MAGNUS, Johannes (1488-1544, Archbishop of Upsala). Gothorum Sueonumque Historia. Edited by Olaus Magnus (1490-1558). Rome: Giovanni Maria Viotto, January 1554.
2° (293 x 196mm). Full-page title woodcut with inset letterpress text, full-page map of Scandinavia, full-page Viotto device on E5v and xxx5v, 237 woodcuts, including repeats, woodcut historiated initials. (Stained, an occasional small wormhole, without final blank.) Contemporary alla greca binding of tan morocco gilt over wooden boards bound for Henri II at the royal bindery [Gommar Etienne or Claude de Picques], sides panelled with interlace border on criblé ground with crowned H, red morocco inlay compartment at centre with royal arms of Henri II, front cover lettered CRONICA GOTHORU[M] TOMUS I (see below), flat spine with shaped compartments with a sémé of lozenges, edges gauffered with cross-hatch pattern and gilt, original endpapers watermarked with a small crown with cross pendant, four corner bosses removed, without four fore-edge clasps and pin catches and without two sabots on bottom edge of back cover (very slight buckling on front cover, a few scuffmarks, one flyleaf detached); modern red morocco pull-off case. Provenance: Henri II, King of France (1519-59; binding; French royal library 16th-century shelfmarks on title) -- [Bulletin Morgand 24333] -- [acquired from George Heilbrun, Paris, bookseller].
FIRST EDITION, BOUND FOR HENRI II FOR THE ROYAL LIBRARY AT FONTAINEBLEAU. Henri II gained his reputation as the greatest bibliophile of his time, as well as 'the greatest collector of bookbindings of all time' (Nixon, Sixteenth-century gold-tooled bookbindings in the Pierpont Morgan Library, p. 74) from the magnificent library he formed at the royal residence at Fontainebleau. His father François I had begun collecting Greek manuscripts by 1529, steadily acquiring over 550 by his death in 1547, and Henri II continued to build a scholarly library fit for his palace as a centre of Renaissance culture. Some of these books were undoubtedly intended ultimately for the proposed College royale. While over 800 volumes from Henri II's library survive at the Bibliothèque nationale, fewer than 30 are known outside Paris (Nixon, op.cit.), and even fewer are in private hands. Claude de Piques may have succeeded Gommar Etienne as royal binder as early as March 1556, but Laffitte and Bars prefer to attribute bindings from c.1555 to 1559 simply to the 'royal bindery'. The present volume originally formed a pair with Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (Rome: Viotto, 1555) by Johannes' brother Olaus Magnus. They were identically bound for Henri II, labelled volume I and II respectively; the Olaus Magnus is in the Bibliothèque nationale. The shelfmarks in the present volume show that it remained in the royal collection until at least 1645. There is no further indication of provenance until the Morgand number was written in the early 20th century.
Johannes Magnus's history of the Swedish people and their kings was a landmark in establishing modern Swedish nationalism. Magnus applied the contemporary humanist method of reaching back to ancient sources in search of historical truth. He claims descent of Swedish kings from the sons of Noah and the Goths of antiquity, a hitherto little known people, whom Magnus rehabilitates as noble Swedish forbearers and guardians of freedom, humanity and order. His magnum opus was printed on a press established by his brother Olaus and supervised by Viotto in the hospice of the Swedish Saint Birgitta at Rome. Olaus's own work on the history of the Nordic peoples was printed there the following year. This is the first appearance of the woodcut map of Scandinavia. Issue with dedication to Erik of Sweden et al. on A3r-4v. Adams M-135; Mortimer, Harvard Italian, 269.