Le cose volgari di messer Francesco Petrarcha

Autore PETRARCA, Francesco (1304-1374).
Tipografo Aldo Manuzio
Dati tipografici Venezia, 
Prezzo Venduto/Sold
Le cose volgari

The first pocket edition of a modern poet

8vo (162x96 mm). [192] leaves. Collation: a-y8, z4, A8, B4. Leaves z4 and A8 are blank. Colophon on l. z3v. Lavish French 19th-century polished brown morocco, spine with five raised bands and gilt title, panels within elaborate concentric and intertwined frames, pastedowns in green morocco with four gilt cornerpieces and the initials “RVR” at the centre surmounted by a crown and set within a double gilt fillet and ornamental frames, marbled flyleaves, gilt marbled edges (Chambolle-Duru, 1867). Carefully washed, last leaf skilfully remargined, a nice, beautifully bound copy.

FIRST ALDUS EDITION of Petrarch's Canzoniere. The work is a collection of love poems (sonnets, canzoni, madrigals, and sestinas) inspired by a woman named Laura (in life and death), occasional rhymes, political poems, and a final solemn canzone to the Holy Virgin. This edition also includes the Trionfi, an allegorical poem often published with the Canzoniere. Together these two works formed the so-called ‘vernacular Petrarch' to distinguish it from the rest of his Latin production.

The Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta, as the author referred to the Canzoniere, was the first literary bestseller in any modern language. It was read for entertainment in the courts, widely imitated by educated poets, and set to music and chanted on the streets by musicians and acrobats. During the sixteenth century it became a classic all throughout Europe, destined to have great influence beyond the realm of Italian poetry. Petrarch's role in the development of French literature during the Renaissance (through Maurice Scève and the poets of the Pléïade), English poetry of the Elizabethan era, and even early Spanish literature (through Baldassare Castiglione and Andrea Navagero, who both spent many years at the court of Madrid), can hardly be underestimated.

The text of the Aldine edition was edited by the young Pietro Bembo on the basis of an alleged autograph of the poet, as is stated in the note to the reader. In fact, Aldus used the authoritative codex Vaticanus lat. 3197, copied by Bembo himself, collated with Petrarch's autograph papers, especially the manuscript Vaticanus lat. 3195.

Pietro Bembo met Aldus through the latter's patron, Alberto Pio, and immediately embraced his ambitious publishing program. Within two years, between 1501 and 1502, Aldus launched on the market four pocket-sized books printed in italics, the first of a long series of texts essential to every educated person: Virgil, Horace, Petrarch, and Dante.

For the first time the two Italian authors were considered on a par with the two classical poets, and their texts subjected to the same editorial accuracy. Theorizing in the Prose della volgar lingua (1525) that the vernacular spoken and written in the 14th century was purer and nobler than the one practised in the academic and humanistic circles of his time, Bembo systematically worked to rid Petrarch's and Dante's poems from all the 15th-century retouching. In so doing, he set the basis of Italian philology and codified, for centuries, the standard texts of the two so-called “Crowns”.

Aldus' Canzoniere is also the first book in Italian to be printed in the new italic typefaces designed and cast by Francesco Griffo and first used only three months earlier for the edition of Virgil. This type –designed specifically for Manutius, who was also granted a privilege for its exclusive use – literally revolutionized the art of printing as it encouraged the production of smaller formats. These were an essential part of Aldus' publishing programme, which aimed at providing students and scholars with the best possible texts of Greek, Latin, and vernacular classics.

Shortly after the publication of the book, Aldo printed four leaves containing a note to the readers and the errata, with which he intended to reply to those who had questioned the correctness of the text. To his detractors, he confirmed the authenticity of his sources and announced the publication of an equally scrupulous edition of Dante. This final note represents a very important document, as in it, for the first time, vernacular literature is officially declared to deserve the same philological accuracy that humanists had until then reserved exclusively for Latin works.

Despite the privilege, which Aldus had obtained only for the territories subjected to the Republic of Venice, the new format and the new typeface were immediately imitated. In the following years in Lyon (then the major French centre for book production) two pirated editions were printed which at first sight are very difficult to distinguish from the original (the more striking difference is that in the Lyonese editions the title becomes Le cose vvlgari, while the Aldine edition is Le cose volgari). In 1504 the Giunti responded with an 8vo edition clearly inspired by that of Aldus.

Aldus' Petrarch, which was reprinted in 1514, 1521, 1533 and 1546, marked a profound break with all previous editions of the Canzoniere, both from a typographical and a cultural point of view.

Edit 16, CNCE36111; Adams, P-787; Renouard, pp. 28-29, no. 5; Mortimer, II, no. 371; A. Hortis, Catalogo delle opere di Francesco Petrarca esistenti nella Petrarchesca Rossettiana di Trieste, Trieste, 1874, no. 24; N. Cannata, Il Canzoniere a stampa (1470-1530), Rome, 2000; G. Mestica, Il Canzoniere del Petrarca nel codice originale a riscontro col manoscritto del Bembo e con l'edizione aldina del ‘501, in: “Giornale storico della letteratura italiana”, 21, 1893, pp. 309-312; F. Petrarca, The 1501 Aldine edition of Le cose volgari di messer Francesco Petrarcha revised and amended by master Pietro Bembo, J. Parzen ed., London, 1997.

  • Le cose volgari
  • Le cose volgari
  • Le cose volgari
  • Le cose volgari