Opus Merlini Cocaii Poetae Mantuani Macaronicorum, totum in pristinam formam per me Magistrum Acquarium Lodolam optime redactum, in his infra notatis titulis divisum. Zanoitonella, quae de amore Tonelli erga Zanitam tractat... Phantasiae Macaronicon, divisum in vigintiquinque Macaronicis, tractans de gestis magnanimi, et prudentissimi Baldi. Moschaeae facetus liber in tribus partibus divisus, et tractans de cruento certamine Muscarum et Formicarum. Libellus Epistolarum, et Epigrammatum... Hexasticon Ioannis Baricocolae

Autore: FOLENGO, Teofilo (1491-1544)

Tipografo: Alessandro Paganini.

Dati tipografici: Toscolano,   1521

Formato: in sedicesimo

16mo (120x72 mm). 272, [8] leaves. Collation: A-Z8 AA-MM8. With 54 full-page woodcut illustrations in text. 19th-century French red morocco, spine with five raised bands and gilt title, dentelles, gilt and marbled edges, marbled endleaves (signed by H. Duru). At the end is a quire of 8 unnumbered leaves signed MM, which is sometimes missing and is known in two different issues. The one present in our copy is issue A, containing a brief letter exchanged between Folengo and Paganino, the errata, the Tabula facetiarum, and the sonnet Se di piacer, trastullo, gioia e spasso (cf. Nuovo, pp. 78-82). This copy comes from the library of the celebrated bibliophile and writer Charles Nodier (1780-1844): his bookplate on the front pastedown and a note on the rarity of the book and its condition written by him on a small card pasted on the second front flyleaf (cf. C. Nodier, Catalogue raisonné d'une jolie collection de livres, Paris, 1844, 270). On the front flyleaf the stamp of the bookseller Lauria of Paris and a note in pencil: “E' l'esemplare Marzorati – nr. 388 del suo catalogo”. A nice copy.

FIRST ILLUSTRATED EDITION, the third overall after that issued by Paganino in Venice in 1517, which was reprinted in Milan in 1520. The Toscolano edition is also the first to present the second and most accomplished version of Folengo's macaronic poems.

The volume contains the Zanitonella (an anthology of 21 poems on rustic life), the Moscheide (a short poem on the battle of flies and ants, printed here for the first time), the Libellus epistolarum et epigrammatum, and the definitive, 25-book version of Baldus (the 1517 edition included only 17 books).

A poem in macaronic hexameters, Baldus is considered Folengo's masterpiece. It is a kind of comic continuation of the Carolingian legend, in which the protagonist, Baldus, the grandson of a king of France, is abandoned by his father at an early age and raised by a farmer named Berto. Potentially destined to 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 very peculiar use of language and strong sense of realism combined with explosive villainy, had great influence on François Rabelais, who knew and appreciated Folengo's work.

Folengo introduces himself as Merlin Cocai, born in Cipada, the village facing the Virgilian Pietole. Nourished by a blackbird, Cocai draws inspiration from wine and dishes of gnocchi; compared to the sentimental Limerno and the very serious Fulica, the other two pseudonyms used by Folengo during his literary career, Merlin Cocai represents the facetious and burlesque side of the author's character.

Baldus was revised by the author on two occasions, for a total of four known versions, the best and most original remaining that of 1521. The two later revised versions of the poem are known as Cipadense (published between 1530 and 1535 with false printing data) and Vigasio Cocaio from the name of the mysterious author of the preface (first printed in Venice in 1552).

For its content and editorial appearance, the 1521 edition can be considered not only the most beautiful edition of Folengo's works, but also an absolute gem of 16th century book production overall. The brilliant publisher Alessandro Paganini, who, four years earlier, had shrewdly published the newcomer Folengo's Liber macaronices, nowrepublishes a completely revised and augmented version of the work – almost a new work altogether – and provides it with a newly cut set of illustrations destined to play an important role in the later fortunes of Merlin Cocai. However, the Toscolano edition is important above all because it gives us the brightest and most inspired phase of Folengo's macaronic genius; a perfectly mature phase not yet dampened by the ideological or classicist inhibitions of his last period.

The parody of the Virgilian model and its imitators, like J. Sannazaro and G. Pontano, gives birth to an extraordinary linguistic mélange, which mixes together dialect, slang, and erudite citations. The figures of the hero and the shepherd, so idealistically sketched in the above-mentioned models, once transferred into the macaronic world, turn into characters no longer driven by desires and ideals, but dominated by instincts and needs. In this new anthropological dimension values are reversed: what is low and related to the body, usually concealed in official culture, comes to the fore and supplants that which is traditionally considered high and noble.

Sander, 2832; Edit 16, CNCE19359; Adams, F-687; A. Nuovo, Alessandro Paganino (1509-1538), Padua, 1990, pp. 78-82, no. 51; R. Dall'Ara, Folengo macaronico poeta. Girolamo, Teofilo e Merlin Cocai: il romanzo di una vita, Mantua, 2004; T. Folengo, Opus Merlini Cocaii, poete mantuani macaronicorum, A. Nuovo, G. Bernardi Perini & R. Signorini, eds., Volta Mantovana, 1994; A. Nuovo, L'edizione toscolanese del Folengo, in: “Teofilo Folengo nel quinto centenario della nascita, 1491-1991”, Atti del convegno di studi Mantova-Brescia-Padova, 26-29 settembre 1991, G. Bernardi Perini & C. Marangoni, eds., Florence, 1993, pp. 387-402; M. Zaggia, Breve percorso attraverso le quattro redazioni delle Macaronee folenghiane, in: “Teofilo Folengo nel quinto centenario della nascita, 1491-1991”, Florence, 1993, pp. 85-101.