Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 1622-1673).
Le opere di G. B. P. di Moliere, divise in quattro volumi, & arricchite di bellissime figure. Tradotte da Nic. di Castelli […] Tomo I [-IV].
Four volumes, 12° (147x77 mm). General title-page printed in red and black in each volume, bearing the date 1698; each play has a separate title-page (dated 1697) along with its own pagination. The volumes are complete, as issued. I. Collation: π4(-π4), A-D12(-D12), E6, A-D12, E2, A12, B10, A12, B10, A-B12, C2, A-C12, D2(-D2), A-C12, D10(-D10), A-B12, C2(-C2). , 108, 100, 44, 44, 51, , 74, 89, , 50 pages. II. Collation: A-C12, D6, A12, B6, C2, A12, B6, C2, A-D12, A-D12, E4(-E4), A-B12, C10(-C10), A12, B6, C2(-C2), A-C12, D4. , 83, , 40, 40, 96, 102, 66, 38, 80 pages. III. π2, A-E12, F4, A-B12, C12(-C12), A-D12, A-E12, F6, G2(-G2), A-C12, D6, E2, A- D12, E4(-E4). , 127, , 70, 96, 134, 88, 101,  pages. IV. Collation: π2, A-C12, A-F12, A-D12(-D12), A-C12, D4, A-C12, D6(-D6), A12, B10(-B10), A12, B4, A12, B6(-B6), A-B12. , 71, , 143, , 94, 80, 81, , 41, , 32, 34, 47,  pages. Engraved frontispiece in vol. 1; Molière's engraved portrait on the verso of half-title in vol. 2; Castelli's portrait on the verso of half-title in vol. 3. Thirty-one engraved plates opening each play, mostly signed by Daucher. Woodcut ornaments on title-pages, decorated initials and headpieces. List of the comedies contained printed on the recto of halftitles. Uniform red crushed morocco, dated to 1880s and signed on the turn-ins by the London atelier Rivière & Son. Covers within triple gilt fillet. Spine with four small raised bands, underlined by gilt dotted fillets, compartments richly gilt tooled. Title, volume numbering, and imprint lettered in gilt on the second and third compartments. Board edges ruled in gold. Inside dentelles, marbled flyleaves. Gilt edges. Joints slightly worn. A very good copy, slightly browned, a few insignificant marginal tears.
Provenance: the banker Mortimer Loeb Schiff (1877-1931; his ex libris on the front pastedown of the first volume; see Catalogue of the famous library principally of fine bindings... formed by the late Mortimer L. Schiff, Esq., London, Sotheby & Co., London 1938).
The rare and complete first edition in Italian of Molière's plays, translated by Nicolò di Castelli. Originating from Lucca, Castelli (b. 1661) moved to Germany around 1680, becoming secretary of the Elector of Brandenburg, and later professor of Italian in Halle. He published numerous translations and original works; however, his name is primarily linked to Molière's translation, whose purpose was to teach Italian to a German-speaking audience by using a universally appreciated text. The translation contains the 150 macaronic verses in the reception scene of the Malade imaginaire as well as the complete version of the beggar's scene in the Festin de Pierre, as Castelli had access to the rare, and still not censored Rouen edition of 1673. Castelli's version was frequently reprinted until the publication of Gozzi's translation in Venice in 1756-1757. This edition is rarely found complete with all thirty-one plays, each of which has its own title-page and pagination, and therefore also had a separate circulation. This copy includes, in the second volume, La Principessa di Elida, often lacking in recorded copies. This set was once owned by Mortimer L. Schiff, who took a special interest in the bindings of his books. In 1935 Seymour De Ricci published a four-volume catalogue of the signed bindings preserved in Schiff's library, mainly executed in France and England by the most sought after eighteenth- and nineteenth-century bookbinders.
Michel & Michel V, 184; Rasi, p. 456; Lacroix, Bibliograhie molièresque, pp. 148, 593; P. Toldo, L'oeuvre de Molièreet sa fortune en Italie, Turin 1910, pp. 202-206; B. Croce, “Un insegnante di lingua italiana in Germania: Nicolò di Castelli”, Idem, Nuovi saggi sulla letteratura italiana del Seicento, Bari 1949, pp. 358-368.