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Pius II (formerly Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, 1405-1464)

Epistolae in Cardinalatu editae Rome, Johannes Schurener, de Bopardia, 14 July 1475.

€ 21.000
A pristine copy, in a contemporary wallet binding
Pius II (formerly Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, 1405-1464). Epistolae in Cardinalatu editae. Rome, Johannes Schurener, de Bopardia, 14 July 1475.

Large 4° (283x202 mm). Collation: [a-c10, d-h8, i]6. [76] leaves. Complete with the first leaf blank. Text in one column, 36 lines. Type: 1a. Blank spaces for capitals, the first two on fol. [a]2r with printed guide letter. Contemporary vellum wallet binding, author's name inked on the spine; at the top of the spine the number ‘VI', at bottom the remains of a later paper label, with traces of an old shelfmark. Upper cover slightly loose, minor loss to the outer corner, a few spots. An exceptional, wide-margined copy; some insignificant marginal foxing and staining on a few leaves; small loss to the outer lower blank corner of fol. i3. Seven-line blind print on fol. c. [i]6r. Modern pencilled bibliographical notes on the verso of the rear flyleaf.

A marvellous copy, in pristine condition, of the rare first edition of a collection of letters by Sienese humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini, written during his cardinalate from his creation as a cardinal on 17 December 1456 to his election as pope on 19 August 1458, under the name of Pius II.
Piccolomini's letters reveal the vastness of his experiences and the depth of both his intellectual interests and his political activity: he was a humanist and the author of novels, comedies, and historical works; a passionate, and curious traveller; a great patron of arts, and the inventor of the ‘utopian city' of Pienza in Tuscany, as well as a keen ambassador at the imperial court, a committed conciliarist, and a propagator of the Crusade against the Turks.
The edition was issued by Johannes Schurener from Boppard (Germany), who was active in Rome between ca. 1473 and 1477/78. The printer had already published – in partnership with Johannes Nicolai Hanheymer – the first edition of another work by Pius II on 10 January 1475, the Historia Bohemica; the first edition of the Dialogus de somnio quodam followed on 11 September 1475, composed impromptu by Enea Silvio after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. These publishing initiatives were likely sponsored by members of the Piccolomini clan in response to the posthumous detractors of Pius II, who had died suddenly in 1464. The correspondents include cardinals and leading humanists such as Francesco Filelfo and Nicolaus Cusanus. Pius II's three printed collections of letters all appeared posthumously, and as with the other two – the Epistolae in pontificatu editae (Milan 1473) and the Epistolae familiares or saeculares (Cologne ca. 1475) – the present collection was intended for both clergymen, as a sort of ecclesiastical-diplomatic manual, and for laymen, as a model book for letter writing in Latin.
There are thirty-seven extant copies of this edition, twenty-two of which are fully or partially illuminated and rubricated. Most of the recorded copies are bound in miscellany volumes containing other works by Pius II, or other books printed by Schurener. The peculiarity of this exceptionally wide-margined copy is its pristine condition: it is preserved in a strictly contemporary vellum wallet binding, likely supplied as a temporary measure in the printer's workshop. Furthermore, the copy belongs to the first issue of the Piccolomini edition, i.e. fols. f1-f2, f7, and f8r are here not recomposed. It respects all the issue points but one (see fol. f2v, l. 25, ‘Sex', and not ‘sex' as in the recorded copies of the first issue; see N. Harris, “Profilo di un incunabolo”, pp. 29-30), suggesting that the present copy contains at least one error that was corrected during the subsequent print run and is thus no longer included in other known copies. It could therefore be one of the first copies to have come out of Schurener's printing press, a hypothesis which seems further supported by the temporary wallet binding housing the volume, an intriguing point requiring more indepth research.

ISTC ip00710000; GW M33680; H 166*; BMC IV 57; IGI 7781; Goff P-710; N. Harris, “Profilo di un incunabolo: le Epistolae in Cardinalatu editae di Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Roma 1475), Ectodica, 1 (2006), pp. 7-33; N. Harris - I. Romanzin, “Le copie delle Epistolae in cardinalatu editae: un libro bifronte”, Pio II (Enea Silvio Piccolomini), Lettere scritte durante il cardinalato, eds. E. Malnati - I. Romanzin, Brescia 2007, pp. 107-164; F. Forner, “Enea Silvio Piccolomini e le epistole del cardinalato. Alcune considerazioni”, L. Secchi Tarugi (ed.), Pio II nell'epistolografi a del Rinascimento. Atti del Convegno (Chianciano-Pienza, 18-20 luglio 2013), Firenze 2015, pp. 40-65.