Macaronea. Merlini Cocai poete mantuani Macaronices libri XVII. post omnes impressiones, ubique locorum excussas, novissime recogniti, omnibusque mendis expurgati. Adiectis insuper quampluribus pene vivis imaginibus materie librorum aptissimis, & et congruis locis insertis [...]

Autore: FOLENGO, Teofilo (1491-1544)

Tipografo: Cesare Arrivabene

Dati tipografici: Venezia, 10 gennaio 1520


8vo (152x99 mm). XIX [i.e. CXIX], [1] leaves. Leaf CXIX wrongly numbered XIX. Collation: A-P8. The last leaf is a blank. Large woodcut vignette on the title page depicting Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, and 12 smaller woodcuts in the text, made with only two blocks, one of which is repeated 5 times, the other 7 times. Woodcut decorated initials. Colophon and register on l. P7r. Printer's device on l. P7v. Recently bound in full gilt leather in the style of a Renaissance binding. A certain Vincenzo Gianelli from Parma, on 8 October 1779, added a poem in his hand on the final leaf recto, while on the verso he copied a sonnet entitled “Ratto di Proserpina”, which he attributes to a certain March. Manara, also from Parma. Repair to the gutter of the first two leaves, minor marginal staining, a good copy.

SECOND EDITION. Earlier scholars (e.g., A. Luzi, Studi folenghiani, Firenze, 1899, p. 9) considered the present edition a mere reprint of the first edition published by Alessandro Paganini on January 1, 1517. Possibly misled by the somewhat overblown title of the present edition (repeated in the explicit): “post omnes impressiones ubique locorum excussas, novissime recogniti, omnibusque mendis expurgati. Adiectis insuper quampluribus pene vivis imaginibus materie librorum aptissimis, & congruis locis insertis, & alia multa, quae in aliis hactenus impressionibus non reperies”. These announcements point not only to several previous editions (that do not exist), but also to a corrected text and to illustrations. “Poiché risultavano corretti molti errori di stampa – non sempre facili da cogliere in un testo maccheronico, […] nel trascurare il fatto che specialmente nelle glosse il testo apportava notevoli cambiamenti […] per non dire delle xilografie con cui si iniziava la serie delle edizioni illustrate delle Maccheronee folenghiane […] questa ristampa citata dai bibliofili è stata consultata da qualche studioso […] senza tener conto non solo delle diversità di lezione, per correzioni arbitrarie e varianti lessicali, ma soprattutto della manipolazione delle glosse, per mutamenti, soppressioni e aggiunte che a prima vista possono anche sembrare dell'autore” (C. Cordié, L'edizione principe delle ‘Maccheronee' folenghiane e le sue due ristampe, in: “La Bibliofilia”, 51/1, 1949, pp. 45-49; see also A.E. Mullaney, Teofilo Folengo: Ecce homo, Diss., New Haven, 1984, pp. 66-67). A complete list of these glosses compared to those of the Paganino edition can be found online.

This is one of the two reprints appeared in the same year 1520 (the other one was issued in Milan) of the first version of Folengo's Macaronee, the so-called “Paganini” version from the name of the typographer who first published it at Venice in 1517. This early version includes the Libellus de laudibus Merlini Cocai by the magister Acquario Lodola, two eclogues, and the poem Baldus in 17 books only (cf. M. Zaggia, L'esordio di Folengo, in: T. Folengo, “Merlini Cocai Poetae Mantuani Liber Macaronices Libri XVII Non ante impressi”, Brescia, 1991, pp. 15-24). “Ma in altra sede sarà opportuno un nuovo esame di queste due edizioni [Venezia, Arrivabene & Milano, Agostino Vimercate]” (cf. M. Zaggia, Saggio di un'edizione critica della redazione Paganini delle Macaronee folenghiane, in: “Teofilo Folengo nel quinto centenario della nascita (1491-1991)”, Firenze, 1993, p. 408).

The Arrivabene edition (like the Paganini of 1517) opens with the Libellus de laudibus Merlini Cocai, a long letter written by Folengo under the pseudonym Aquario Lodola, a ‘herbalist, expert in the art of enemas' and presents the figure of Merlin Cocaio. This preliminary text is followed by two eclogues, and then by the picaresque epic Baldus (cf. M. Zaggia, L'esordio di Folengo, in: “T. Folengo, Merlini Cocai Poetae Mantuani Liber Macaronices Libri XVII Non ante impressi”, Brescia, 1991, pp. 15-24). The poem consists of 6,114 macaronic hexameters divided into seventeen books with argomenti preceding each book and is considered Folengo's masterpiece. A parody of the Virgilian Aeneid, it is composed in an invented language blending Latin with various Italian dialects in an extraordinary linguistic mélange of high and low registers. The plot narrates the adventures of Baldus, grandson of the king of France, who was abandoned by his father at an early age and raised by a farmer named Berto. Potentially destined for the life of a knight, Baldus turns out to be a vulgar ruffian. The harsh criticism of the aristocracy, courtiers, and clergy that Folengo develops in this deeply anti-classical text, together with his strong sense of realism combined with explosive villainy, had great influence on François Rabelais, who knew and highly appreciated Folengo's work.

“[Il Baldus] è un'opera originalissima che mostra una nuova vocazione del macaronico: nelle mani del Folengo, il macaronico non è più la lingua solo comica e parodica dei prefolenghiani padovani, ma diventa espressione di una nuova poesia, che mescola epica classica e cantari, santi e delinquenti, comico e serio. Sebbene molti dei personaggi del racconto sono criminali e scavezzacollo, Baldo e i suoi compagni, dopo esser stati confessati da Merlino, vengono inviati da Dio a visitare i regni infernali. Insomma il primo Baldus non è lo scherzo di un frate gaudente che parodia i contemporanei poemi cavallereschi, ma è un'opera provvista di un messaggio serio che emerge soprattutto in certi momenti del racconto… La poesia di Folengo ha inoltre aspirazioni elevatissime; l'ultimo verso del poema è una perfetta citazione dell'esametro conclusivo dell'Eneide: ‘Vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras'. Se Baldo è un novello Enea, allora Merlino può considerarsi a pieno diritto il Virgilio macaronico” (R. Galbiati, Il ‘Baldus' dalla Paganini alla Toscolanese, in: “Giornale storico della letteratura italiana”, CXCVII/657, 2020, pp. 12-13).

The Arrivabene edition is also interesting for its bibliological appearance, which tends to translate the refined sobriety of the princeps, which recalls the model of the Aldine octavos, into the more commercial language of the popular press (cf. A. Nuovo, Alessandro Paganino, 1509-1538, Padova, 1990, p. 10).

Giorgio Arrivabene started printing in Venice in partnership with Bernardino Benali and Paganino Paganini (father of Alessandro, the printer of the first edition of the Macaronee, who succeeded his father in 1511). A lack of biographical information regarding Giorgio Arrivabene makes it difficult to assert that Cesare was his son. However, it was very common for fathers to train their sons (or nephews) to follow them into the printing industry, starting them as apprentices and having them work as journeymen, compositors, and pressmen before passing over the running of the workshop. What is more, the printers' mark established by Giorgio for the Arrivabene workshop (a simple circular device bearing a double cross and the initial ‘A') was adopted by Cesare on his own publications, suggesting that there was in fact a sense of continuity between the two. Cesare's name first appears on editions issued by the workshop in 1517, and for the next few years the output of the press was relatively eclectic: from the sermons and writings of the Florentine preacher Girolamo Savonarola (1519) to a translation of the Spanish comedy La Celestina (also 1519); as well as a scholarly compendium of works by Cicero and the complex, illustrated edition of the Fasciculus medicinae (1522). Cesare's name disappears from print after 1528 (cf. P. P. Tentori, Giovanni Arrivabene, in: “Dizionario biografico degli italiani”, Roma, 1962, vol. 4, pp. 324-325; see also M. Menato, E. Sandal & G. Zappella, Dizionario dei tipografi e degli editori italiani. Il Cinquecento, Milano, 1997, vol. I, p. 45).

Girolamo Folengo was born at Cipada near Mantua. He entered the Benedictine order in 1509. It can be assumed that Girolamo began studying Latin grammar and metrics at an early age,
probably at home. From his infancy he showed great vivacity of mind, and a remarkable cleverness in making verses. At the age of sixteen he entered the Benedictine order. After one year in the Benedictine convent of Santa Eufemia in Brescia, Girolamo was ordained Fra Teofilo, in June 1509. For a few years his life as a monk seems to have been tolerably regular, and he is said to have produced a considerable quantity of Latin verse, written, not unsuccessfully, in the Virgilian style. At a certain moment, Teofilo was transferred to San Benedetto Po, several miles south-east of Mantua. Here he continued his studies under the direction of the abbot, Don Gregorio Cortese. From various contemporary sources and from Folengo's writings, it can be deduced that the young monk studied, among other subjects: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, rhetoric, logic, theology, canon law, music, and a great deal of Italian and Latin poetry. He also seems to have acquired thorough knowledge of both astronomy and gastronomy. Folengo also learned how to buy and sell oxen, grain, and wine; he supposedly did his share of the actual planting and harvesting. During the last months of 1513, Teofilo was again under the guidance of Don Giovanni Cornaro, now at the large monastery of Santa Giustina in Padua, where the philosopher Pietro Pomponazzi lectured until Padua revolted against Venice in 1509 and the University was temporarily closed. Pomponazzi eventually went to Bologna. Folengo claims to have spent a period in Bologna studying under Pomponazzi: however, there is no archival evidence to support his statement. Teofilo ended his sojourn in Padua by publishing Liber macaronices, which left the press of Alessandro Paganini in January of 1517, the year in which he returned to Sant'Eufemia in Brescia and was ordained a priest. He later left Sant'Eufemia to sojourn at another monastery, in Cesena (Romagna). He probably returned to Sant'Eufemia the next year, 1518, and there worked, studied, and revising his macaronic masterpiece, which appeared in 1521, printed at Toscolano by Paganini. In 1525 he was dispensed from his vows and, along with one of his brothers, led a wandering life, before deciding to return to the church. He lived for a while in Venice as tutor of the sons of the condottiere Camillo Orsini. Folengo's next work, written under the pseudonym of Limerno Pitocco, was Orlandino (1526), an Italian poem of eight cantos, written in rhymed octaves. In the same year, wearied with a life of dissipation, Folengo returned to his ecclesiastical roots; and shortly afterwards wrote his Chaos del tri per uno, in which, partly in prose, partly in verse, sometimes in Latin, sometimes in Italian, and sometimes in Macaronic, he gives a veiled account of the vicissitudes of the life he had lived under his various names. We next find him about the year 1533 writing in rhymed octaves a life of Christ entitled L'Umanità del Figliuolo di Dio. In 1538 he was sent to Sicily near Palermo under the patronage of Viceroy Don Fernando de Gonzaga, together with other monks from Mantua, e.g., Benedetto da Mantova, author of the famous Beneficio di Cristo. In Palermo, Folengo's L'Atto della Pinta became Sicily's first sacred representation. The poet began a collection of lives of the martyrs, in Latin hexameters; only some of these eighteen ‘passiones' have been published. But in these same years other literary activities also filled Fra Teofilo's hours, especially the third revision of the Macheronee, claiming to be printed in Cipada by Aquario Lodola, sine data, but most likely printed by Aurelio Pincio in Venice in 1539. In 1543 he retired to Santa Croce de Campese, near Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto, working on a revised edition of Baldus, which, however, was only published eight years after his death by the heirs of Pietro Ravani in Venice in 1552. This, the so-called ‘Vigaso Cocaio' edition was for long regarded as the last hand edition (cf. G. Billanovich, Tra Don Teofilo e Merlin Cocai, Napoli, 1948, passim; see also A. Piscini, Teofolo Folengo, in: “Dizionario biografico degli italiani”, Roma, 1997, vol. 48, pp. 546-552; and M. Faini, Teofilo Folengo, in: “Il contributo italiano alla storia del pensiero, vol. IX, Letteratura”, G. Ferroni, ed., Roma, 2018, pp. 200-205; and L. Curti, Il ‘Baldus' e il suo autore, in: “ ‘O Macaroneam Musae quae funditis artem'. Studi su Teofilo Folengo a cinquecento anni dalle prime Macaronee”, F. Baricci, ed., Manziana, 2021, pp. 129-160).


Edit 16, CNCE19357; Universal STC, no. 830129; A. Portili, Le opere maccheroniche di Merlin Cocai, Mantova, 1882, I, p. XCIV, no. 2; V.M. Essling, Bibliographie des livres a figures venitiens de la fin du XVe siecle et du commencement du XVIe, 1469-1525, Paris, 1892, pp. 416-417; M. Sander, Le livre à figures italien depuis 1467 jusqu'à 1530: Essai de sa bibliographie et de son histoire, Milano, 1941, I, p. 496, no. 2830; R. Stringa, L'edizione Paganini delle ‘Macaronee' e le sue ristampe, in: “ ‘O Macaroneam Musae quae funditis artem'. Studi su Teofilo Folengo a cinquecento anni dalle prime ‘Macaronee'”, F. Baricci, ed., Manziana, 2021, pp. 577-79.