ARIOSTO, Lodovico.. Orlando furioso di m. Lodovico Ariosto.

Venice, appresso gli heredi di Vincenzo Valgrisi., 1580.

Quarto (260 x 185 mm.), [8] leaves, 654 pages, [16] leaves. Title-page within an elaborate architectural border, fortysix full-page woodcuts - one at the beginning of each Canto - set within two different borders with figures and grotesques, five woodcuts illustrating the added Cinque Canti, woodcut historiated initials. Contemporary Parisian binding, limp overlapping vellum, double gilt fillets on covers, gilt centre ornament of laurel leaf tools, flat spine decorated with gilt fillets and fleurons, gilt edges. A very fine copy.A rare and celebrated reprint of the famous illustrated Valgrisi edition of 1556 – the first to include full-page woodcuts. ‘Édition recherchée' (Brunet I, 436).As an administrator and diplomat in the service of Ippolito and later Alfonso d'Este, Ariosto was able to devote time to literature, issuing the first 40 cantos of his Orlando Furioso in 1516 and republishing them, with some changes, in 1521. The definitive edition appeared in 1532, with a total of 46 cantos, as well as linguistic and narrative revisions. The multi-layered plot follows three main threads: the history of the war between the Christian paladins and the Saracens, Orlando's madness at the flight of his beloved Angelica, and the love between the Christian Bradamante and the Saracen Ruggero, a subplot, this last, celebrating the d'Este family. By the mid-16th century, the poem had come to incorporate five additional cantos written by Lodovico Dolce after Ariosto's death.Like the 1556 Valgrisi edition, the present features Girolamo Ruscelli's linguistic revisions, his argomenti at the start of each canto summarising the plot, and a brief commentary. It also features 51 full-page woodcuts within elaborate frames decorated with grotesques, containing lively representations of Ariosto's fantastic landscapes. The anonymous artist – sometimes associated with the style of Dosso Dossi – sought to render graphically the dense plot by creating juxtaposed visual narratives in the foreground, middle ground and background. ‘The illustrations are amazingly complex, and have considerable animation […] They are narrative in style and attempt to show all the important episodes of each canto in a series of scenes on receding planes. There is even occasionally humour' (Hofer, Illustrated Editions, 32). Fascinating is the graphic rendition of the narrative space through the genres of topography and cartography, with sketches of real maps and even a view of Paris in the background. ‘By positioning the adventures of knights-errant on a map, or by juxtaposing a cartographic background to the perspectival representation of imaginary places, these illustrations […] translate faithfully into images the mixture […] of romance with reality as depicted by maps' (Benassi-Pezzini, ‘Mappe ed ecfrasi', 188).A gem in the history of book illustration. Brunet I, 436; Guidi, Annali, 84; EDIT16 CNCE 2796. WorldCat locates 4 copies in the US (Illinois, UPenn, Yale, North Carolina).Hofer, ‘Illustrated Editions of Orlando Furioso', in Fragonard's Drawings for Ariosto (Washington, 1945), 27-40; A. Benassi, S. Pezzini, ‘Mappe ed ecfrasi nell'edizione Valgrisi del 1556', in Orlando Furioso. Lo specchio delle immagini (Roma, 2014), 183-226; U. Guidi, Annali delle edizioni e delle versioni dell'Orlando Furioso (Bologna, 1861).

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