Prose di M. Pietro Bembo nelle quali si ragiona della volgar lingua scritte al cardinale de Medici che poi č stato creato a sommo pontefice et detto papa Clemente settimo divise in tre libri

Autore BEMBO, Pietro (1470-1547).
Tipografo Tacuino Giovanni
Dati tipografici Venezia, 
Prezzo 5000.00

an exceptional full-margined copy in its original cardboard binding

Folio (304x216 mm). XCIIII [i.e. 95] leaves. Lacking the final blank. Collation: A-Q6. Title printed on first leaf verso. Colophon on l. Q5v. Some underlining and marginal notes in a contemporary hand, mainly corrections and additions to the text. On front pastedown the bookplate of Conte della Trinità, engraved by Stagnon, and the manuscript note “Bonne edition, rare, et recherchée. V. Osmont T. I. p. 91”; on back pastedown another note in red and brown ink “5253 p.l. 6 Haym. 181=2. prima edizione”. Contemporary cardboards “alla rustica” with inked title on spine and front panel. Some marginal stains, a very nice, full-margined copy in its original binding.

FIRST EDITION. The work was protected by a ten-year privilege, so shortly after its printing a counterfeit edition appeared on the market, barely distinguishable from the original. The main differences between the present, original edition and the counterfeit are: on l. G6r, line 22, all copies of the original edition have a manuscript note in the margin which corrects the misprint “altre” with “arte”, while the counterfeit has the correction printed in the text; the text block in the counterfeit is slightly tighter (200x121 mm instead of 200x123 mm); in the colophon the counterfeit has the banalization “la stampino” instead of the correct “le stampino”. The watermark is also different: the counterfeit has a cardinal hat with a flower on top and the countermark “A”, while the original edition has a cardinal hat surmounted by a cross with no countermark (cf. P. Bembo, Prose della volgar lingua. L'editio princeps del 1525 riscontrata con l'autografo Vaticano latino 3210, C. Vela, ed., Bologna, 2001, pp. LVII-LXIV).

To distinguish himself from Giovanni Francesco Fortunio, who, in 1516, had published the Regole grammaticali della volgar lingua, the first printed grammar of the Italian language, Bembo decided to present his theoretical views and rules on writing in perfect Italian in a more entertaining way: he composed a dialogue, in which the interlocutors Carlo Bembo, Giuliano de' Medici and Federico Fregoso are tasked with convincing the Latinist Ercole Strozzi to embrace the vernacular. At the time the book was published, the four protagonists of the Prose were already all dead. Bembo pretends that the work was composed around 1516, while the dialogue is set in Venice in 1502; as a matter of fact, the composition lasted many years and the third and last book was begun not sooner than 1522.

In its mission to provide a nation divided into myriad small states and dialects with a common literary language based on the authority of the so-called Three Tuscan Crowns of the fourteenth century (Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio), the Prose is considered a foundational text of the Italian literary tradition. Thanks to its enormous success (over twenty editions appeared before the end of the century), Bembo's Prose became the reference manual on writing in proper Italian and brought Italian literature to the attention of humanistic culture.

Pietro Bembo was born in Venice into a noble family. His earliest studies were in Florence, before following the Greek scholar Costantino Lascaris (1492-1494) to Messina. Back in Venice, he embraced an ecclesiastical career and began collaborating with Aldus Manutius, publishing the De Aetna in 1495 and editing Petrarch and Dante in 1501 and 1502, respectively. It was Bembo who showed Aldus a Roman coin with a dolphin and anchor carved on one side. Indeed, his influence on Aldus' editorial choices cannot be underestimated (cf. T. Danforth, M. Bixler & W. Bixler, Pietro Bembo, Foster Father of the Modern Book, New York, 2003).

During a sojourn in Ferrara, Bembo fell in love with Lucrezia Borgia, Alfonso I d'Este's wife, to whom he dedicated the Asolani, also published by Aldus in 1505. Between 1506 and 1512 he was at the court of Urbino; he then moved to Rome, where, in 1513, he became secretary to Pope Leo X. In 1519 he settled in Padua, where he completed the Prose de la volgar lingua, first published in 1525, and the Rime (1530); both works played a key role in the definition and future development of the Italian language and poetry. In 1530 he was appointed official historian of the Venetian Republic and director of the Libreria Nicena (the future Marciana Library). In 1539 he became cardinal, in 1541 bishop of Gubbio, in 1544 bishop of Bergamo. He died in Rome in 1547 (cf. C. Kidwell, Pietro Bembo: lover, linguist, cardinal, Montréal, 2004, passim).

Edit 16, CNCE4997; BMSTC Italian, p. 81. Gamba, no. 136.

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