Bibliotheca Historica Libri VI. Translated by Poggio Bracciolini; TACITUS, Publius Cornelius. Germania. Edited by Girolamo Squarciafico. DIODORUS SICULUS.
Bibliotheca Historica Libri VI. Translated by Poggio Bracciolini; TACITUS, Publius Cornelius. Germania. Edited by Girolamo Squarciafico.
Bibliotheca Historica Libri VI. Translated by Poggio Bracciolini; TACITUS, Publius Cornelius. Germania. Edited by Girolamo Squarciafico.
Bibliotheca Historica Libri VI. Translated by Poggio Bracciolini; TACITUS, Publius Cornelius. Germania. Edited by Girolamo Squarciafico.
Bibliotheca Historica Libri VI. Translated by Poggio Bracciolini; TACITUS, Publius Cornelius. Germania. Edited by Girolamo Squarciafico.
Bibliotheca Historica Libri VI. Translated by Poggio Bracciolini; TACITUS, Publius Cornelius. Germania. Edited by Girolamo Squarciafico.

From the Pillone Library

Bibliotheca Historica Libri VI. Translated by Poggio Bracciolini; TACITUS, Publius Cornelius. Germania. Edited by Girolamo Squarciafico.

122 leaves, 38 lines, Roman type, three- to five-line initials supplied in red or blue, manuscript guide letters. Small folio (292 x 200 mm.), cont. blind-tooled Italian goatskin over wooden boards, three clasps, six (of formerly ten) round brass bosses (see below). Venice: Thomas de Blavis, de Alexandria, 25 November 1481.

The Greek Bibliotheke historike of Diodorus, composed between 60 and 30 B.C., is here printed in the Latin translation of Books I-V made by Poggio Bracciolini, completed about 1450 and first printed at Bologna in 1472. This is the third edition, with the additions of Girolamo Squarciafico (fl. 1475-after 1503). The two previous editions had also included Tacitus’s Germania but Squarciafico’s letter appears here for the first time, dated two days before the publication date in the colophon. In it, Squarciafico tells of being visited in a dream by his recently deceased friend, the humanist Filelfo, who recounts a debate he overheard in the after-life about the invention of printing, whether it is the greatest invention as giving immortality to human thought, or whether it weakens mankind’s devotion to learning by the sheer multiplicity of books.

As an important historical source, even allowing for the fact that his text has not survived in full, Diodorus was extensively read — as witness the present copy — and commented on, and translations into various vernaculars were made in the 16th century. The original Greek text was not published until 1549.

This volume shows close study by two contemporary readers, one of whom is almost certainly Antonio Pillone. Our copy is extensively annotated throughout, with marginal summaries and highlights in two inks. There are detailed annotations and corrections of the Latin of the text, even to the extent of adding manuscript contraction marks where they are lacking and making additions to the text (e.g. d2 verso where ‘gravius’ corrects ‘graviorem’ and f4 recto where after the words ‘sanguine colorem’ is added a caret and the word ‘mutant’ added in the margin). The notes on Arabia Felix and sections on Egypt are particularly richly annotated, as are sections on Greek myths and the labours of Hercules. For the Germania of Tacitus there are some notes in one hand only.

Vecellio Fore-edge Painting: The fore-edge is decorated with two pyramidal obelisks and two crowned busts in profile. The author’s name, abbreviated “DI S.” is at the bottom. Upper and lower edges are marbled in red.

The painted decoration is the work of Cesare Vecellio (1521-1601), a cousin and pupil of Titian, in whose studio Vecellio worked until Titian’s death. Among Vecellio’s major paintings is the altarpiece at Belluno Cathedral. In addition to the painted fore-edges executed for the Pillones, Vecellio also painted a room in the Palazzo Pillone with the Four Seasons and the Rape of the Sabines. In his famous book on costume and manners, De gli habiti antichi et moderni (Venice: 1590), Vecellio mentions the library and other collections of the Pillone family as well as their generous hospitality.

For his imagery, Vecellio took each book’s author or content, so there are a series of author portraits, as here, or scenes, maps and views. 172 volumes were decorated in this way, 154 with fore-edges painted by Vecellio and 21 with original drawings on their vellum covers by him and other artists.

Provenance:
1. Antonio Pillone (1464-1533), Belluno; binding.
2. Odorico Pillone (1503-1593), Belluno; fore-edges.
3. Sir Thomas Brooke (1830-1908), Armitage Bridge, Yorkshire; bookplate; sold by his heirs
in 1957 to
4. Pierre Berès (1913-2008), Paris.

The Pillone Library has long been celebrated. Noted already in the 16th century as a library of “molti e diversi libri,” it is celebrated among bibliophiles today for the remarkable painted decoration of its fore-edges and as a rare survival up to the modern day of a Renaissance library.

The Pillone family, originally of Val Cadore, was prominent in the civic history of Belluno. Their library at Villa Casteldardo outside Belluno was primarily formed by the father and son, Antonio (1464-1533), and Odorico (1503-94), the former a soldier and diplomat, the latter a learned jurist. In the 1580s Odorico Pillone (or possibly his son Giorgio) commissioned Vecellio to decorate the fore-edges of a substantial portion of the best books in the library with paintings related to the contents.

The 172 volumes decorated by Vecellio have had a remarkably stable existence over the next four centuries, which accounts in large measure for their almost uniformly excellent state of preservation. They remained together with other family collections until 1874 when the library was sold to the Venetian antiquarian Paolo Maresio Bazolle. The decorated volumes were then bought en bloc by the Yorkshire baronet Sir Thomas Brooke (1830-1908), and remained in his family until they were acquired and finally dispersed by Pierre Berès in 1957. Thanks to their unusual decoration and to the fact that the library remained intact until the 1950s, all of the Pillone books have been preserved in their original bindings.

Binding: Contemporary Italian goatskin over inner-bevelled wooden boards, panelled sides tooled in blind with two flower-head stamps, spine tooled with diagonal fillets. Three clasps, at upper, lower and fore edge, with catchplates on lower cover, originally ten round brass bosses on covers (two missing on each side). Manuscript title written on upper cover, a single vellum and paper flyleaf at each end, note on author’s times written on front vellum leaf.

A few small wormholes at the beginning and end, occasional small stain at upper margin. A few small wormholes, a little scuffed and stained, head of spine chipped, light restoration.

❧ Berès, Bibliothèque Pillone, 16. Goff D-212. ISTC id00212000.

Price: $185,000.00

Item ID: 5825

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