The Rare First Edition of Bembo's Important Vernacular Poetry
BEMBO, Pietro. [Poems] Rime. Venice: Giovan Antonio & Fratelli di Sabbio , 1530.
First edition. Two parts in one small quarto. [58 (of [60] leaves; lacking initial and final blanks); separate collation for each part. Italic type.

Contemporary mottled calf. Spine decoratively gilt, edges stained red. Top joint cracked, but cords strong, some spine restoration and old leather repairs to edges. Old ink signature on [A2], former owner's color penciled initials on front free endpaper. Occasional soiling and light marginal dampstains, few repairs in gutters. Overall, a very good copy, with magnificent broad margins. This is much rarer than his De Aetna (1495), Gli Asolani (1505) or Prose (1525). Housed in a quarter morocco clamshell case.

Rare first edition of Bembo's great literary tribute to Petrarch. Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), born in Venice, was the arbiter of Italian Renaissance literature. A man of letters and an ecclesiastic, Bembo was also secretary to Pope Leo X in 1513 and historiographer of the Venetian Republic in 1529. In 1539 he was made cardinal. Bembo sought to perfect Italian as a literary language and opposed those who wanted the vernacular literary language to include elements from many dialects. In English, Bembo's impulse piloted the sonnet cycles of Wyatt, Spenser and Shakespeare.

Bembo studied Petrarch to a more acute degree than any scholar before him. Not only did he edit the 1501 Aldine edition of Petrarch's Italian poems, but the following year he copied out the entire text by hand as an exercise. His affection for these poems was highly unusual at a time when Petrarch's reputation was based almost exclusively on Latin writings. It was Bembo's authority and reputation for classicism and scholarship that effectively elevated Petrarch's Italian poetry to the level of classical model. Bembo's Rime, at once homage and renovation, are exquisitely fashioned on that model.

The collection includes the sonnets, the funeral song "Alma Cortese," and the brilliant Stanze, written in celebration of Carnevale at Urbino in 1507. In this spectacular festival poem, the Goddess of Love sends her ambassadors on a mission to mollify the unyielding women of Urbino. The use of octaves cannot have escaped the notice of Ludovico Ariosto. This 1530 edition includes the introductory letter to Ottaviano Fregoso that was dropped from later printings.

Gamba 141 ("prima rara stampa—bella ed essai elegante"). Graesse I, p. 332. STC Italian, p. 81.

HBS # 66430 $8,000