NotabiliaThere are 67 items

Notes on inscriptions, bindings, bookplates and other evidence of ownership in rare books
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  • A sale in Paris in 1870 of a select portion of the vast library of the marqueses de Astorga introduced to the market the family library of the marquesado de Velada.1 The finest of these books had been collected by don Gómez Dávila y Toledo (ca 1535-1616), II marqués de Velada, a major figure at the Spanish court from the 1590s until his death in 1616,2 and by his younger brother, Sancho Dávila y Toledo (1546-1625), successively Bishop of Cartagena (1591), Jaén (1600-1615), Sigüenza (1615-1622), and Plasencia (1622-1625). Sometime after 1784, their libraries were absorbed by inheritance into the Astorga-Altamira library, mixed there among books from the libraries of the Conde-Duque, Montemar, Leganés, Sessa, and other families. A financial crisis, occasioned by the death in 1864 of Vicente Pío, XVIII marqués de Astorga, XIV conde de Altamira, and XV duque de Sessa, required his heir to dispose of assets.3 The Parisian bookseller Antoine Bachelin-Deflorenne reputedly purchased all the books offered in 1870 for 20,000 pesetas.4

  • The Massimi were one of the oldest aristocratic families in Rome. Domenico Massimi (d. ca 1528), who had amassed a fortune from trade and banking, renovated a palace on the ancient via Papale, where he gathered inscriptions and antique sculpture.1 After its destruction in the Sack of Rome, Pietro (d. 1544), the eldest of his three surviving sons, rebuilt on the same site (1532-1536, design by Baldassare Peruzzi) the so-called Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne; his brother Angelo (1481-1550) built next door (1533-1537, design by Giovanni Mangone) the so-called Palazzo Massimo di Pirro; and his brother Luca (d. 1550) built on the opposite side of the via Papale (design by Antonio da Sangallo). Antiquities from their father’s collection and newly acquired items were installed in the new palazzi, each sumptuously decorated and furnished.

  • We have commented elsewhere on the rarity of sixteenth-century albums in which the owners pasted, mounted, or bound their prints for safekeeping.1 Many such albums have been broken by dealers, so that they could sell the prints individually;2 or else taken apart by curators, so the prints could be stored in accordance with an institutions’ classification system.3 Those that have survived without alteration offer opportunities to learn how prints were originally collected, used and appreciated, and to see the individual print in a contemporary context. This post describes briefly an album of fifty prints assembled about 1560, which has remained intact to the present day.

  • The reappearance in the auction salerooms (Sotheby’s, London, 9 July 2024) of a volume containing works of the architects Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola and Antonio Labacco, bound together with seven suites of prints of architectural and other ornament, provides an opportunity to re-examine it in the light of recent research, and in the context of other albums of prints marketed by Antonio Lafreri.

    The past twenty years have seen the publication of important studies on print-publishing in sixteenth-century Italy, particularly with regard to a central actor, the entrepreneur Antonio Lafreri, a publisher and dealer in prints and books, of French origin, who in 1544 set up shop near the parish church of S. Tommaso in Parione, and died there in July 1577. More than five hundred prints on archaeological, architectural, religious, historical and geographical subjects were issued from Lafreri’s premises over the years.1 Questions persist about the marketing of his most famous and influential series of prints, the so-called atlases, and a collection of plans and views of ancient and modern Rome, entitled Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae. What was the role of the customer in their assembly? The long-held assumption, based on the varying composition of surviving albums, is that all are informal collections, “assembled to order,” without fixed contents or internal arrangement, products of “negotiations” between the buyer and seller, during which the customer made a selection according to his means and interests.2 This is doubtless true, however there is a growing body of evidence that Lafreri himself assembled collections of prints, either as a convenience to customers, or as a commercial strategy to stimulate the sale of unsold prints, and that he sold these across the counter as more or less uniformly constructed albums. It is likely that some albums were sold by Lafreri ready-bound. Soon after his death, it is almost certain that Lafreri’s heirs were retailing such albums.3

  • Only one binding for conte Fulvio Rangoni is known. It covers a copy of a posthumous collection of Pietro Bembo’s vernacular letters, Delle lettere di m. Pietro Bembo primo volume, published at Rome by Valerio & Luigi Dorico for Carlo Gualteruzzi, in September 1548. The binding probably was executed in 1549 or 1550. The richly gilt red goatskin is lettered “CARD. BEMBO” on the upper cover and “C. FVLVIO RANGONE” on the lower. Remarkably, another copy of the same edition was bound in Venice for Fulvio Rangoni’s sister, Claudia (1537-1593), its upper cover similarly lettered “CARD. BEMBO,” with “C. CLAVDIA RANGONA” on the lower (see Appendix below). The bindings are not twins, but share general decorative features, and most likely were made at the same time in the same anonymous shop.

  • Gian Federico Madruzzo first came to notice as a bibliophile in 1868, when three bindings decorated with his armorial insignia appeared in a sale in Paris of the stock of the Brighton bookseller Giovanni Garcia.1 Some copies of the auction sale catalogue contain, quite unusually, photographic illustrations of bindings, one of them Madruzzo’s copy of the 1559 Statius (lot 481; see no. 61 in the List below). The arms on its covers were drawn by Joannis Guigard and reproduced in his Nouvel armorial du bibliophile (1890). With few exceptions, Madruzzo’s books have since been identified correctly, albeit without consensus about the places and dates of binding.

    During a collecting lifetime of some thirty years, Gian Federico (or his agents) patronised binders in Paris, Lyon, Rome, and northern Italy, who executed bindings for him in goatskin, calf, and vellum, and in a variety of styles. This has made him an attractive subject for connoisseurs of bookbindings. The Comtes de Chandon de Briailles (father and sons) acquired seven of Gian Federico’s bindings (sold in 1954), while T. Kimball Brooker collected eleven (to be sold 2023-2025). Jean Fürstenberg possessed four; Carl D. Becher, Hector Marie Auguste de Backer, and Michel Wittock each owned three; William Henry Corfield, Louis-Alexandre Barbet, Grace Whitney Hoff, Albert Ehrman, and Frederick B. Adams were content with one each.

    Scholarly investigation of Gian Federico’s bindings commenced in 1935, when G.D. Hobson described six volumes decorated à la fanfare (a seventh was added by Anthony Hobson in 1970).2 In 1990, Paul Culot published another (no. 43 in our List), while claiming knowledge of “une vingtaine d’autres ouvrages.”3 Francesco Malaguzzi then took up the hunt, extending it to bindings made for other members of the Madruzzo family, referring in 1993 to “più di trenta” bindings for Gian Federico in an essay documenting the bibliophilism of the Madruzzo family.4 Malaguzzi published the same year a monograph on legature madruzziane, in which 37 bindings are listed (31 were made for Gian Federico and of these 16 are illustrated).5 Malaguzzi subsequently added four Gian Federico bindings to that corpus in a series of catalogues of bindings in Piemontese collections;6 Culot contributed five more;7 and André Markiewicz discovered an especially beautiful binding that Gian Federico had commissioned in Paris in 1555.8 The present list includes twenty-nine bindings not mentioned by Malaguzzi, Culot, or Markiewicz, in a new iteration of the census.9 It excludes books which belonged to Gian Federico, but do not display his name or armorial insignia on their covers.10 Also excluded are books bound for other members of the family (several of the latter are however listed in the Appendix).

  • In a previous post (link), the provenances of two luxuriously bound, presentation copies of a book of engraved prints with the Latin title Hystoria Iasonis (Paris 1563) were investigated. This work was published simultaneously in French translation, entitled Livre de la Conqueste de la Toison d’or, par le Prince Jason de Tessalie: faict par figures avec exposition d’icelles, and copies of it also were bound for presentation. Two such copies of the French edition, presented respectively to Charles de Guise, Cardinal de Lorraine (1524-1574), and to his young nephew, Henri I de Lorraine, duc de Guise (1550-1588), are discussed below.

  • The dedication copy of an album of writing samples and model alphabets, designed by a scriptor latinus at the Vatican, Giovanni Francesco Cresci (ca 1534-ca 1614), printed on vellum for him by the stampatore camerale Antonio Blado, and bound in red goatskin by the Vatican binder Niccolò Franzese with the insignia of the dedicatee, Cardinal Carlo Borromeo (1538-1584), painted within a cartouche on both covers.

    In a series of introductory texts, Cresci offers practical instructions and critiques the scripts displayed by previous writers, notably those of Giovanni Battista Palatino, the leading figure among Roman calligraphers, and author of the most often reprinted of Roman calligraphy manuals. Each page is set within a woodcut passe-partout frame, of which there are four different designs. Then follow fifty-six examples of his own innovative scripts and roman capitals, cut in wood by Francesco Aureri da Crema, and bordered by scrollwork.1 These frames and borders and the book’s landscape format give each specimen the appearance of a monumental inscription. Like many sixteenth-century calligraphy manuals, the Essemplare is now a rare book: just nine copies are recorded, of which this is the only one known on vellum.2

  • This binding covering a suite of twenty-six engravings illustrating the Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece is decorated to an “architectural” design: a gold-tooled cornice, frieze, and architrave are supported by Ionic columns, which frame a tablet on which is placed the heraldic shield of Nicolas Dangu as abbé de Juilly, flanked by large cornucopias. On the stylobate (upper cover only) is another tablet, lettered with the motto “Ditat servata fides”. The design is enhanced by varicoloured onlays and red and blue-grey paint is used to pick out details. The composition seems intended to represent a palace portico or arcade, but there is little resemblance to any real structure, classical or contemporary, and no graphic model can be identified.

    Bindings with architectural decoration are of great rarity. The style had evolved in North-east Italy during the 1470s, was revived in France in the mid-1540s by Jean Grolier,1 and had faded by the mid-1570s. A census of bindings with this kind of ornament compiled in 1926 by G.D. Hobson lists just twelve examples, of which four were made ca 1545 by Jean Picard for Grolier, and one several years later by Picard’s successor, Gommar Estienne, for Grolier’s protégé, Thomas Mahieu.2 The present binding and another (see Appendix below), covering a copy of the same book, are both recorded by G.D. Hobson, however their original owners have until now remained enigmatic. They are here identified as Nicolas Dangu (d. 1567) and Vincenzo Lauro (1523-1592).

  • A sale in Paris in December 2019 of books from the Béhague-Ganay collections returned to the market a superbly bound, large paper copy of Philibert De L’Orme’s Le premier tome de l’architecture, a lavishly illustrated (205 woodcut illustrations) synthesis of architectural theory and practice, dedicated by the author to his patron, Catherine de’ Medici (25 November 1567).1 Its black morocco covers are richly gilt to a magnificent “décor de fanfare de type primitif”, with inset central roundels of red morocco, and inset border frames of brown morocco, further ornamented by a gilt cypher formed of the majuscule Greek letters lamba (Λ) and eta (Η), the initials of Louis de Gonzague, duc de Nevers (1539-1595), and his wife Henriette de Clèves, duchesse de Nevers (1542-1601). The copy was bound in an atelier designated by convention the “Relieur des fanfares primitives” or “Atelier au Vase”, a Paris shop which produced bindings of outstanding quality for Mahieu, De Thou, and Grolier among others.2 Another large paper copy, also in a primitive fanfare binding, but probably bound in a different shop, was given to the dedicatee Catherine de’ Medici (see below Appendix A).

  • Five bindings decorated on both covers by a device of a flaming torch and the motto “Hoc virtutis opus” are known. They cover books printed at Venice between 1544 and 1553: a translation of Giovanni Candido’s Latin history of Friuli, from the foundation of Aquileia to 1517; and works of Cicero edited and published by Paolo Manuzio. None of the five volumes retains inscriptional or other evidence indicative of the original owner.

  • Five bindings are known with the motto “Susque deque” lettered in the centre of each cover, accompanied (above and below) by a monogram composed of the Greek letters “α ι” (alpha, iota). This motto, derived from the Greek (Ἄνω καὶ κάτω), had appeared in Erasmus’s collection of Greek and Latin proverbs (Chilias 1, Centuria 3, 283), with examples from Plautus, Aulus Gellius, and Marcus Terentius Varro. It means literally “up and down,” and was used by those who wished to appear indifferent, in a derogatory sense, towards something or someone, hence - to indicate that he did not care about Octavian - Cicero wrote to Atticus “De Octavio, susque deque.” (14, 6, 1). The five bindings cover books printed at Lyon by Sébastien Gryphe in 1547 or 1548. Judging from photographs, they are Lyonese work from a single shop, in all probability executed concurrently. All five are sextodecimos, and it could be that they formed part of a travelling library assembled at or near Lyon around 1548.

  • Very many bindings of the early sixteenth century are decorated by panels or rolls bearing a binder or die-cutter or bookseller’s initials. Fully signed rolls are however uncommon. G.D. Hobson observed that “the habit of signing rolls otherwise than with initials only may be French” and speculated that a roll used in England signed with the name “de Villiers” may have originated in France.1 Fully signed rolls were used by the printer and bookseller Macé Panthoul at Troyes early in the sixteenth century, and by Thomas Cormier (Courmyer) who was in business at the same time in Bordeaux and perhaps Limoges. Claude Chevallon (1479-1537), a Parisian bookseller, active from about 1506, used a distinctive roll signed with a rebus of his name: a saddled horse between two banderols, one lettered “Claude” and the other “Lon”. A Provisional List of bindings decorated by this roll is presented below.

  • Bindings with the device or name of a publisher or printer stamped on their covers, so-called “publisher’s bindings,” are generally assumed to have been made for display in the publisher’s own bookshop, to advertise the business, or for sale to customers who preferred to buy their books ready bound.1 In 1994, Georges Colin listed four such bindings decorated with the gilt device of the Lyonese printer Sébastien Gryphe.2 Additional bindings are identified here, and it is hoped that this augmented list will facilitate a fresh investigation, bring other bindings to light, and perhaps dispel lingering speculation, that these bindings could just as well have been made for the publisher’s personal library, or for donation by him, or for some other non-commercial purpose.3 The more specimens we know, the better we will be able to explain their meaning.

  • Fourteen sixteenth-century Parisian bindings are known with a gilt device of a pelican in its piety stamped on both covers.1 This device, alluding to Christ’s life-giving sacrifice, and also the financial and professional sacrifices which printers undertake for readers, had been adopted as a shop sign by Geoffroy, Enguilbert, and Jean de Marnef, printers and booksellers, who from the mid-1480s were established in the Latin Quarter in the rue Saint-Jacques, across from the chapelle Saint-Yves, “à l’enseigne du Pélican”. The de Marnef brothers employed many variations of the pelican mark in their publications, almost all of which depict the pelican in the act of feeding its three chicks with its own blood (upper left corner), a watchful hawk (right corner), the initials of their forenames E-I-G and name (below), and “Benedictum sit nomen Domini” lettered within a frame.2 After Jérôme de Marnef, Geoffroy’s second son (ca 1515-1596, libraire juré from 1548), took over the printing house, simplified designs of the pelican printer’s device were introduced (fifteen versions are recorded by Renouard).3 In these, the pelican is still turned to the right, but has been moved from the corner to the centre, and the hawk eliminated. The shop was by then sufficiently well known that Jérôme’s name was unnecessary.

  • At least twenty-nine bindings are known with a gilt device of the Parisian publisher Charles L’Angelier (Langelier; 1503-1563) stamped on their covers: two angels, kneeling before the Infant Christ, who holds in His right hand a cord (a love knot), and in His left the Globus cruciger, flanked by the letters “C L,” with a rebus on his name “Les Anges Lies” (or “Les Anges Liers”) in the exergue. The printer’s devices of Charles and his elder brother Arnoul (1497-1557) have a kindred design, without initials:

  • Thirty-three bindings are known with the supralibros of an unidentified owner: in the centres of the upper covers, a gilt cypher consisting of three Greek letters (Δ-delta, Σ-sigma, Ι-iota); on the lower covers, the entwined gilt Latin letters “D S”. Fourteen of these bindings are of vellum, and display the cyphers within an oval cartouche featuring satyr-heads (at top and bottom) and festoons of fruit. Nineteen bindings are of calfskin, and are decorated by a pair of cartouches, one composed of laurel wreaths, with a tiny palmette placed at right and left, enclosing the Greek cypher (a new stamp), and the other - similar wreaths, but without palmettes - enclosing the cypher “D S” (new stamp). A title usually is lettered directly in the tail compartment of the spine.

    The bindings contain altogether fifty books. Apart from a recueil factice of nine tracts in French, all of a reformist slant, printed in 1568-1569 (no. 21 in List below), a volume containing two Venetian editions of Machiavelli, in the original Italian (no. 23), and the scholia (in Greek) of Aristobulus Apostolis on the plays of Euripides (no. 12), the texts are in Latin (several translated from the Greek). The earliest was published in 1544 and the latest in 1572, at Antwerp (5), Basel (15), Cologne (1), Florence (2), Geneva (1), Hagenau (1), Lausanne (1), Lyon (3), Paris (5), Strassburg (2), Venice (4), Wittenberg (1), and nine (in no. 21) without place or printer’s name. The bindings appear to be provincial French, executed ca 1560-1590 (the latest book in a vellum binding was printed in 1572; the latest in a calf binding in 1566). None of the volumes seems to contain any evidence identifying their original owner, “D S”.

  • In 1991, Anthony Hobson drew attention to five bindings made in the shop of the “Fugger Binder” for an unidentified collector whose initials are “A. A.”.1 Hobson added two bindings to the group in 1999, when he presented a census of bindings made by the Fugger Binder.2 Two bindings and another two, provisional additions to that list, are added here (nos. 1-2, 7, 11 in List below).

  • In describing what he calls the most beautiful palace in Italy, the Montefeltro palace in Urbino, Baldassare Castiglione proceeds from a description of the fertile surrounding countryside, to the building itself, then descriptions of its opulent furnishings and precious objects, paintings and statuary, reaching finally the library, the climax of this tour: “con grandissima spesa [Federico] adunò un gran numero di eccellentissimi e rarissimi libri greci, latini ed ebraici, quali tutti ornò d’oro e d’argento, estimando che questa fusse la suprema eccellenzia del suo magno palazzo” (Il libro del cortegiano, Book I, 2).

    Our knowledge of these richly bound volumes depends largely on a post-mortem inventory. In August 1540, about a month after Federico’s death, the duchess Margherita Paleologa and Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga, who were named in Federico’s testament as guardians of his four children, instructed a notary from Rimini, Odoardo Stivini, to take an inventory of Federico’s assets, and also those of his mother, Isabella d’Este (d. 13 February 1539). Stivini completed the work in October 1542, presenting his inventory in a series of loose fascicules, organised according to the location and category of the goods. The fascicule for Federico’s books has 179 entries, however many entries mention two or more books, and the total number of volumes is at least 211. Stivini’s inventory of Isabella’s library (133 entries) reveals no internal arrangement: books and manuscripts are mixed together, also formats, and there is no organisation by language. In contrast, Federico’s books are organised both by language (Latin, Italian, Spanish, French) and by format (folio, quarto, octavo), and the inventory perhaps documents how they were arranged.1 Federico’s inventory reveals an interest in the Latin classics in the original language; a taste for history, with numerous chronicles in Italian, French, and Spanish; for literature, particularly chivalric romances;2 and for books relating to the various arts of the court: horsemanship, fencing, falconry, etc. Overall, it is orientated more toward entertainment than for study.

  • Two bindings by the English “Morocco Binder” ornamented by plaquettes of classical authors are known. One binding (in the Bibliotheca Brookeriana) features four plaquettes on each cover, depicting Cato, Cicero, Plato, and Xenocrates; the other (British Library, C24c14) has two plaquettes, impressed twice on each cover, of Cato and Cicero. The latter volume entered the British Museum via the old Royal Library, and was published by Fletcher, Wheatley, and Davenport. It was studied again by Anthony Hobson, in 1989, however Hobson failed to identify graphic or metallic prototypes for its two plaquettes, and speculated that the “English tool-cutter [had] invented his own images”.1

    All four plaquettes appear to be based on engravings by René Boyvin, published at Paris in 1566, as Illvstrivm philosophorvm et poetarvm vetervm effigies XII. Ex antiquis tum marmoreis tum aeneis signis ad viuum expresse & nunc primum in lucem aeditae,2 and diffused by other printmakers.3 In the 1566 issue of Boyvin’s suite, the prints are numbered in the matrices: 7 (Xenocrates), 8 (Plato), 10 (Cato), 11 (Cicero). René Boyvin was born at Angers about 1520, and settled in Paris about 1545, joining the workshop of the printmaker Pierre Milan. He was closely involved in Protestant circles, became the portrait engraver for leading reformers, and in 1569 was imprisoned in Paris for his religious beliefs. Boyvin’s print series provided models for craftsmen in several media,4 and also for medallists.5

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