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Folengo, Teofilo (1491-1544)

Merlini Cocai poetae mantuani liber Macaronices libri XVII. Non anteimpressi. Venice, Alessandro Paganini, 1 January 1517

€ 16.000
The invention of Macaronic language
Folengo, Teofilo (1491-1544). Merlini Cocai poetae mantuani liber Macaronices libri XVII. Non anteimpressi.. Venice, Alessandro Paganini, 1 January 1517

16° (138x86 mm). Collation: +12, A-P8. [132] leaves. Complete with fol. P8 blank. Italic and roman type. Handsome nineteenth-century blue morocco, signed by Parisian bookbinder Antoine Bauzonnet (d. 1848). Covers framed with triple gilt fillets, spine with five raised bands, richly gilt tooled. Marbled flyleaves, gilt edges. A very goodcopy, small repair to the lower outer corner of fol. P7, not affecting the text.

The very rare first edition of the first version of the celebrated Maccheronee, composed by Mantuan poet Teofilo Folengo in Macaronic Latin, and published under the pseudonym Merlin Cocaio.

The 1517 publication – known as the ‘Paganini edition', after the printer's name – opens with the Libellus delaudibus Merlini Cocai, a ten-page letter written by Folengo under the pseudonym Aquario Lodola; Folengo made extensive use of pseudonyms, and here the fictional Lodola, a ‘herbalist, expert in the art of enemas' presents the figure of Merlin Cocaio, born in Cipada, the village facing the Virgilian Pietole. Nourished by a blackbird, Cocai draws inspiration from wine and dishes of gnocchi. Compared to the sentimental Limerno and the very serious Fulica, the other two pseudonyms used by Folengo during his literary career, Merlin Cocai represents the facetious and burlesque side of the author's character.

This preliminary text is followed by two eclogues, and then the picaresque epic Baldus, a kind of comic continuation of the Carolingian legend. The poem consists of 6,114 macaronic hexameters divided into seventeen Books, and is considered Folengo's masterpiece. A parody of the Virgilian model and its imitators such as Sannazaro and Pontano, it is composed in an invented language blending Latin with various Italian dialects in an extraordinary linguistic mélange of high and low registers. The plot narrates the adventures of Baldus, grandson of the king of France, who was abandoned by his father at an early age and raised by a farmer named Berto. Potentially destined for the life of a knight, Baldus turns out to be a vulgar ruffian. The harsh criticism of the aristocracy, courtiers, and clergy that Folengo develops in this deeply anti-classical text, together with his strong sense of realism combined with explosive villainy, had great influence on François Rabelais, who knew and highly appreciated Folengo's work.

The poem enjoyed great success, and was reprinted in Milan in 1520. An enlarged version of twenty-five Books was printed by Paganini in 1521, and frequently reissued by other printers until the mid-seventeenth century.

The first edition of 1517 is very scarce, and rarely appears on the market.

Nuovo, Alessandro Paganino (1509-1538), 42; T. Folengo, Macaronee minori, a cura di M. Zaggia, Torino 1987, pp. 558-559; M. Zaggia, “L'esordio di Folengo”, T. Folengo, Merlini Cocai Poetae Mantuani Liber Macaronices Libri XVII Non ante impressi, Brescia, 1991, pp. 15-24; Idem, “Breve percorso attraverso le quattro redazioni delle Macaronee folenghiane”, Teofilo Folengo nel quinto centenario della nascita, 1491-1991, Florence, 1993, pp. 85-101.