Ricordi overo ammaestramenti [...], ne quali con prudenti, e christiani discorsi si ragiona di tutte le materie honorate, che si ricercano a un vero gentil'huomo

Autore: CASTIGLIONE, Sabba da (1480-1554)

Tipografo: Gherardo Paolo.

Dati tipografici: Venezia,   1554

Formato: in quarto

4to (214x152 mm). [8], 135, [1] leaves. Collation: *44 a-z4 A-L4. With the large woodcut portrait of the author on the title page and the printer's device on last leaf verso. Contemporary limp vellum, inked title on the spine and lower edge, remnants of ties (new endpapers, small stains). On title page manuscript ownership's inscription Ballybay Library. Inner margin of the title page reinforced, small holes to the gutter of the first two leaves with no loss of text, small ink stain on the upper blank margin at the end of the volume, otherwise a very good genuine copy.

FIRST COMPLETE EDITION. First published in Bologna in 1546, containing only seventy-two chapters, the Ricordi appeared in an enlarged edition in 1549 (124 chapters) also in Bologna. The present, definitive, edition containing 133 ‘ricordi' was edited by Zaccaria Bellenghi, Fra Sabba's chaplain in Faenza, shortly after the latter's death. The work became very popular and between 1546 and 1613 twenty-five editions were published.

In the present edition is also found for the first time the title woodcut showing Fra Sabba in his study. Ugo Rozzo (Lo studiolo nella silografia italiana, 1479-1558, Udine, 1998, pp. 90, 114), deems this frontispiece to be remarkable for the mid-sixteenth century both for its Hospitaller imagery and its display of books within the study. The woodcut is emblematic of Sabba's monastic life conducted within the Order's parameters of social utility. He presents an iconographic image of the devout humanist knight who prefers the tranquility of his Commenda to the bustle of the city (see also D. Thornton, The Scholar in his Study: Ownership and Experience in Renaissance Italy, New Haven, CT, 1997, pp. 106-114).

The work consists of two series of “avvertimenti” (advices), each closely related to Castiglione's initial idea of providing to his grandnephew Bartolomeo Righi useful hints on how to become a perfect knight Hospitaller, but its numerous printings in the sixteenth century and its breadth of scope suggest a wider target audience. The other ‘ricordi', were developed into true small treatises or essays, that Castiglione expanded and augmented in every new edition. Despite not having a wide-ranging extent, nevertheless they present a considerable interest, especially when compared to the works of contemporaries on the same topics, i.e. the life of a courtier, the government of a city, the prince and the tyrant, men of arms and religion, marriage, how to decorate a house, clothes, food and drink, physical exercise, travel, etc. But included were also his life in Faenza, his political aspirations, linguistic experiments, ideas on religious reform. Geopolitical issues of the day are vigorously engaged and farcical passages replete with colloquial phrasing appear alongside passionate theological discourse expressing a strident anti-Lutheran viewpoint (cf. C. Scarpati, Per il testo dei ‘Ricordi', in: “Studi sul Cinquecento italiano”, Milano, 1982, pp. 68-82; see also D.F. Allen, The Hospitaller Castiglione's Catholic Synthesis of Warfare, Learning and Lay Piety on the Eve of the Council of Trent, in: “The Hospitallers, the Mediterranean, and Europe: Festschrift for Anthony Luttrell”, K. Borchardt & al. eds., London, 2016, pp. 286-298).

The Ricordi is also very interesting from the point of view of art history and criticism, showing Fra Sabba's antiquarian efforts for Isabella d'Este, his admiration for Dürer's prints, and the artists he had known at Rome, e.g. Gian Cristoforo Romano, Bramante, Raphael, Cristoforo Foppa, ‘Il Caradosso', the San Gallo family, just to mention a few (cf. M. Collareta, Il mondi dell'arte dei ‘Ricordi' di Fra Sabba, in: “Sabba da Castiglione, 1480-1554. Dalle corti rinascimentali alls Commenda di Faenza. Atti del Covegno, Faenza, 19-20 maggio 2000”, A.R. Gentilini, ed., Florence, 2004, pp. 297-312).

At the end of the volume is reprinted another work by Fra Sabba, the Consolatoria, written during his stay at Rhodes (November 25, 1517). This consolatory epistle, addressed to the Milanese poet Camilla Scarampi for the death of her husband Ambrogio Guidoboni. This letter was published at Bologna in 1529. From the dedication dated March 15, 1527 to Giacomo Guicciardini, vice-president of Romagna, we learn that Fra Sabba had submitted the work, in the last ten years, to Niccolò Machiavelli and Panfilo Sassi asking them if they considered it worthy of being published (M.C. Tarsi, Una poetessa nella Milano di primo Cinquecento, Samilla Scarampi, in: “Giornale storico della letteratura italiana”, 192/639, 2015, pp. 414-451).

Sabba da Castiglione was an instance of the self-fashioned courtier-knight of the later Renaissance who combines an unusual set of roles: Hospitaller commander, canon regular, art collector, courtier, poet, and preceptor of knightly rules. He was born in Milan around 1480, where he also became his first. education. He pursued post-secondary studies at the University of Padua, studying jurisprudence from about 1500 to late spring 1505, but did not finish his legal education. After a brief stay in Mantua, in 1505, at the age of 25, he decided to join the Order of the Knights of Jerusalem (later called Knights of Malta), of which he soon became Deputy Attorney General. He lived in Rhodes until 1508, then moved to Rome, where he sojourned seven years as legal aide-de-camp to the admiral of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller (and later Grand Master), Fabrizio del Carretto, cultivating his interest in the arts and literature. In Rome he also met his cousin, Baldassare Castiglione, author of Il Cortegiano. Fra Sabba was a passionate forerunner of archaeology and, during his stay on the Aegean Sea, he was able to procure several ancient marble pieces to Isabella d'Este in Mantua. In 1515, at the age of thirty-five, Fra Sabba became a Hospitaller commander, accepting a post previously held by his friend Giulio de' Medici, the future Pope Clement VII. He took up residence at the Order's Commenda, or commandery, a district headquarters similar to a feudal estate, in Faenza, Romagna, part of the Papal States. He accepted this post to better dedicate himself to the studies he loved so much, away from mundane affairs, the intrigues of courts and military life. His residence in Faenza was the Church of Commenda (Saint Mary Magdalene), also called ‘Magione', dating back to the XII century. It was not in good conditions when Fra Sabba came. This was due to the fact that previous commanders had not chosen the complex of the Commenda as their own living place, employing their revenues for other purposes. In 1533, Fra Sabba entrusted Girolamo da Treviso with the task to embellish the church with a fresco portraying the ‘Enthroned Madonna between Saint Mary Magdalene and Saint Catherine of Alexandria'. Another work of art of great importance, accomplished in the year of his death, is the one painted by Francesco Menzocchi from Forlì: a monochrome fresco depicting him as an old man presented by Saint Joseph to the Virgin. Underneath this image lies Fra Sabba's sepulchre, with a Latin epigraph composed by himself. His interests as a man of study and collector gave birth to a library, unfortunately lost, and to a collection of pieces of art, whose surviving items are to be seen in the Pinacoteca Comunale of Faenza (F. Petrucci, Sabba da Castiglione, in: “Dizionario biografico degli italiani”, 22, 1978, pp. 100-106).

Edit 16, CNCE 10159; Universal STC, 819593; Index Aureliensis, 133.665; R.M. Bell, How To Do It. Guides to Good Living for Renaissance Italians, Chicago, IL, 1999, p. 337; C. Scarpati, op. cit., p. 89.


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