Illustrated Books and Prints Italian Books I

The first fully illustrated Commedia, annotated by a Rosacrucian

Alighieri, Dante (1265-1321)

Comento di Christophoro Landino fiorentino sopra la Comedia di Dante Alighieri Poeta fiorentino. Venice, Bernardinus Benalius and Matteo Capcasa (from Codeca), 3 March 1491.

Folio (310x218 mm). Collation: [I]8, a-z8, &8, cum8, rum8, A8, B6, C-I8, K6, L8. [10], cclxxxxi, [1] leaves. Text in one column, surrounded by commentary on 61 lines. Type: 108R (text), 80R (commentary). Woodcut printer's device on fol. L8r. Four full-page woodcuts set within richly historiated borders (fols. a1v, s1v, C1r; one repeat on fol. s2v of the woodcut opening the Purgatorio). Ninety-seven woodcut vignettes. Six nine-line decorated initials; numerous smaller initials on black ground. Old vellum with running stitches, recased. A good copy, slightly browned in places. Fols. [I]1 and a2 probably from another copy, the lower blank margin remargined. Early seventeenth-century marginal notes and drawings on fols. c4v, r8r-v, and H1r taken from, or inspired to the Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae by Heinrich Khunrath (Hamburg 1595.).

Provenance: unidentified coat of arms on fol. a1v, set within a laurel wreath and held by two putti.

$ 58,000

One of the finest examples from the golden age of Venetian book illustration: the rare first fully illustrated Commedia, the first to contain a complete cycle of images for each cantica, and the first edition to include Landino's commentary as revised by Pietro da Figino, recently identified as the Tuscan theologian Pietro Mazzanti da Figline. What makes this edition particularly appealing is its illustrative apparatus, which far exceeds all previous illustrated editions: there are one hundred woodcuts, one for each of the poem's cantos, including three fullpage illustrations at the beginning of each cantica. For the images the Venetian printers employed the ‘popular artist' who illustrated the 1490 Malermi Bible, identified by Lilian Armstrong as the Master of the Pliny of Pico della Mirandola. For the first two canticheInferno and Purgatorio – the illustrator used earlier cycles, when available, as models. For the Paradiso there were no previous woodcut illustrations and the Pico Master created an entirely new sequence of images, rooting himself not in the manuscript tradition (the Paradiso is less frequently illustrated in the illuminated codices of the Commedia), but essentially in Landino's commentary. Another feature of interest lies in the early seventeenth-century notes and Rosacrucian symbolism, as with the Cross inscribed within a triangle, visible on some leaves, which are linked to the Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae, first published in 1595 by the mystic Heinrich Khunrath, a disciple of Paracelsus. For example, this unknown reader added the notes ‘procul hinc adeste Profani' on fol. c4v, referring to the Door to Hell, and ‘E Millibus vix uni' on fol. r8v, relating to the woodcut depiction of Lucifer; both quotations are taken from the Amphitheatrum. Over the centuries, several of Dante's readers, including John Starkey (1627-1665), Gabriele Rossetti (1783-1854) and, later, René Guénon (1886-1951), tried to unveil the hidden meaning of the Comedy, showing Dante's influence on esoteric societies. It is therefore possible that the as-yet unknown early owner of this copy had been a Rosicrucian, or a member of another suspected fraternity.

HC 5949; GW 7969; BMC v, 373; IGI 363; Goff D-32; Essling 531; Sander 2313; De Batines I, p. 52; Mambelli 13.

A pocket vernacular edition, illustrated with 151 woodcuts

Herbolario Volgare: nel quale se dimostra conoscer le herbe: et le sue virtu: et il modo di operarle: con molti altri simplici: di novo venute in luce: et di latino in volgare tradutte: con gli suoi repertorii da ritrovar le herbe: et li rimedij alle infirmita in esso contenute... . Venice, Giovanni Maria Palamides, 31July 1539.

8° (154x101 mm). Collation: AA6, A-X8, Y6. [6], 152, [22] leaves. Title-page in red and black, with a large woodcut vignette showing Saints Cosma and Damian. 151 woodcut illustrations depicting plants, all but two of which feature sacred images (fol. AA6v and Y6v). Contemporary blind-tooled calf, widely restored. Spine with four raised bands, rebacked. Original pastedowns and flyleaves preserved. A very good copy. The gutter of a few leaves slightly wormholed, without any loss. Some pale marginal waterstains.

Provenance: erased eighteenth-century ownership inscription on the title-page.

$ 8,000

Rare early edition of this popular and richly illustrated herbal, first issued in quarto size in Venice in 1522. All Italian vernacular herbals are of the greatest rarity. Latin and vernacular herbals were so successful because their simple alphabetical arrangements allowed herbalists, apothecaries, and physicians to easily access essential concepts of pharmacopoeia that earlier medieval authors had drawn from antiquity. From a scientific point of view, however, they are of little value, as their often-imprecise descriptions do not allow for the identification of plants, and therapeutic uses are frequently associated with magical-astrological practices. All early printed herbals basically derive from the Herbarium erroneously attributed to Apuleius as well as the Herbarius Maguntinus, which first appeared in Mainz in 1484. Both fifteenth-century editions are based on an older manuscript tradition which had combined ancient and medieval knowledge of plants. In Italy, the text of the Herbarius Maguntinus was reprinted in Vicenza in 1491 under the title Tractatus de virtutibus herbarum with a new series of woodcuts and an incorrect attribution to Arnaldus of Villanova. In the Herbolario volgare, text and pictures are derived, with few variations, from the Vicenza Latin incunable. The present is the fifth edition in Italian, a substantial reprint of the edition issued in Venice in 1534 by Vavassore, with some variants in the illustrative apparatus. “All the woodcuts belong to the Latin Hortus Sanitatis, but are not printed from the blocks used in the 1534 edition. The cut of the annunciation occurs first in a devotional book of 1524 […] The woodcuts 109, 143 and 149 are slightly different from the corresponding ones in the 1534 edition; the woodcuts 2-3 are exchanged by misprint” (Klebs, pp. 9-10).

Klebs 18; Pritzel 10766; Nissen, Die botanische Buchillustration, 2318; Essling 1196; A. Arber, Herbals, Their Originand Evolution. A Chapter in the History of Botany, 1470-1670, Cambridge 1912, pp. 11-13.

In the deluxe original publisher’s green cloth

Collodi, Carlo (1826-1890)

Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino. Illustrata da E. Mazzanti. Firenze, Felice Paggi, 1883.

8° (182x120 mm). 236 pages, plus IV pages of advertisements. A portrait of Pinocchio by Enrico Mazzanti serves as the frontispiece. Sixty-one woodcuts in the text, likewise by Mazzanti. Original publisher's green cloth. On the upper cover, title stamped in gilt between two gilt stripes with the name of the author and printer embossed in green; the lower cover decorated with two floral-patterned rolls in black; spine with title lettered in gold. Covers slightly discoloured, lower cover somewhat bumped. In a fine sand morocco folding case, probably by Gozzi (Modena), the figure of Pinocchio outlined in gold at the centre of the upper board, with inlays in green, white, and red morocco. A good copy, marginal browning. Two short tears to the blank margins of pages 18 and 225, repaired, without any loss.

The exceedingly rare first edition in book form – presented in its very desirable original luxury cloth binding – of the masterpiece by the Italian writer and journalist Carlo Lorenzini (better known as Collodi), the enduring children's classic about a marionette whose nose would grow each time he told a lie.

The novel Pinocchio was first serialised in the children's magazine from Rome, Giornale per i bambini, under the direction of Ferdinando Martini: the first instalment appeared on 7 July 1881, and the last one on 25 January 1883. Pinocchio was published as a book in the same year, 1883, probably in a very small print run, and at least twelve reprints appeared during the first year of publication. Enrico Mazzanti (1852-1893) was responsible for the everlasting black-and-white illustrations. The success was enormous, with countless editions and translations into more than 260 languages. Collodi's masterpiece continues to be cherished to this day and has been the subject of numerous adaptations, including popular versions by Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg, who used the story for the film A.I. (2001).

The work was first translated into English in 1892 by M. A. Murray, whose version – The Story of a Puppet or The Adventures of Pinocchio – was published in the same year in London as well as in New York, supplemented with thirty seven of Mazzanti's illustrations. In 1904 the first American illustrated edition was published, thanks to the work of Walter S. Cramp and Charles Copeland (Pinocchio: the Adventures of a Marionette, Boston, Ginn & Co.). “Almost nothing else in children's literature equals Pinocchio for wildness of invention” (Carpenter-Prichard, Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, p. 462).

Parenti, Rarità bibliografiche dell'Ottocento, pp. 148-153 (“E' questo uno dei pezzi più rari, se non il più raro senz'altro, dell'Ottocento italiano”); H. Carpenter - M. Prichard (eds.), Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, Oxford 1984, pp. 461-462; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 276.

The Leonardo of our time — Pablo Picasso

Munari, Bruno (1907-1998)

Le macchine. Einaudi, 1942.

4° (283x210 mm). [32] pages. Fifteen full-page coloured plates showing 'useless machines'. Editor's illustrated cardboard, spine covered in black cloth, black-and-white author's portrait on the front pastedown. A very good copy.

Provenance: given by the author to the Italian architect Carlo Paccagnini (see Munari's autograph dedication to on the front pastedown: “Caro Paccagnini, ti regalo l'apparecchio per sostenere la testa del cane stanco, puoi fartene pure uno di ferro (da Crespi) e tenerlo in casa tua. Ciao. Munari” ('Dear Paccagnini, I give you as a present a device to sustain the head of the tired dog, you can also have it made in iron (by Crespi) and keep it at home. Bye. Munari').

First edition of Munari's most important artist book, a brilliant re-use of those 'useless machines' invented by the American cartoonist Rube Goldberg (1883-1970). The definition 'useless machines' indicates machines, made up of various movable parts, which are unable to produce expendable goods and do not increase resources. Munari, inspired by Goldberg's comics, began to draw these humorous machines during his student period to make his friends laugh. Some of these 'useless machines' are: a Machine to tame alarm clocks, a Mechanism to smell artificial flowers, an automatic Gauge of cooking time of boiled eggs, a Device to foresee the aurora, and an Apparatus to make hiccup music.

Bruno Munari is one of the most successful and prolific twentieth century Italian artists and designers. With his fundamental contributions to the visual arts in painting, sculpture, film, and industrial and graphic design (in modernism, futurism, and concrete art), as well as to non-visual arts with his ground-breaking research into games, didactic methods, tactile and kinaesthetic learning, and creativity, Munari became known worldwide as a true design legend. Called by Picasso 'the Leonardo of our time', Munari considered the book the best medium to communicate his visual ideas, showcase his art, and convey his creative spirit: he produced over sixty publications, ranging from design manuals and manifestos to visionary tactile children's books.

Munari's Le macchine appeared in the Einaudis' series “Libri per l'infanzia e la gioventù”, the press run for which is unknown. This copy was given as a gift by the author to the architect and friend Carlo Paccagnini, who was one of the participants to the Movimento per l'Arte Concreta (Concrete Art Movement) or MAC, the artistic movement formed in Milan in 1948 by, among others, Munari and the critic Gillo Dorfles.

G. Maffei, Munari: i libri, Mantova 2007, p. 56; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 284.