CASTIGLIONE, Baldassarre.. Il libro del cortegiano del conte Baldesar Castiglione.

Venice, nelle case d’Aldo Romano & d’Andrea d’Asola., 1528

Folio (302 x 205 mm), 122 leaves, Roman type, 5-6 lines initial spaces with guide letters,aldine anchor device on title and final verso. Modern vellum over pasteboard, gilt edges. A good copy, lightly washed, from the library of Giannalisa Feltrinelli. First edition of one of the most influental works of the Italian Renaissance. Il Cortegiano ‘depicts the ideal aristocrat, and it has remained the perfect definition of a gentleman ever since. It is an epitome of the highest moral and social ideas of the Italian Renaissance many of them inspired by classical examples. Castiglione after serving the Sforzas at Milan and the Gonzagas at Mantua, came to the court of Urbino in 1504. Here Guidubaldo de Montefeltre and his consort were the center of the most brilliant court in Italy, which counted among its members Bembo, Cardinal Bibbiena, Giuliano de'Medici and many other eminent men. His book is based on his experience of life among these dazzling figures. It is written in the form of a discussion between members of the court, such discussion being the most popular literary form of the Renaissance. The virtues and the qualities which the courtier should cultivate form the main content of the book. The fundamental idea that a man should perfect himself by developing all his faculties goes back to Aristotle's Ethics and many of the Aristotelian virtues reappear-honesty, magnanimity and good manners. The ideal man should also be proficient in arms and games, be a scholar and connoisseur of art; he should avoid all affectation, develop graceful speech and cherish a sense of honour. The relations between the courtier and his prince are discussed and also forms of government.Another section provides similar rules for the conduct of a lady and the book ends with the celebrated pronouncement on platonic love by Bembo. This Renaissance ideal of the free development of individual faculties and its rules of civilized behaviour formed a new conception of personal rights and obligations in Europe and each nation produced its own version of the ideal figure: the caballero in Spain, the honnéte homme in France and thegentleman in England. The Courtier became the prototype of the genus ‘courtesy book'published in various forms during the following century, in which rules of behaviour wereformulated. The book was translated into most European languages and between 1528 and1616 no less than one hundred and eight editions were published.' (PMM) PMM 59; Adams C-924; Renouard Alde, p. 102.3.


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