ARIOSTO, Ludovico. Orlando Furioso di M. Ludovico Ariosto novissimamente alla sua integrità ridotto et di varie figure ornato

In Venetia, per Nicolo di Bascarini., 1543

Quarto (200 x 140 mm.), 246 leaves, woodcut portrait of Ariosto after Titian on title page, peacock printer’s device on last leaf and 46 small woodcut illustrations at the beginning of each canto. Eighteenth century calf, spine in compartments with red morocco lettering piece. Provenance: “Ex libris Federici Sacci Cremonensis” (manuscript note), Richard Heber (according to the description of Giuseppe Martini pasted on front pastedown) an old sale catalogue description pasted on first flyleaf, Livio Ambrogio (ex libris). Title page a little dust soiled, a small paper flaw on pages 185-186 affecting a couple of letters, binding worn but a very good copy.

A very rare copy of one of the first illustrated editions ever printed of Ariosto’s masterpiece. Very little is known about Nicolò Bascarini, a typographer active in Venice from 1541 to 1554. This edition reproduces the whole set of illustrations realized for the edition by Niccolò Zoppino in 1536, that is, the first illustrated edition of Ariosto’s Furioso. Nevertheless, if compared to the original, Bascarini’s illustrations are bigger and better defined. Each illustration corresponds in size to one ottava rima, that is the eight-line stanza organizing the whole poem, and reproduces a single episode; the characters clearly prevail on the landscape, which is only superficially sketched. The Orlando Furioso was the most popular Italian epic poem of the sixteenth century, and is generally regarded as the finest expression of the literary tendencies and spiritual attitudes of the Italian Renaissance. There is no doubt that the success enjoyed by the work from the 1520s was also due to the fact that illustrations began to be produced for the poem almost immediately: publishers competed with each other in producing new editions (almost 200 in less than a century), offering different features to attract more customers. It proved very difficult for draftsmen to translate into images the extraordinary complexity of the Ariostean invention, as well as to assure an adequate iconographic counterpart to a plot continuously and marvellously overlapping characters and episodes.

F. Zanetti, Nota per una storia delle illustrazioni dell’Orlando Furioso, in Ludovico Ariosto. Documenti, immagini, fortuna critica, 1992, 129-137; I. Andreoli, L’Orlando furioso ‘tutto ricorretto et di nuove figure adornato’, in Autour du livre italien ancien en Normandie, 2011, 41-132; L’Orlando Furioso e la sua traduzione in immagini (orlandofurioso.org).

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