SIMONETA, Joannes (d. 1491). Commentarii rerum gestarum Francisci Sfortiae. Edited by Franciscus Puteolanus. Milan: Antonius Zarotus, 23 September 1486.
Chancery 2o (298 x 208 mm). Collation: a-e8 f6 g-h8 i6 k-m8 n6 o-r8 s6 t-z8 &8 A4 (a1r editor's address to Lodovico Sforza, a2r author's preface, a2v text, A4v colophon). 188 leaves. 54 lines. Type: 6:78R. 6- to 8-line initial spaces opening each book. (Marginal dampstaining at front and back with traces of mildew to first and last few leaves, marginal worming in first and final quires.)
Binding: Early 16th-century Italian blind-tooled brown goatskin over pasteboard, sides with multiple blind fillets enclosing a panel with border of a leafy vine roll-tool, central compartment with a lozenge-shaped foliate tool repeated 5 times, spine divided into 4 compartments by 3 double raised bands, the compartments decorated to a geometrical design of parallel and intersecting blind fillets, blue and light brown silk-enclosed tawed leather endbands, evidence of 4 pairs of ties, edges stained purplish brown, spine liners (visible through pastedown) from a 14th- or 15th century manuscript on vellum (ties lacking, head of spine defective, rubbed with loss of leather at board edges and joints); folding cloth case.
Provenance: Marino Cavallo (or Cavalli, 16th-century inscription on a2r, marginalia through quire g in the same hand, including a few notes either updating the history or recording recent parallels to the recorded events, dated 1525, 1528, and 1529) -- Claudius de Ballie(?), parliamentary councillor at Paris (16th-century inscription on back flyleaf).
Second edition of one of the most important contemporary histories of Renaissance Italy. The condottiere Francesco Sforza (1401-1466) had declared himself duke of Milan in 1450 following the death of Filippo Maria Visconti. Giovanni Simoneta, whose brother Cecco was the devoted secretary and advisor to Francesco and his son Galeazzo, was a member of the Sforza inner circle. His biography of Francesco was intended as much to glorify his patrons as to establish the legitimacy of their rule, which, unlike that of the Viscontis, rested on popular acclamation alone. Galeazzo's brother Lodovico, called il Moro, who usurped power during the regency of his nephew Gian Galeazzo, provided financial support for the printing of the work as part of his strategy for obtaining imperial investiture. He was finally to achieve this goal through another channel in 1494, by marrying his niece Bianca Sforza to the Emperor Maximilan I. In the meantime, the Simoneta brothers had been brought down by Lodovico's accession to the Dukedom, and in 1480 he had Cecco beheaded on trumped-up charges of treason. His regard for his father's biographer motivated him to spare Giovanni.
Antonius Zarotus worked as foreman for the Milanese prototypographer Pamfilo Castaldi in 1471, before entering into partnership with Gabriel de Ossonibus and others in May 1472; the surviving contract, published by G.A. Sassi in 1745 in his Historia literario-typographica Mediolanensis, is one of the most detailed such early documents known, and sheds much light on early typographical associations. Zarotus' press remained steadily active until 1493, producing over 100 editions, and at a diminished rate until the end of the century, much of the work being done on commission for the publisher Joannes de Legnano and others.
HC *14755; BMC VI, 719 (IB. 26039); CIBN S-279; IGI 9014; Pr 5821; Goff S-533.