BRUNO, Giordano (1548-1600). De umbris idearum - Ars memoriae. Paris: Gilles Gorbin, 1582.
2 parts in one, 8o (165 x 102 mm). Woodcut headpieces and initial letters. 12 astrological diagrams and 19 woodcut animal and human figures in text. (Short tear to blank margin of title, marginal paper flaw to k3.) Contemporary limp vellum, remains of ties. Green morocco slipcase. Provenance: Cortesius (early inscription on title, and neat ink marginalia).
FIRST EDITION OF BRUNO'S FIRST PUBLISHED WORK. Trained as a Dominican, Bruno became an adept of the memory arts for which that order was noted. When he fled Italy in 1576 to avoid prosecution for heresy, beginning a life of wanderings through France, England and Germany, he was able to use his mnemonic skills to his advantage: "an ex-friar who was willing to impart the artificial memory of the friars would arouse interest, particularly if it was the art in its Renaissance or occult form..." (Yates, The Art of Memory, 1972, p. 200). Bruno dedicated De umbris idearum, his first memory treatise, to Henri III, whose curiosity had been piqued by the rumor of Bruno's feats of memory. The work reveals "his transformation of the art of memory into a deeply magical art, and its title is taken from that of a magical book mentioned in the necromantic commentary on the Sphere of Sacrobosco by Cecco d'Ascoli, an author whom Bruno greatly admired. Bruno thus came before the world in his first Parisian period as a magician teaching some extremely abstruse art of memory that apparently gained the interest and approval of the king of France" (DSB). The text contains allusions to the magic arts of Aesclepius and a list of 150 magic images of the stars. Contemporary readers would have recognized the work "as belonging to certain contemporary trends, Here was a book on memory presented as a Hermetic secret and obviously full of magic. Seized with dread or disapproval, some readers would have discarded the book..." (Yates, p. 207).
Henri III gave Bruno introductory letters with which he traveled to England, where he wrote a second, much longer memory treatise, the Triginti sigilli, and gave a series of lectures at Oxford advocating the Copernican theory. Hostile reception to these lectures caused Bruno to return to London, where he frequented the court of Elizabeth I and developed relationships with Sir Phillip Sydney and Robert Dudley. VERY FINE COPY. Adams B-2952; Brunet I:1299; Salvestrini 17.