Lezzioni di M. Benedetto Varchi accademico fiorentino, lette da lui publicamente nell'Accademia Fiorentina, [...] Raccolte nuovamente, e la maggior parte non più date in luce, con due tavole, [...] Con la vita dell'autore [...]

Autore: VARCHI, Benedetto (1503-1565)

Tipografo: Filippo Giunta

Dati tipografici: Firenze, 1590

Varchi's poetic theory and his earliest biography


4to (219x152 mm). [24], 682, [22] pp. Collation: *48 A-Z8 Aa-Xx8. Printer's device on title page. Woodcut historiated initials and ornaments. Roman and italic types. 18th-century mottled calf, richly gilt spine with morocco lettering piece, marbled edges (slightly rubbed, top and bottom of spine repaired). On the title page later ownership's entry “Del Conte Antonio Costerbosa Parmigiano”. Some scattered foxing and browning, a few quires more heavily browned, all in all a very good, genuine copy with wide margins.


FIRST COLLECTED EDITION of Varchi's lectures held at the Accademia Fiorentina. The Accademia Fiorentina was founded in Florence on 1 November 1540 as the Accademia degli Umidi, or ‘Academy of the wet ones', in contrast to or parody of the name of the recently founded Accademia degli Infiammati or ‘Academy of the burning ones', of Padova. The twelve founding members were Baccio Baccelli, Bartolomeo Benci, Pier Fabbrini, Paolo de Gei, Antonfrancesco Grazzini, Gismondo Martelli, Niccolò Martelli, Giovanni Mazzuoli, Cynthio d'Amelia Romano, Filippo Salvetti, Michelangelo Vivaldi, and Simon della Volta. Within 15 months of its foundation, on 25 February 1541, the academy changed its name to Accademia Fiorentina, in accordance with the wishes of Cosimo de' Medici.

The volume opens with a dedicatory letter to Giovanni de' Medici by the printer Filippo Giunta, dated February 8, 1589. It contains thirty ‘lezzioni' and was edited by Silvano Razzi (1527-1611), a native of Marradi near Florence from a family of notaries, who in 1559 entered the order of the Camaldolese friars at the Monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence. He wrote three comedies: La Cecca (1563), La Balia (1564) e La Gostanza (1565) and in 1565 became a member of the Accademia Fiorentina and a close friend of Bendetto Varchi, who composed for him forty epigrams (1563-1564). He forged bonds of friendship with all the major Florentine writers of the time, and also established close relations with Giorgio Vasari and helped him with the composition of the latter's Vita. Razzi became the editor of various of Varchi's works, and also his executor. He was also the author of numerous religious and moral treatises and historical work, as well as the Varchi's earliest biography published in the present volume (cf. P.G. Riva, Silvano Razzi, in: “Dizionario biografico degli italiani, Roma, 2016, vol. 86, 2016, pp. 649-651; see also S. Lo Re, Biografie e biografi di Benedetto Varchi, in: “Archivio storico italiano”, 156/4, 1998, p. 681).

Varchi started to lecture in the Accademia Fiorentina on April 15, 1545 and held in the next twenty years reams of lezioni, a few were published during his lifetime, whereas many only in the nineteenth century, and several are certainly lost.

On the verso of the title page there is a table of contents of the work, Tavola delle Lezzioni contenute nell'Opera, listing thirty lectures. The first three, Della Natura (pp. 3-27), Della Generazione del corpo humano (pp. 29-84), and Della generazione de' Mostri (pp. 85-32), were already published in La prima parte delle Lezzioni, printed by the Giunta press in 1560. The following lecture, Dell'Anima (pp. 133-154),which is connected to Canto XXV of Dante's Purgatorio, is printed for the first time in the present volume (cf. A. Andreoni, La via della dottrina. Le lezioni accademiche di Benedetto Varchi, Pisa, 2012, p. 18). In Della Pittura, et Scoltura (pp. 156-231) are united two of Varchi's lectures, which certainly attracted the greatest attention: that on Michelangelo's famous sonnet “Non ha l'ottimo artista alcun concetto”, which not only represents the official consecration of Michelangelo's poetry (cf. S. Lo Re, Varchi e Michelangelo, in: “Annali della Scuola Normale Su­pe­riore di Pisa”, ser. 5, 4/2, 2012, p. 514), but also the starting point of all possible interpretations of Michelangelo's art theory, and that which consists of three disputes on respectively, the nobility of the arts, the merits of painting and sculpture, and the difference and similarities between poets and painters. For the first time in the history of art several living artist were asked to participate to the ‘paragone-discussion' about the superiority of sculpture over painting (cf. F. Dubard de Gaillarbois, Introduction, in: B. Varchi, “Deux leçons sur l'art”, Paris, 2020, pp. 13-170). These were first printed by Lorenzo Torrentino in 1549. De' calori (pp. 234-268), dedicated to Cosimo de' Medici's physician, Andrea Pasquali, was not a ‘public' lecture proper, but an autonomous treatise read in front of Cosimo and his physician in December 1544 (cf. A. Andreoni, op. cit., pp. 125-130), and was printed here for the first time. Four of the following eight lectures Dell'Amore (pp. 271-457) had already been printed by the Giunti as La seconda parte delle Lezzioni in 1561 (cf. A. Andreoni, op. cit., p. 318). New are also the eight private lectures on Petrarch, De gl'Occhi (pp. 458-559) (cf. Andreoni, op. cit., pp. 239-268). Della Bellezza e della Grazia (pp. 560-565), also published here for the first time, is a private lecture for Leone Orsini, bishop of Fréjus (cf. A. Andreoni, op. cit., p. 128; see also F. Janietz, Benedetto Varchi. Schönheit und Anmut, in: “Schönheit-Der Körper als Kunstprodukt”, E. Sammer & J. Saviello, eds., Berlin, 2019, pp. 203-208). Della Poetica (pp. 566-592) and the five lectures Della Poesia (pp. 593-682) appeared here for the first time. “In September 1553, a reform of the Accademia Fiorentina established the positions of two lettori ordinari for academic readings, one for Dante's Commedia and one for the Canzoniere of Petrarch.  For the first year the duty of lecturing on Dante was entrusted to Giovambattista Gelli, while that of lecturing on Petrarch was given to Benedetto Varchi. The latter, however, did not begin speaking about the Canzoniere immediately, but instead embarked on an ambitious series on poetics. An initial lecture entitled Della poetica in generale, in Varchi's words a sort of preface, opened a cycle of five, known as Della poesia. The six lectures were given in the Florentine year 1553 on the second Sunday of October, the first, second and last Sundays of December, and the first two Sundays of Lent; or in modern style, on October 3, 10 and 31 December 1553, and 11 and 18 February 1554. They remained in manuscript until Giunti's publication of the first collection of Varchi's Lezioni in 1590 […] Instead of accepting the narrow range of the assigned task of commenting on Petrarch, Varchi announced his desire to devote himself to what he call's ‘poesia in sé'. In these lectures, Varchi undertook nothing less than a new critical assessment of the entire history of Tuscan literature, in parallel with that of the Greeks and Romans. He focused on two overarching issues: first, the problem of whether there exists a vernacular epic poetry capable of supplanting the model of ancient epic; and second, his conviction of Dante's superiority over Petrarch. Varchi was attempting, with great style, to lay the foundation of his own poetic theory. (A. Andreoni, Benedetto Varchi's ‘Lezioni' on Poetry, in: “Renaissance Studies in Honor of Joseph Connors”, M. Israëls & L.A. Waldman, eds., Florence, 2013, II, pp. 487-488).

Benedetto Varchi was born from an upper middleclass family of recently arrived Florentines. His grandfather had still lived in the town of Montevarchi in the Valdarno, before, he emigrated to Florence. At the age of 18, Benedetto was sent by his father, a successful notary to study law at the University of Pisa. Shortly after he obtained a degree and then matriculated at the Florentine arte dei giudici e notai, as an independent notary. The death of his father in 1524 left Varchi with the prospect of a comfortable career running the family's prosperous office. He did so, and practiced as a notary for a while, then left the profession to indulge his own passion for scholarship, poetry, and eloquence. Immerging himself in the literary circles of the day, the young Varchi soon came in contact with one of the important centers of republican activism in Florence: the Orti Oricellari. He became friends with Lodovico Martelli and Bartolomeo Calvalcanti, as well as Annibal Caro and Matteo Franzesi. During the siege of Florence (1530) Varchi was in the Florentine militia, but instead of defending the Republic he preferred accompany the ambassadors sent to attend the coronation of Charles V. In 1532 he returned to Florence and devoted himself to philosophical and humanistic studies, being able to take advantage of two teachers of the level of Francesco Verino and the Greek scholar Pier Vettori. He also took care of Provençal, managing to become one of the major specialists in that language. He also worked as a private tutor in the household of Lorenzo Strozzi, the brother of Filippo, the future leader of the fuorusciti. In 1537, after the assassination of Alessandro de 'Medici, Varchi was banished from the city. The previous year he had met Pietro Bembo in Padua, and here he settled as an exile, later joining the Academy of the Inflamed, in 1540. Here he entered in contact with the Venetian circle around the poet Pietro Aretino and the painter Titian, from whom Varchi ordered a revealing portrait now in the München Pinakothek. He was also very close to the humanist and philosopher Alessandro Piccolomini from Siena as is known from their correspondence. The following year he went to Bologna to follow the lessons of Lodovico Boccadiferro, a well-known Aristotelian philosopher. Only in 1543 Varchi was recalled to Florence, at the behest of Cosimo I. Here he enrolled in the Florentine Academy and began to give his lectures in philosophy, literature, and a variety of other subjects. He soon the attracted the enmity of several Florentine scholars. Nevertheless, Cosimo I was instrumental in Varchi's election as a consul of the Florentine Academy (February 1, 1545). He also showed him his benevolence entrusting him with the prestigious task of writing Storia Fiorentina. In Florence Varchi was in contact, as well as with intellectuals, also with painters of a great fame, to whom he provided his advice to design projects of paintings and frescoes. In later years he published works which consolidated his fame, in particular the translations of Boethius (1551) and Seneca (1554), the first and the second part of the Sonnets (1555 and 1557), and again several lectures and orations. His outstanding linguistic work, Hercolano, was published post­hu­mously in 1570 (cf. A. Siekiera, Benedetto Varchi, in: “Enciclopedia dell'italiano”, R. Simone, ed., Rome, 2011, pp. 1535-1536; see also U. Pirotti, Benedetto Varchi e la cultura del suo tempo, Florence, 1971, passim).


Edit 16, CNCE28815, Universal STC, no. 862036; L. Devlieger, Benedetto Varchi on the Birth of Artefacts. Architecture, Alchemy and Power, in Late-Renaissance Florence, Ghent, 2005, p. 56.