is in fact a characteristically Florentine element, of mudéjar inspiration. Further, the style of the illumination recalls that of artists active in the late Quattrocento for the leading Florentine bookseller Vespasiano da Bisticci.
HR 10144; GW M18508; BMC IV, 65; IGI 5782; Goff L-251; Flodr Titus Livius, 17; M. T Casella, Tra Boccaccio e Petrarca. I volgarizzamenti di Tito Livio e di Valerio Massimo, Padova 1982; G. Tanturli, “Il volgarizzamento della quarta Deca di Tito Livio”, in T. De Robertis, C. M. Monti et al. (eds.), Boccaccio autore e copista, Firenze 2013, pp. 125-127; B. Casini, I “Libri d'oro” della nobiltà fiorentina e fiesolana, Firenze 1993, pp. 25-26; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 22.