Descrittione [...], di tutti i Paesi Bassi, altrimenti detti Germania Inferiore. Con tutte le carte di Geografia del paese, et col ritratto al naturale di molte terre principali; Riveduta di nuovo, et ampliata per tutto la terza volta dal medesimo autore [...] Con amplissimo Indice di tutte le cose più memorabilia

Autore: GUICCIARDINI, Lodovico (1521-1589)

Tipografo: Christoph Plantin

Dati tipografici: Antwerp, 1588

Folio (339x219 mm). [24], 432, [20] pp. The last leaf is a blank. Collation: *-**6 A-F6 G4 H2 I-Z6 a-p6 q4. With allegorical frontispiece symbolizing Belgium, title within an architectural border and, on the verso, the arms of the Netherlands surrounded by the arms of the various Dutch states, portrait of King Philip of Spain in an architectural border and the arms of Lodovico Guicciardini on the verso in the text; also with 78 numbered engraved plates with views of towns and maps, of which 63 are double-page, 7 full-page and 8 half-page. Roman, Greek and italic types. Woodcut headpieces and initials. Contemporary or slightly later stiff vellum, inked title along the spine (spine partly restored, endleaves renewed). Some light browning and foxing throughout (stronger in places), overall a genuine copy with good margins.


Third italian edition (the second printed by Plantin after the revised edition of 1581, whereas the first was printed at Antwerp by Willem Sylvius in 1567) with a new note to the reader by Guicciardini dated November 20, 1587. It is very likely that the author re-read the Italian text before its printing, since he received from Platin an advance-sum of fifty florins, whilst he would also receive an unspecified number of copies. In March 1587 Platin obtained the privilege from the Antwerp Privy Council. The members of the Council had read the text with great attention and had made a number of additions or changes where they thought Guicciardini had been misinformed. The complete edition was taken by the Italian merchant Paolo Franceschi, who accepted to pay 2520 florins for 400 copies, thus Plantin quickly obtained the cash-money he needed so badly.

Guicciardini's Description of the Whole Netherlands, was the first detailed description of the principalities and cities of the Low Countries, assured him instant fame, was translated into Dutch, French, English, Spanish, German and Latin, and had over forty editions until the end of the seventeenth century. The volume is still one of the most valuable sources of information for the description of the region or the cities, the etymology of their names and the origin of the foundations, the positions and fortification of the cities and the descriptions of streets and buildings, of political institutions or festivals, of the customs of the people and their religious beliefs, the general economic conditions and the actual trade and commerce, the educational institutions and the famous citizens. Important are also the many references to notable Netherlandish artists. Guicciardini stated that he was assisted in his work by the artists Lucas de Heere and Dominicus Lampsonius of Bruges. He also took certain passages directly from the first edition of Vasari's Vite (1550): for example, Vasari's assertion that Jan van Eyck discovered the technique of oil painting and that there was a very beautiful painting by ‘Ugo d'Anversa' in Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, which is taken to refer to the Portinari Altarpiece by Hugo van der Goes. Vasari in turn appears to have employed Guicciardini's account, since in the second edition of his Vite (1568) he included Hubert van Eyck, Jan's brother (cf. J.M. Maldague, La part de Guicciardini dans la literature artistique de son temps, in: “Lodovico Guicciardini. Actes du Colloque international des 28, 29 et 30 mars 1990”, P. Jodogne, ed., Louvain, 1991, pp. 321-335).

Whereas the first editions had mainly been provided with woodcuts, the greatest number of which concerned the Southern Netherlands, the beautifully engraved views and maps were first used in the Plantin edition of 1581. This edition contained 55 engravings, 23 more plates were added to Plantin's French edition of 1582, which were reprinted with slight variants in the present edition, e.g. Antwerp's capitulation in 1585 led to the rebuilding of the ramparts of the citadel in the south side: their outlines have been etched in on the plate and the date was changed into 1587 (cf. H. Deys, M. Franssen, V. van Hezik, F. te Raa & E. Walsmit, Guicciardini Illustratus. De kaarten en prenten in Lodovico Guicciardini's Beschrijvin van de Nederlanden, t'Goy-Houten 2001, pp. 46-49). Among the town views found in this work are Antwerp, Louvain, Brussels, Deventer, Groningen, Delft, Leiden, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Gent, Brugge, Lille, Douai, Arras, Cambrai, Mons, Luxemburg, Namur, Liège, Aachen and many others. Several plates have clearly been copied after examples of Braun and Hogenberg's Civitas Orbis Terrarum and after Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, but the relationship between Braun and Hogenberg, Silvius and Plantin in particular has not been studied adequately.

Lodovico Guicciardini, a native of Florence and nephew of the historian Francesco Guicciardini, received as a member of a patrician family a good education. He left Italy for Lyons in 1538, but he spent most of his adult life in Antwerp, where he is first documented in 1542. Here he started dealing in cloth, goldthread and similar commodities. He was briefly imprisoned in 1567 and his house confiscated for his criticism of the regime of the Duque de Alba, Governor of the Netherlands. In May 1569 Guicciardini was denounced for his alleged relationship with Protestants and imprisoned in Brussels. He was arrested again in 1582, in connection with the attempt on the life of William the Silent, Prince of Orange. In 1588, during the final years of the wars against the Protestants, he was arrested once more, but freed because of his age. In the last years of his life he received an annual pension of fifty livres d'Artois from the city of Antwerp. He died at the age of 68 and was buried in the Antwerp Cathedral. Guicciardini was also the author of a chronicle of the history of Europe, Commentarii delle cose più memorabili seguite in Europa (1565), a collection of anecdotes Hore di ricreazione (1568), and a selection of aphorisms and precepts from the works of his uncle Francesco, I precetti et sententie più notabili in material di stato (1585) (cf. R.H. Touwaide, Messire Lodovico Guicciardini, gentilhomme florentin, Nieuwkoop, 1975, passim).


Adams G-1542; N. Bingen, Les éditions d'oeuvres en langue italienne à Anvers à l'époque de Lodovico Guicciardini, in: “Lodovico Guicciardini. Actes du Colloque international des 28, 29 et 30 mars 1990”, P. Jodogne, ed., Louvain, 1991, p., 202, no. 19; E.A. Cockx-Indestage, Belgica Typographica 1541-1600, Bruxelles, 1968-1994, no. 1362; L. Voet, The Plantin Press (1555-1589), Amsterdam, 1981, pp. 1065-1068, no. 1280; R.H. Touwaide, Les editions belges de la description des Pays-Bas par Lodovico Guicciardini: analyse iconographique et typographique, in: “De Gulden Passer”, 49, 1971, pp. 49-61.