VALTURIUS, Robertus. De re militari

Verona, Boninus de Boninis de Ragusia., 1483

Folio (306 x 192 mm.), 254 leaves, the first and the last blank, roman type, capital spaces, 96 woodcut illustrations, some full page, rubricated in red and blue. Eighteenth Century italian stiff vellum, manuscript title on spine, red edges. A few spots, one paper flaw on the right white margin of one leaf, few contemporary marginal annotations; overall a very good copy, fresh and genuine.

Second latin edition, the first was printed in Verona in 1472, of the first book containing tecnical illustrations. ‘The historical importance of De Re Militari lies in the fact that it is the first book printed with illustrations of a technical or scientific character depicting the progressive engineering ideas of the author’s own time.The woodcuts illustrate the equipment necessary for the military and naval engineer; they involve revolving gun turrets, platforms and ladders for sieges, paddle-wheels, a diver’s suit, a lifebelt, something resembling a tank, pontoon and other bridges, a completely closed boat that could be half submerged, etc...The Verona Valturius and its reprints were the handbooks of the military leaders of the Renaissance, and Leonardo da Vinci, when acting as chief engineer to Cesare Borgia, possessed a copy and borrowed some of its designs.’ (PMM, 1472 ed.). This edition contains 96 xilographic illustrations, all but one, the illustration of soldiers in a tent on folio r1, are reduced copies of those used in the first edition. Traditionally attributed to both Andrea de’ Pasti and Fra Giocondo, the design of these woodcuts is now believed to be derived from military manuscripts of Byzantine origin probably executed in Rimini. ‘Le belle xilografie, ... dai decisi e taglienti profili non hanno nulla a che vedere con Matteo de’Pasti cui sono attribuite tradizionalmente; né derivano da alcuno dei manoscritti conosciuti ... e nemmeno con Fra Giocondo come sarebbe stato più verisimile, ma, al contrario, le miniature di questi e di altri codici derivano dall’ edizione a stampa. ... Quanto all’ iconografia dei disegni, cioè, all’origine di tutta la serie dei disegni e del comune prototipo è assai probabile che essi derivino da una serie di manoscritti di arte militare bizantini con figure di macchine belliche, risalenti a loro volta all’antichità classica. ... La non sempre corretta collocazione delle figure nella pagina, spesso fuor di ‘giustezza’, è originata dalla loro impressione in un secondo tempo, a testo tipografico già allestito.Ma ciò non impedisce di gustare, nella loro asprezza primitiva, la efficace sintesi operata dall’artista quattrocentesco in questi disegni.’ (L’introduzione della stampa in Italia e a Milano: mostra di 80 cimeli bibliografici della Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, a cura di E. C. Pirani e di S. Samek Ludovici. Milano, 1966.) “Valturio was military engineer to Sigismondo Malatesta, tyrant of Rimini, and it was at his court that the above treatise was written. It served as a guide to the military active leaders of the Renaissance including Leonardo da Vinci, chief of engineers to Cesare Borgia, who possessed a copy. The equipment shown in excellent engravings represents apparatus for assault and defence, cannon, bridges, portable scaling ladders, battering rams, armed chariots and naval equipment including a battleship.” (Heralds of Science)

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