Autore: STAMPA, Gaspara (1523-1554)

Tipografo: Plinio Pietrasanta

Dati tipografici: Venezia, 1554

one of the greatest female poets of the Renaissance

“bella e buona / Saffo de' nostri giorni, alta Gasparra” (Benedetto Varchi, leaf Ψiiiir)


8vo. [16], 177, [13] pp. Collation: Ψ8 A-M8. Lacking the final blank M8. With the printer's device on title page and a woodcut ornament at the end. Old vellum, green tinted edges, some light browning, and a small damp stain on the lower inner blank margin, with the book plate of Carlo Antonio Dotti (see note below) pasted on the inner front wrapper and his stamp and a long manuscript note on the recto of the front flyleaf, a fine copy.


VERY RARE FIRST EDITION. The year following Gaspara Stampa's death in 1553, her sister Cassandra collected “quelle che si sono potute trovare” (‘all those [poems] that could be found') and published them along with epistles and elegiac poems by her and others. Giorgio Benzone, a family friend and a poet, aided Cassandra in editing the Rime, which she dedicated on October 13, 1554 to Giovanni Della Casa (1503-1556), archbishop of Benevento, papal ‘nuncio' to Venice, poet, writer on etiquette and society, diplomat, and inquisitor, celebrated for his treatise on polite behavior, Il Galateo overo de' costumi (1558). With this dedication, Cassandra writes, she will surely respect the will of the “benedetta anima della amata sorella mia, se di là s'ha alcun senso o memoria delle cose di questo mondo, la quale vivendo ebbe sempre per mira vostra Signoria Reverendissima, come uno de' più belli lumi d'Italia” (leaf Ψiir).

After the dedication letter are printed seven sonnets in praise of Gaspara by Benedetto Varchi (3), Giulio Stufa, Giorgio Benzone and Pietro Bembo's son Torquato (2). There follow two-hundred and twenty compositions by Gambara, preceded by a letter to Count Collaltino (see below), which she probably sent to him along with several poems. The next two sonnets are dedicated respectively to King Henry II of France and to his consort Catherine de' Medici (pp. 117-118). There follow sixty-three compositions (mostly sonnets) many addressed to noble personalities from her circle and to fellow poets (Luigi Alamanni, Domenico Vernier, Sperone Speroni, Antonia Paolo de' Negri, Alvise Priuli, Jacopo Zane, Collaltino and Vinciguerra di Collalto, Girolamo Malin, Domenico or Marcantonio Michiel, Giacomo Balbi, Gabriel Trifone, Elena Barozzi Zanzani, Nicolò Tiepolo, Giovanni Andrea Guiscardo, Antonio Soranzo, Ortensio Lando, Fortunio Spira – see W.J. Kennedy, Writing as a Pro: Gaspara Stampa and the Men in Her ‘Rime', in: “Rethinking Gaspara Stampa in the Canon of Renaissance Poetry”, U. Falkeid & A.A. Feng, eds., Farnham, 2025, pp. 137-156). Six ‘capitoli' (pp. 153-167) and nineteen ‘madrigali' (pp. 168-176) close Gambara's ‘canzoniere'. Before the index of first lines is printed a sonnet in praise of Gambara (p. 177) by Leonardo Emo with the mention of two poems in response by Gambara (cf. S. Bianchi, La scrittura poetica al femminile nel Cinquecento veneto: Gaspara Stampa e Veronica Franco, Manziana, 2013, pp. 40-42; see also G. Forni, Oltre il classicismo. Come leggere il ‘povero libretto' di Gaspara Stampa, in: “Il Petrarchismo. Un modello di poesia per l'Europa”, L. Chines, ed., Rome, 2006, I, pp. 251-264; E. Simonato, Le ‘Rime' di Gaspara Stampa. Analisi dell'opera e commento a sonetti scelti, diss., Padua, 2017, passim; and L. Montuori, L'urgenza di dirsi: le ‘Rime'di Gaspara Stampa, in: “Genealogías. Re-Writing the Canon: Women Writing in XVI-XVII Century Italy”, S. Sontosuosso, ed., Sevilla, 2018, pp. 107-126).

Gaspara Stampa certainly was, with Vittoria Colonna and Louise Labé (ca. 1524-1566), one of the luminaries of Renaissance women poets (cf. C. Pelizzari, Gaspara Stampa e Louise Labé: la poesia femminile in Italia e in Francia nel Rinascimento, Turin, 2008, pp. 69-72; see also M. Weston Brown, Vittoria Colonna, Gaspara Stampa and Louise Labé: Their contribution to the development of the Renaissance sonnet, New York, 1991, passim; and F. J. Warnke, Three Women Poets: Renaissance and Baroque, Lewisburg, PA, 1987, p. 16).

“Despite Stampa's impact on sixteenth-century Italian culture, during the two centuries following her death she was virtually forgotten until the 1738 republication of her poetry, and even then the strange editorial and reception history of her poetic corpus distorted by her memory in such a way that her poetry never regained the prominence it once had. As is often the case with female artists, her biography, and especially, her presumed love affairs have tended to overshadow her works. In the last few decades, however, there has been a substantial increase in critical attention paid to Stampa's poetry among both European and North American scholars who have sought to refocus Stampa scholarship on her poetics rather than the mystic love and its reception” (U. Falkeid & A.A. Feng, Introduction, in: “Rethinking Gaspara Stampa in the Canon of Renaissance Poetry”, Farnham, 2015, p. 2).

“Ma come non ricevette risposta, almeno per quanto siamo in grado di saperne, la lettera a Collaltino con cui Gaspara gli consegnava liminarmente alla princeps il suo ‘povero libretto', così quella brillante società veneziana di letterati, poligrafi, musicisti e mecenati, al di là delle immediate e rituali commemorazioni postume, si sarebbe fin troppo presto dimenticata di lei e della sua anomala raccolta di rime di passione, di eroismo, di dramma, di elegia, di melodia e di ironia” (S. Bianchi, op. cit., p. 75).

“Stampa is not only a woman following a literary code created by and for men, she writes her poetry with confidence, takes tone and makes woman's voice heard where it traditionally does not exist. She makes a man a subject of her poems, hence he becomes both a muse and an object deprived of voice. She echoes, or even rewrites, Petrarchan poems, and she compares herself to both him and other legendary poets. Her renewing and individual style unifies body and soul in an earthly bound love. It contradicts both the literary love ideal she emulates and the well-established Neoplatonic philosophy on love. Undoubtedly it makes her ‘unique among all others' ”(J. Vernqvist, A Female Voice in Early Modern Love Poetry- Gaspara Stampa, in: “TRANS. Revue de littérature générale et comparée”, 15, 2013, p.  14).

“More than sixty poems in Gaspara Stampa's 1554 Rime reflect on, eschew, bemoan the weakness of, or tout the power of her own poetic voice. A Venetian virtuosa, or professional musician, Stampa boldly claims poetic equality with male masters […] Through the virtuosity and the wit that her telling puns demonstrate, Stampa models – shows a pattern of and makes – a female poet whose complexity and indeterminacy at times imitate and rivals Petrarch's. Repeatedly pointing to the act of writing, to its polyvocality and wit, and to the speaker's sex, Stampa's deixis constructs subjectivity. Conceits about artistic representation involving perception, matter, and imagination, for example, exemplify her female speaker's wit and knowledge of philosophical discourse, displaying an ingenuity expected only in male poetic geniuses. The content of these metaphors, furthermore, undermines the gendered dualism of master discourses that associate women with matter and chaos, men with spirit, form, and mind. Directed to an audience she defines at times as female, this witty display affirms women's complex subjectivity. Insofar as these poems' wit aims at erotic persuasion, Stampa also assumes that the gifts of mind and intellect that she represents may evoke rather that repel male desire. Wit becomes erotic lure” (M.B. Moore, Body of Light, Body of Matter. Self-Reference as Self-Modeling in Gaspara Stampa, in: “Desiring Voices: Women Sonneteers and Petrarchism”, Carbondale, IL, 2000, pp. 58-59).

Gaspara Stampa was born in Padua in 1523 to her mother Cecelia and father Bartolomeo Stampa, who had been a wealthy jeweler. She had two siblings, Cassandra and Baldassare.  After the death of her father in 1530, the family moved to Venice, where they had relatives. Stampa was afforded an excellent education at the hand of Fortunio Spira, a grammarian and poet, who taught the children Latin, grammar, and possibly Greek. They were also taught lute and voice by the musician Pierrissone Cambio. Gaspara was noted for her lovely singing voice by Giolamo Parabosco. She would become an excellent singer, musician, and songwriter in addition to her poetry. Between around 1535 and 1540, the Stampa household became a kind of salon, frequented by literary men like Giolamo Parabosco, Francesco Sansovino, Daniele Barbaro, Ludovico Domenici, Luigi Alamanni, Antonio Brocardo, Ortensio Lando, Sperone Speroni, and Benedetto Varchi (cf. F.A. Bassanese, Gaspara Stampa, Boston, l982, pp. 11-12).

Conversation often regarded Petrarch and Petrarchism, the poetic imitation of work, and it must have been a perfect milieu for Stampa, who doubtlessly learned a great deal about versification, meter, rhythm, cadence, imagery, form and rhyme. Early in 1544 Stampa's brother Baldassare, a promising poet, died at the age of nineteen while at the university at Padua. His death precipitated a religious crisis for Stampa. Suor Angelica Paola de' Negri, the abbess of the San Paolo Convent in Milan, in response to the death, sent Stampa a long letter to comfort her, and to urge her to abandon the world and retire to a convent. Instead of following Suor Angelica's advice, Stampa reentered the social scene, mingling with old friends and new acquaintances as Torquato Bembo, Giorgio Benzone, Girlamo Molin, Paolo Tiepolo, and Domenico Venier, and continuing her work as a singer and musician (cf. D. De Rycke, On Locating the Courtesan in a Gift of Song: The Venetian Case of Gaspara Stampa, in: “The Courtesan's Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives”, M. Feldman & B. Gordon, eds., Oxford, 2006, pp. 124-132).

Girolamo Parabosco, organist at St. Mark's in Venice, composer, poet and playwright greatly praised Gaspara's talents: “Chi vide mai tal bellezza in altra parte? chi tanta gratia? & chi mai si dolci maniere? & chi mai si soavi & dolci parole ascoltò? Chi mai sentì più alti concetti? Che dirò io di quella angelica voce, che qual'hora percuote l'aria de suoi divini accenti fa tale & si dolce armonia” (Lettere amorose, Venice, 1545, leaves 24v-25r). In the same year, a friend of her now deceased brother, Francesco Sansovino, dedicated his Ragionamento d'amore to her. Shortly thereafter Sansovino dedicated both the sixteenth edition of Boccaccio's Ameto (1545) and the Lettura di Benedetto Varchi sopra un sonetto della ‘Gelosia' di Monsignor Della Casa (1545) to Stampa. Once again, in 1547, Stampa was the dedicatee of a published work, this time by Perissone Cambio, her lute and voice instructor and himself a well-respected singer; the book was a collection of madrigals titled Primo libro di madrigali a quarto voci.

On Christmas Day 1548, in Domenico Venier's ridotto, Stampa met Collaltino di Collalto, a landed aristocrat from Friuli, friend of many literati, a soldier, and himself a mediocre poet. This fortuitous meeting began a three-year tumultuous love affair during which Stampa composed her ‘canzoniere'. For the most part, Collaltino ignored her advances, but Stampa persisted in writing love sonnets for him, nonetheless. Though her work was never made public during her lifetime, she produced at least 311 poems. In May 1549, Stampa enclosed 100 sonnets with a letter and mailed it, with the poems, to Collaltino who was campaigning in France. Initially, Gaspara's mother and her sister hoped that Collaltino would marry her, but his unresponsiveness during his six-month absence crushed their hopes. After his return and a brief reunion with Stampa, he retreated to his estate in Friuli, leaving Stampa to doubt that he still loved her. In 1550 Collaltino took her to his estate, San Salvatore, but ignored her while there. In 1550 Stampa became a member of the Accademia dei Dubbiosi using the pseudonym ‘Anaxilla' or ‘Anissilla'. This would also be the year that we can assume Gaspara suffered her first nervous breakdown, the beginning of a series of illnesses that would lead to her death. Between 1551 and 1552, she met Bartolomeo Zen, a Venetian patrician with whom she began a romantic relationship. In 1553, three of her poems would be published in Il sesto libro di diversi eccellenti autori, edited by Girolamo Ruscelli. Stampa would take ill again in 1554, coming down with a violent fever and dying within a fortnight. There were claims that she had committed suicide after learning of the plans of her former lover, Collaltino di Collalto, to marry Giulia Torelli (cf. M. Bellonci, Introduzione, in: Gaspara Stampa, “Rime”, Milan, 1994, pp. 5-25; see also E. Cesaracciu Veronese, Il testamento di Cassandra Stampa: contributi alla biografia di Gaspara, in: “Atti e memorie dell'Accademia patavina di scienze, lettere ed arti. Memorie della classe di scienze morali, lettere ed arti”, LXXXIX, III, 1976-1977, pp. 89-96; and F.A. Bassanese, Gaspara Stampa, Boston, 1982, passim).

Some of the content of her writings in addition to its multiple male addressees have led historians to speculate as to whether Stampa was one of Venice's famous courtesans (especially after the publication of Abdelkader Salza's article in “Giornale della letteratura italiana”, 62, 1913, pp. 1-101). But to date no evidence has surfaced that settles the issue definitively (cf. E.B. Otero, The Fiction of the ‘Rime': Gaspara Stampa's ‘Poetic Misprision' of Giovanni Boccaccio's ‘The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta', diss.; Tampa, FL, 2010, pp. 16-20; and J. Tylus, Rescuing the Renaissance, Women Writers, Courtesans, and Salza's Stampa, in: “The Italian Renaissance in the 19th Century”, L. Bolzoni & A. Payne, eds., Cambridge, MA, 2018, pp. 419-428).

Amongst her more modern admirers is the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, who refers to Stampa in the first of his Duino Elegies: “Aber die Liebenden nimmt die erschöpfte Natur / in sich zurück, als wären nicht zweimal die Kräfte, / dieses zu leisten. Hast du der Gaspara Stampa / denn genügend gedacht, daß irgend ein Mädchen, / dem der Geliebte entging, am gesteigerten Beispiel / dieser Liebenden fühlt: daß ich würde wie sie? / Sollen nicht endlich uns diese ältesten Schmerzen / fruchtbarer werden? Ist es nicht Zeit, daß wir liebend / uns vom Geliebten befrein und es bebend bestehn: / wie der Pfeil die Sehne besteht, um gesammelt im Absprung/ mehr zu sein als er selbst. Denn Bleiben ist nirgends” (Rainer Maria Rilke, Sämtliche Werke, Wiesbaden & Frankfurt a.M., 1955, I, pp. 685-6: ‘But, Nature, spent and exhausted, takes lovers back into herself, as if there were not enough strength to create them a second time. Have you imagined Gaspara Stampa intensely enough so that any girl deserted by her beloved might be inspired by that fierce example of soaring, objectless love and might say to herself, perhaps I can be like her? Shouldn't this most ancient of sufferings finally grow more fruitful for us? Isn't it time that we lovingly freed ourselves from the beloved, and quivering, endured: as the arrow endures the bow-string's tension, so that gathered in the snap of release it can be more than itself? For there is no place where we can remain') (cf. E.E. ter Horst, The Pendulum of Poetry and Meditation in Rilke's ‘Duineser Elegien', in: “The German Quarterly”, 79/3, 2006, pp. 311-312).


PROVENANCE. Carlo Antonio Dotti (d. 1936), chief inspector of the Italian state railways, book collector and autodidact philologist, is remembered for his Italian translation of the ancient Greek romance Daphnis and Chloe by Longus, with a long introduction, I quattro Ragionamenti dei Pastorali di Longo, Milano, 1921 (M.F. Ferrini, Bibliografia, di Longo, Macerata, 1991, p. 114; see also N. Bianchi, Longo nel primo Novecento. Carlo Antonio Dotti traduttore e ‘copista' dei ‘Pastoralia', in: “Il codice del romanzo: tradizione manoscritta e ricezione dei romanzi greci”, Bari, 2006, p. 197-205). At the bottom of the engraved book plate Dotti annotated: “Dono a me fatto dal sig.  Sante Tenenti nel g(ior)no 8 Luglio 1899.” On the recto of the front fly leaf is a long note in Dotti's hand on various editions of Stampa's Rime, and the remark “Edizione originale-Rarissima”. There is furthermore a marginal note in his hand on leaf 231 regarding the sonnet “S'amor natura al nobil intelletto”, which is not by Gambara, but apparently addressed to her (see Gaspara Stampa, The Complete Poems, T. Tower & J. Tylus, eds., Chicago, 2010, p. 392, n. 568).


Edit 16, CNCE34706; Universal STC, 857433; M. Bianco, Gaspara Stampa, Rime, Venezia, Plinio Pietrasanta, 1554, in: “Petrarca e il suo tempo”, Milan, 2006, pp. 535-537.