BOCCACCIO, Giovanni (?1313-75). Decamerone. - Hieronymus Squarzaficus (fl. 1475-after 1503). Vita di Boccaccio. Venice: Johannes and Gregorius de Gregoriis, de Forlivio, 20 June 1492.
MASUCCIO Salernitano [Tommaso GUARDATI (c.1410-1475)]. Novellino. Venice: Johannes and Gregorius de Gregoriis, de Forlivio, 21 July 1492.
BOCCACCIO: Collation: \Kp\k6 a8 b-x6 z4 (\Kp\k1r title, verso blank, \Kp\k2r table of contents, \Kp\k5 Life of Boccaccio, \Kp\k6 blank, a1r text within woodcut architectural frame, z3r register, colophon, z3v printer's device, z4 blank). 143 (of 144, without blank \Kp\k6) leaves. Type: 23:82Rb. 59 lines and headline, double column, 3- to 6-line initial spaces with printed guide-letter. Woodcut architectural border opening text, 112 woodcuts, including repeats, comprising 100 column-width cuts, 10 large woodcuts from 2 blocks, one opening each "day", and one woodcut portrait of the author, repeated, by the Popular Designer, woodcut printer's device; later engraving of Boccaccio as poet laureate (120 x 74mm) mounted on title. A few blocks in the Boccaccio are signed "b", probably by the workshop and not the artist. Initial opening text in blue on a liquid gold and silver ground, armorial shield in lower border in silver, blue, pink and green. (First leaf mounted on blank verso, neatly repaired marginal tear in 2 leaves, one just touching text, b6 on guard, some scattered stains, light marginal dampstain in quires k-l.)
MASUCCIO: Collation: \Kp\k2 A-M6 (\Kp\k1r title, verso blank, \Kp\k2r table of contents, A1r text within woodcut architectural frame, M6r register, colophon, and printer's mark, verso blank). 74 leaves. Type: 23:82Rb. 55-59 lines and headline, double column, 3- to 4-line initial spaces with printed guide-letter. 55 woodcuts from 50 blocks (11 from the 1492 Boccaccio above, and 39 new blocks). (Last leaf blank corner cut and mounted on verso, some light staining, heavier in last 3 quires.)
Two works in one volume, super-chancery 2° (314 x 202mm). 18th-century vellum over thin pasteboard, titles written on spine, green edges, the two woodcut border pages with fore-edge folded to preserve woodcut (some stains, yapp edges worn). Provenance: arms (a lion rampant sinister) on first title -- Otto Schaefer (sale, Sotheby's New York, 8 December 1994, lot 32).
FIRST ITALIAN ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF THE DECAMERON, AND THE FIRST ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF THE NOVELLINO. They are among the finest Venetian woodcut books of the 15th century. Both works are illustrated by the "Popular Designer", whose designs are characterised by his "naive and occasionally naughty wit" (Hind). The cuts are noteworthy as being specific to the story they illustrate. Even when a Decameron cut is re-used in the Novellino, it is altered slightly for its new context. Depicting contemporary costume and manners, they allow a glimpse into life in Italy at the end of the 15th century. The Decameron cuts continued to appear in all subsequent editions until 1520 (with one exception).
The two works are extremely rare. No other copy has been offered at auction in over 70 years, and ISTC lists only about a dozen institutional copies, several imperfect. Owing in part to their rarity and despite Hind's earlier recognition of new cuts, it became accepted that the Novellino was illustrated entirely with cuts already employed in the Decameron. Bernard Breslauer was the first to establish that only 11 cuts originated in the earlier work and that the majority - 39 blocks - are new to the Novellino. He further distinguished 3 states resulting from damaged blocks necessitating duplication. The present copy of the Novellino is in the first state, before any duplication became necessary. It therefore represents the full series of the original Novellino cuts.
The two works are closely related in subject matter and format and were clearly intended as companion volumes; however, the present copy is the only instance where they are united in a single volume. The Decameron opens in contemporary Florence when a group of young people decides to remove itself to the countryside in order to escape the plague which has beset the city. They entertain one another during their self-enforced exile by telling stories, competing to show off their wit and inventiveness. The stories are intended as delightful distractions, and Petrarch praised the work as such. The Novellino similarly tells stories to entertain, and its author was known as the Neapolitan Boccaccio. Each of his tales is dedicated to a different person, including Ferdinand I of Aragon, Eleonora d'Aragona, Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, and the prologue is addressed to Ippolita Maria Sforza.
I: HC 3277; GW 4449; CIBN B-527; Bod-Inc. B-364; Essling 640; Sander 1060; Arnim/Schaefer 62 (another, imperfect, copy); Goff B-728. NOT IN THE BRITISH LIBRARY OR BAVARIAN STATE LIBRARY, and of the 7 copies listed in GW, 3 are imperfect. II: HCR 10888; BMC V, 342 (IB.21034); Bod-Inc. M-142; Essling 668; Sander 4426; Goff M-346.