Rime spirituali sopra i misterii del Santissimo Rosario

Autore: TURINI BUFALINI, Francesca (1553-1641)

Tipografo: Domenico Gigliotti

Dati tipografici: Roma, 1595


4to. [8], 172 pp. Collation: *4 A-V4 X6. Pages 165-168 (leaves X3 and X4) are lacking here as in many copies (see note below) and are replaced by facsimiles. Title and all pages within ornamental borders, arms of Pope Clement VIII on the title page, numerous woodcut endpieces. Rehinged in the original (?) contemporary boards, spine covered with marbled paper, contemporary manuscript title on the lower edge, new endpapers, some very light browning, but a fine copy with large margins.

VERY RARE FIRST EDITION of Turini's first publication, which is dedicated to Pope Clement VIII, from whom she was seeking protection. In the two-and-a-half-pages-long letter she not only compliments the Pope and stresses the importance of religious poetry, but also recalls her family's service to the Church.

“In a manner that is consistent with the conventions of the genre, Turina constructs her rosary text not as a simple narration but as part narration, part spiritual exercise; this is an implicitly interactional text that might be used by the reader to structure her own devotional practice […] Following the conventions of rosary-themed works generally, Turina's Rime spirituali is divided into three sections: Gaudioso (Joyous), Doloroso (Sorrowful), and Glorioso (Glorious). The first recounts the Annunciation and Christ's birth and life down to his betrayal by Judas; the second, his passion and death; and the third, his resurrection and ascension, followed by the Virgin's assumption and coronation […] Turina's dedicatory letter makes the claim that poetry that recognizes its divine source and mission should cloth itself not in ‘meretricious adornments' but in the ‘vestments of matronly chastity'. The remark is interesting not least for its gendered metaphorical language. The notion that sacred poetry required an idiom of ‘holy and devout simplicity', widespread in Turina's culture, allowed her to make a virtue of the ‘feminine' artlessness and facility of her style. The simplicity of the poetic language she deploys in the Rime spirituali corresponds to the ingenuousness of her poet persona, whose focus in her reliving of her sacred narrative is consistently on the human drama of the events narrated rather than their theological significance and whose response flows through channels of affective empathy rather than intellectual analysis” (V. Cox, The Prodigious Muse, Women's Writing in Counter-Reformation Italy, Baltimore, MA, 2011, pp. 138-140).

“Of great importance for the scholar of Italian literature are the 24 poems of the sixth and last section (pp. 149-172), that she added at the end of the book under the heading ‘In morte de l'illustrissimo Signor Giulio Bufalini suo consorte', consisting of 23 sonnets and 1 madrigal. These, stylistically, are of a better quality than the religious compositions, and have all been included in our edition of Turini Bufalini's autobiographical poems, 52-75” (Francesca Turini Bufalini, Autobiographical Poems, A Bilingual Edition, N. Costa-Zalessow ed., J.E. Borrelli trans., New York, 2009, p. 24; see also S. Monti, Widows, poetry, and portraits: Livia Spinola and Francesca Turina on the portraits of their dead husbands, in: “Petrarch and Portraiture in Sixteenth-Century Italy”, Amsterdam 2021, forthcoming).

Francesca Turini Bufalini was born in Borgo San Sepolcro (Tuscany). Her father was a professional soldier in the service of Giovanni de' Medici and later in that of Francis I and Henry II of France. She was the youngest of the Turini siblings. Soon after her father's death, she lost her mother as well, and was brought up by her maternal uncle, Count Pietro Carpegna at his castle of Gattara (near Montefeltro), in the wilderness of the Apennines. In the sonnets of her youth, she describes an unusual freedom to roam the woods, ride horseback, hunt, fish and compete in athletic games with the local shepherdesses, although she regrets a lack of formal education that left her ill-equipped for a literary calling. A deep love of nature, developed early in life, forms a central theme in her work. Francesca was not quite twenty-one years old when she was asked in marriage in 1574 by Giulio Bufalini (then seventy years of age), Count of San Giustino, a military man, like her father, in the service of Pope Paul III and Pius IV. Giulio, twice married and widowed, had fathered ten children but no legitimate son, and was thus anxious to produce an heir. Francesca left her woods to take up a new life at the Bufalini Castle in San Giustino (Umbria) where she divided her time between the castle and the Bufalini palazzo in nearby Città di Castello. With professional military duties in Rome, Giulio was absent for long periods, leaving Francesca to manage his family's practical affairs - lands, servants, finances. During their first years together, she suffered a miscarriage and a serious fever which nearly took her life. She subsequently gave birth to two sons and a daughter but was widowed at age thirty. She did not remarry. Profound grief over Giulio's death forms another significant theme in the last verses of the Rime spirituali, the last poem of the volume reveals Francesca's desire to be remembered, not for her great poetic style, but for her great sorrow – a sorrow that permits her to compete with Vittoria Colonna. Francesca was forced to fight numerous legal battles to secure contested properties and to provide for her children's care. Her maternal love and devotion, evident throughout her poems, is later coupled with the lament of not enjoying a reciprocal affection. Despite her efforts to create harmony, her sons, upon reaching manhood, quarreled with her over money, and also litigated formally against her and against one another, as Giulio, the eldest, would retain future right of inheritance to the Bufalini castle, whereas Ottavio, his younger brother, only the right to reside there. Giulio moreover discouraged his mother's literary endeavors. At age sixty-one, because of the emotional strain caused by tensions in her family, Francesca left Umbria for Rome to take a post in the Colonna household as lady-in-waiting to the duchess Lucrezia Tomacelli Colonna. She remained there eight years, returning to Città di Castello only upon Tomacelli's death in 1622 where another tragedy awaited her. In 1623, Ottavio was killed by gunshot (purportedly an accident although suspicion arose regarding Giulio's involvement). With each misfortune, Francesca uses poetry as her outlet to exhort herself to leave worldly cares behind in order to take a spiritual path. After the publication of the Rime spirituali, Francesca continued to write poetry, but published a new collection of poems only in 1627-28, which contains most of her autobiographical poems. Hopes of returning to Rome to the Colonna household did not materialize, thus she lived out the rest of her days in Città di Castello, in relative seclusion. Just before her death in 1641, she completed a narrative poem, Florio, which remained unpublished (cf. P. Bà, La vita, gli scritti, gli inediti, in: “Francesca Turini Bufalini e la ‘Letteratura di genere' ”, J. Butcher, ed., Città di Castello 2018, pp. 33-46; see also N. Costa Zalessow, Francesca Turini Bufalini, in: “Dictionary of Literary Biography, 339, Sevententh Century Italian Poets and Dramatists”, A.N. Mancini & al., eds., Detroit, MI, 2008, pp. 271-276; and G. Rossi, Un caso raro di donna emergente: Francesca Turini Bufalini, 1553-1641, in: “Letteratura italiana antica”, XVI, 2015, pp. 595-610).

We tried to compile a census of fairly all known copies (17) in public libraries, which we all tried to contact to find out how complete their copies are. In three of the four copies already inspected by Paolo Bà (Le ‘Rime spirituali' di Francesca Turina Bufalini, in: “Letteratura italiana antica”, VI, 2005, p. 150), pages 165-168 are lacking, namely in those of the Castori-Fanelli family (Città di Castello), Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale (Roma), and Biblioteca Alessandrina (Roma); only the one in the Città di Castello Library is complete. More complete copies are extant in the following libraries: Marian Library, University of Dayton, OH; British Library, London; Biblioteca Angelo Mai, Bergamo; Biblioteca Casanatese, Roma; Biblioteca Comunale degli Intronati, Siena; whereas in the copies in the University of Pennsylvania Library, Philadelphia, PA; Sächsische Landesbibliothek, Dresden; and Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid, pages 165-168 are not present. Further copies are extant in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Città del Vaticano; Biblioteca del Seminario Arcivescovile Maggiore, Firenze; Biblioteca Ludovico Jacobilli del Seminario Vescovile, Foligno; Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Roma (apparently a fragment only); Nuova Biblioteca Pubblica Luigi Fumi, Orvieto; and Biblioteca Comunale, Terni, which, however, could not be inspected. The fact that in so many copies leaves X3 and X4 have been omitted, cannot verisimilarly ascribed to an inadvertence of the binder. Are we possibly dealing here with a rare example of self-censorship?

Edit 16, CNCE25885; Universal STC, no. 861419; M. Bandini Buti, Poetesse e scrittrici, Roma, 1941-1942, II, p. 318.


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