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Bembo, Pietro (1470-1547)

Delle lettere di M. Pietro Bembo. Primo volume Rome, Valerio and Luigi Dorico, September 1548

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Printed on blue paper
Bembo, Pietro (1470-1547). Delle lettere di M. Pietro Bembo. Primo volume. Rome, Valerio and Luigi Dorico, September 1548

4° (192x142 mm). PRINTED ON BLUE PAPER. Collation: *4, A-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Eee4. Lacking quire *4, fols. B4, Ccc4, and the final quires Ddd and Eee. [2 of 10], 386 of 398 pages; lacking the last 4 unnumbered leaves. Italic and roman type. Blank spaces for capitals, with printed guide letters. Old vellum over pasteboards, gilt-tooled spine. Sewing rather weak, fols. A1, R1, Ccc1-Ccc3 somewhat loose. Near good copy, browning and spotting throughout, a few small stains; wormholes, occasionally affecting a few letters or words. The outer margin in quires A-F trimmed, without any loss; margins of the last leaves frayed. Early note on fol. A1r, ‘il 2o Tomo non fu mai stampato'. Nineteenth-century annotation on the rear pastedown, ‘mancante di 5 carte che contengono la lettera ad un Lorenzo Massolo, le tavole della Lettera e L'Errata'

One of the few copies printed on blue paper of the rare first posthumous edition of letters by Venetian patrician and outstanding humanist Pietro Bembo. During his lifetime, only a selection of Bembo's letters in Latin had appeared, in 1536. Recalling a tradition of classical antiquity which was first revived by Francesco Petrarca, Bembo had, however, planned to publish his entire correspondence in Italian vernacular, and the Vatican Library preserves a manuscript of the letters he had prepared for publishing. After Bembo's death, this plan was taken over by his literary executors, Carlo Gualteruzzi from Fano (1500-1577), and the Venetian Girolamo Querini (1466-1554).

The first volume came to light in Rome in 1548, containing – as the second title printed on fol. A1v attests – the letters written to popes, cardinals, and other members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The title-page of the 1548 edition states that the publication is the ‘Primo volume', i.e. only the first volume of Bembo's letters. Indeed, the Roman printers Valerio and Luigi Dorico never published the following and implicitely announced volumes of Bembo's letters, owing to disagreements that had arisen between Gualteruzzi and Querini about the publication of other works by Bembo, above all his Historia veneta.

The complete, five-volume collection was published only four year later, in 1552, by the Venetian printer Gualtiero Scoto. Intended for presentation, a few copies of the 1548 edition were issued on blue paper, in which cases the firstpreliminary quire is often lacking.

Adams B-604; Gamba 138; F. Barberi, “I Dorico, tipografi a Roma nel
Cinquecento”, La Bibliofilia, 67 (1965), pp. 221-261.