Vita Romanorum imperatorum

Autore: STELLA, Giovanni (fl. inizi del XVI sec.)

Tipografo: Bernardino Vitali

Dati tipografici: Venezia, 25 novembre 1503



4to (204x150 mm). [32] leaves. Collation: A-H4. Large woodcut illustration on the title page showing an emperor on a throne with two pages at his sides, one holding a sword and the other a shield with a two-headed eagle. Three woodcut decorated initials on black ground. Later flexible vellum. On the front pastedown bookseller label “Libreria antiquaria Mediolanum”. Some light foxing, a very good copy with a few contemporary underlining and marginal notes in red ink.


RARE FIRST AND ONLY EDITION of this brief handbook containing historical and political information on the Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Maximilian of Habsburg. The name of the author, a priest at S. Maria Formosa in Venice, appears in the dedication to Senator Alvise Trevisan. Stella is also the author of a collection of biographies of pontiffs (Vite ducentorum & triginta summorum pontificum), published in Venice by Vitali in 1505.

Essling considers the woodcut on the title page to be one of the last woodcuts with simple outlines in the Venetian publishing industry, which in those years was turning towards a greater use of chiaroscuro. Rava (p. 26) considers it very close to the style of the “Master of the Poliphilo”, recently identified as Benedetto Bordon.

“Below the title is a large outline woodcut; the Emperor with the Imperial Crown on his head is sitting, and holds the Orb in his right hand, and the Sceptre in the left, a page by his side holding the sword of State, the point upwards. Another page holds the shield with the two-headed eagle. The woodcut is beautifully drawn although the Emperor appears as a giant between two dwarfs compared to the pages. In this matter the author underlines the greatness of the Emperor. The details of the woodcut possess excellent qualities as regards the drawing and the engraving. The woodcut carries the artistic tradition and the folds of the garments are realistically rendered, the artist is an imitator of the designer of the ‘Beato Lorenzo' ” (Rivoli, pp. 239-240)


Essling, 1390; Sander, 7073; Edit 16, CNCE37834; Rava, p. 92.