[BODONI]. Epithalamia exoticis linguis reddita

Parma,  ex Regio Typographeo., 1775

Folio (472 x 323 mm.), [6] leaves, XLII pages, [1] leaf, 76 leaves, [3] leaves, XXXVI pages with 139 finely engraved vignettes, headpiece ornaments, tailpieces and historiated initials by Bossi, Volpato, Ferrari, Cagnoni, Sommerau, Mussi and Ravenet. A very fine and fresh copy bound in modern dark green morocco gilt, spine in compartments, gilt edges

One of Bodoni’s masterpieces. It is the first exotic types specimen books and contains the alphabets of twenty-five exotic languages, including Tibetan, Phoenician, Samaritan, Ethiopian and Coptic. ‘The year [1775] also included the publication of what is justly called the masterpiece of Bodoni’s early works. It was published in celebration of the wedding of Carlo Emanuele, the prince of Piedmont (the same prince who had expressed a desire to see Bodoni before he set off for the Court of Parma) and Maria Adelaide Clothilde, sister of the king of France. What a perfect opportunity for Bodoni to create the most extravagantly beautiful and extensive polyglot book the world had ever seen! It took a team to complete the monumental Epithalamia exoticis linguis reddita. Its 125 pages contained 139 illustrations (etchings, capital letters, and culs-de-lampe). Three artists worked on designing and etching portraits? and coats-of-arms. Four authors (including Father Paciaudi) wrote the text, and Count Rezzonico was trotted out again to write a Latin poem, this time running to twenty pages; Bodoni worked hardest of all, preparing good whishes for the royal couple in 26 different languages, each page bearing the name of a different city in Piedmont and an illustrated allegory of the city. […] Epithalamia exoticis linguis reddita was a great success, particularly in Turin. Writing from that city on 2 October 1775, Father Paciaudi stated: “The book has aroused admiration here. It is sought out with avidity…and all foreign visitors try to take it back across the mountains.” Carlo Emanuele was so delighted with his wedding present that he rewarded Bodoni with a gift of gold coins enclosed in a gold casket made in Paris. Following publication, Bodoni was deluged with orders for type from distant printers who wanted to advertise that their offices could offer works printed with type cast by Bodoni. Trevisiani (P. Trevisani, Bodoni, Epoca Vita Arte. Milano, 1951) points out that Bodoni’s fascination with producing exotic type was no mere caprice. It responded to a real need. Codices and early books in foreign languages were continually arriving from Asia and the Near East; scholars desperately needed printed copies of these works in order to study them.’ (V. Lester, Giambattista Bodoni, his life and his world. Boston, 2015). ‘The Epithalamia exoticis linguis reddita of 1775, issued in honur of the marriage of Marie Adelaide Clothilde, sister of Luis XVI, printed in Bodoni’s “first manner” from old style types is a masterpiece; really magnificent in its types, their arrangement, and the superb engraved decorations which, for once, enhance the effect of the page. I think it is one of his finest volumes.’ (Updike, II, p.171).

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