Supplementum Chronicarum. Jacopo Filippo FORESTI, da Bergamo.
Supplementum Chronicarum.
Supplementum Chronicarum.
Supplementum Chronicarum.
Supplementum Chronicarum.

From the Pillone Library

Supplementum Chronicarum.

270 leaves, 60 lines & headline, Gothic type, two- to six-line initials supplied in red or blue, printed guide-letters, woodcut initial on a2r. Frontispiece comprising woodcut vignettes of the six days of creation enclosed within woodcut border, border repeated on first text page, 46 woodcuts from 39 blocks. Small folio (314 x 208 mm.), cont. Italian half goatskin over wooden boards tooled in blind, 4 clasps (see below), remains of paper label on front. Venice: Bernardinus Rizus, Novariensis, 15 February 1492/3.

Third illustrated edition, augmented with chronicle entries up to 1490. Giacomo Filippo de Bergamo (1434-1520), was born into the noble Foresti family. In 1452, he joined the order of the Augustinian Hermits and lived in the monastery of Sant’Agostino in Bergamo. His major work is his large world chronicle, the Supplementum Chronicarum, which traces the history of the world from the creation to the present day. It was first printed in 1483 and became a great success.

Illustration: Many of the woodcuts are from the first illustrated edition, printed by Bernardinus Benalius in 1486; they were copied from Rolewinck’s Fasciculus temporum. In the second illustrated edition of 1490 the printer Rizius had several city views improved and recut, including Rome, Venice, Genoa and Verona, which he used again in the present edition. To the present edition he added the borders which had appeared earlier the same year in the Italian Legenda aurea printed by Bonellis. The large six-block cut of the Creation frontispiece and a small Noah’s ark cut were taken from the Malermi Bible of 1490.

Vecellio Fore-edge Painting: Decorated with the Tower of Babel and figure of a “Turkish” archer below, abbreviated title lettered horizontally CRO. SUP. below lower clasp. Top and bottom edges marbled purple.

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.

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 half brown goatskin over wooden boards tooled in blind by the Belluno bindery A, two three-line frames enclosing two borders of repeated impressions of a small pinnacle tool (Hobson tool 2), spine with diagonal fillets. The covering secured at the edge by a strip of leather nailed to the boards. Four original clasps with shaped decorated metal catchplates on lower cover. Single vellum flyleaf at each end; the vellum leaves seem to have been the wrapper for the book, in which it went to the binder: the first has the word “a fondello” written on it, and the book is half-bound.

A few small wormholes and a little wear to the binding with small losses.

❧ Berès, Bibliothèque Pillone, 27. Goff J-212. ISTC ij00212000.

Price: $150,000.00

Item ID: 5827

See all items in Bookbinding, History, Incunabula