Del Bene, Bartolomeo (b. 1514). Civitas veri sive morum... Paris, Ambroise and Jérôme Drouart, 1609.

Del Bene, Bartolomeo (b. 1514). Civitas veri sive morum... Paris, Ambroise and Jérôme Drouart, 1609.

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Del Bene, Bartolomeo (b. 1514).

Civitas veri sive morum... Aristotelis de moribus doctrinam, carmine et picturis complexa, et illustrata commentariis Theodori Marcilii.... 

Paris, Ambroise and Jérôme Drouart, 1609.

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A journey to the City of Truth

Del Bene, Bartolomeo (b. 1514).

Civitas veri sive morum... Aristotelis de moribus doctrinam, carmine et picturis complexa, et illustrata commentariis Theodori Marcilii.... Paris, Ambroise and Jérôme Drouart, 1609.

Folio (343x214 mm). Collation: A4, 2A-Z4, Aa-Hh4, Ii6. [8], 258, [2] pages. Complete with fol. A4 blank. Roman, italic, and Greek type. Engraved title-page and thirty-three engraved plates by Thomas de Leu, including a double-page plan of the City of Truth. Woodcut initials, head-and tailpieces. Contemporary vellum, over pasteboards. Spine with title in gilt on lettering-piece. Some wear. A fine and tall copy, slightly browned, pale waterstain at the upper margin. A manuscript note in French on the front flyleaf.

Rare first edition of this remarkable utopian work, a poetic meditation in Latin hexameters, based on the Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle. The Civitas veri sive morum was written in 1585 by the diplomat and poet Bartolomeo Del Bene, and posthumously edited in 1609 by his nephew Alfonso, bishop of Albi, who dedicated the publication to Henri IV. The text is accompanied by a commentary by Théodore Marcile (1548-1617).

The poem describes a journey to the City of Truth (Civitas veri) which begins at the Palace of Strength and takes us to the Palaces of Moderation and Excess; we then arrive at the Temples of Glory and Generosity, and finally at the Labyrinth of Vices. The Basilica of Magnanimity and Modesty is a dignified structure, and so too is the House of Courtesy. The contrast is quickly apparent: arrogance, falsity, and injustice are present in the forms of buildings. The edifices of Heroism, Abstinence, and Justice, represent the goal of a virtuous life.

The work is divided into thirty days, starting from the canonical description of the five senses, following by a listing the traditional virtues and vices in hierarchical fashion, and culminating in a discussion of the philosopher's wisdom. The edition is supplemented with a marvellous series of engravings, executed by the publisher and print dealer Thomas de Leu (1560–1620), mostly representing allegories and figures on a pilgrimage to the City of Truth. One double-page plate shows a map of this city.

“Like so many Renaissance allegories, the 'Civitas veri' grows from a medieval root. The commentator Marcile points out its indebtedness to St Augustine's 'City of God', and indeed the plan of the City of Truth recalls illustrations in medieval manuscripts of the City of God. The allegorical dream in the architectural setting has a strong hold on the Renaissance imagination, as exemplified by the 'Hypnerotomachia Poliphili' (see nos. 43 and 103), to which work the 'Civitas veri', though of a different temper, has a certain relationship”. (F. A. Yates, The French Academies of the Sixteen Century, p. 112).”

Duportal, Livres à figures du XVIIe siècle, p. 155; French Emblem Books F.212; Landwehr 255; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 184.


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