COLONNA, Francesco. La Hypnerotomachia di Poliphilo.

Venice, in casa haer. Aldo I Manuzio., 1545

Folio (287 x 192 mm.), 234 unnumbered leaves, Roman type, occasional Greek and Hebrew. 170 fine woodcuts, including 9 full-page - the blocks on b4v, b5r (2), e2v, e5r and x2r have been re-cut - printer's device on title, repeated on final verso. 5- to 9-line initial spaces with guide-letter. XVIII century English calf, covers ruled in blind to a panel design à la Du Seuil, spine in compartments with red morocco lettering piece. Binding joints and spine resored but a very good copy from the library of Augustinus Fransonus (aralidic ex-libris pasted on title-page).‘The most beautiful book of the fifteenth century' (Mortimer 131).The second edition of this monument of Renaissance book illustration, first printed by Aldus in 1499. It is rarer than the first, and an exact reprint, except for the title, the initials, the Greek typeface, and 6 illustrations, recut (Sander I, 2057).Of anonymous authorship, the Hypnerotomachia has been attributed to the Dominican Francesco Colonna (1433-1527), who published it aged 66 with a dedication to the Duke of Urbino. It narrates Poliphilo's ‘strife of love in a dream' as he seeks to conquer his beloved Polia through an enigmatic world strewn with emblems, epigraphic inscriptions, hieroglyphs, allegories and surreal antiquities including pyramids, obelisks and statues – all superbly illustrated.The mysterious woodcuts had a lasting influence on book illustration and the visual arts, especially in Italy and France. The talented artist has remained unknown. However, although his style is recognisable in other Aldine publications like St Catherine's Epistole devotissime (1500), scholars have suggested that he was only the cutter of the woodblocks, not the designer. The source images, the authorship of which has been attributed even to Alberti, were probably already present in the manuscript version of the Hypnerotomachia given to Aldus. The illustrations have been dated to 1470-95 on the basis of the classical antiquities and epigraphic inscriptions they portrayed (Huelsen, ‘Le illustrazioni', 175-76).The work ‘achieved an elegant harmony of typography and illustration that has seldom been equalled. The communicative coordination of the illustrations with the text and the exceptional integration of images and typography indicate that the printer, type designer, author, and artist worked in close collaboration' (Meggs, History, 109). It was indeed the first book in which illustrations systematically appeared on the same page as the passage they referred to.Renouard 133:14; Essling II/2, 465; Mortimer, Harvard C16 It., 131; Brunet IV, 778: ‘assez recherchée'; Sander I, 2057.Huelsen, ‘Le illustrazioni della Hypnerotomachia Polifili e le antichità di Roma', La bibliofilia 12 (1910), 161-76; P.B. Meggs, History of Graphic Design (Hoboken, NJ, 2016).


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