Spirito, Lorenzo (ca. 1425-1496). Libro de la Ventura. [Bologna, Caligola de Bazaleriis, 1498-1500].

Spirito, Lorenzo (ca. 1425-1496). Libro de la Ventura. [Bologna, Caligola de Bazaleriis, 1498-1500].

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Spirito, Lorenzo (ca. 1425-1496).

Libro de la Ventura.

[Bologna, Caligola de Bazaleriis, 1498-1500].

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The only known copy

Spirito, Lorenzo (ca. 1425-1496).

Libro de la Ventura. [Bologna, Caligola de Bazaleriis, 1498-1500].

Folio (310x250 mm). Collation: A8, B12, C8, D-E6, F4. XXXXIIII leaves (frequent misnumbering). Text on fols. C5r-F4v in two columns, 44 lines. Type: 140G (title), 1:116R (text). Elaborate full-page woodcut on fol. A2r, depicting the fortune-telling method contained within the book, with short explications. Five full-page woodcuts on fols. A2v-A4v, each depicting four seated Kings within richly decorated architectural border; on the lower panel an empty shield, on the side panel the iscription 'PIERO CIZA FE QVESTO INTAIGIO'. On fols. A5r-B6v woodcut diagrams showing the different combination of throws of the dice, and one small vignette at the centre. Full-page woodcuts on fols. B7r-C4v, depicting the spheres within a frame with floral motifs and putti. Nine-to six-line woodcut animated initials. Nineteenth-century quarter-calf, boards covered with marbled paper. Early inked title on the tail-edge (faded). Spine with three double raised bands, title 'LIBRO DE LA VENTURA BOLOGNA S.A.' lettered in gilt. Minor scratches at the covers, corners slightly worn. A very good copy, the lower margin of some leaves uncut. Minor stain on title and in the margin of some leaves; repair to A2r affecting the woodcut border; the outer margin of fols. B10 and B11 slightly short; fols. C1 and C2 lightly trimmed at the time of rebinding. Bound between the front pastedown and the front flyleaf is a cutting from an English sale catalogue describing this copy.

Provenance: Jonathan Peckover of Wisbech (1835-1882; ex-libris on the pastedown); by descent to his sister Algerina Peckover of Sibalds House, Wisbech (1841-1927; ex-libris on the pastedown; her sale, Sotheby's London, 12 December 1927); purchased in 1936 by the Florentine bookseller Tammaro De Marinis (1878-1969; see T. De Marinis, Le illustrazioni per il Libro de le Sorte di Lorenzo Spirito, p. 78, “Firenze, raccolta T. De Marinis: acquistato da Sotheby & C. di Londra nel 1936”; his letter to Charles William Dyson-Perrins (1864-1958) tipped-in at the back of this copy).

The only known copy of this Bolognese incunable edition of the first fortune-telling game ever printed, extensively illustrated as are all books of this kind.

The work was composed by the Perugian poet Lorenzo Gualtieri (usually known as Lorenzo Spirito; see no. 202), no later than 1482, the date of the original manuscript preserved in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice (ms 6226). The first printed edition soon followed, published in Perugia in 1482, and is known in a single copy held at the Ulm Stadtbibliothek. Only three other fifteenth-century editions are recorded, these having appeared in Vicenza, Brescia, and Milan.

“The rules of the game seem designed to interpolate as many steps as possible before and after the throw of the dice which determined which of the 56 verses shall be accepted as an 'answer'. Thus the inquirer anxious to know if he will be cured of a disease is referred first to King Pharaoh, and from Pharaoh to the sign of the Ostrich. He then throws his 3 dice, and (let us say) turns up three 'aces' (eg ones). On this he is referred to the sphere of the Leopard and the River Po. These give a reference to the prophet Jonah, Verse I, and in this he finds his answer” (A.W. Pollard, Italian Book Illustration and Early Printing, A Catalogue of the Early Italian Books in the Library of C.W. Dyson Perrins, no. 187).

This undated edition of the Libro della Ventura – not recorded in ISTC – can be positively attributed to the Bolognese printer Caligola Bazalieri, who was active in the city from 1490 to 1504, and who focused his production on popular texts in Italian vernacular. Caligola employed the same roman font for his edition of the Regula of St. Jerome, which appeared in Bologna on 28 March 1498 (see GW 12466), whereas the title on the opening leaf is set in the type 140G used by him Caligola for the Lucidario printed on 15 April 1496 (see BMC vi, 837). The printing of this book can likewise be dated to the last years of the fifteenth century.

The copy offered here of this Bolognese edition is listed in Sander, and once belonged to the Italian bookseller Tammaro De Marinis, “qui a bien voulu nous communiquer cette fiche” (see Sander 7047). The De Marinis copy was considered by Sander unique, and tentatively dated to the “début du XVIème siècle”. Another revealing clue for the possible dating of this Bolognese publication is in the inscription 'PIERO CIZA FE QVESTO INTAIGIO', visible on the columnar borders framing the plates on fols. A2r-A4r, and implying that the block cutter Pietro Ciza had been responsible for the remaining illustrations as well. The name of Ciza (also known as Cisa, or Chiesa) is also found in a Bologna Calendario of 1493 and in the famous Viazo da Vanesia al sancto Jherusalem (1500). The same blocks were re-used, mostly in reduced size, in the Libro della Ventura printed in Bologna in 1508 by Justiniano de Rubeira, whose unique and incomplete copy is in the Biblioteca Marciana. “La più antica delle edizioni bolognesi note deve essere quella senza data, impressa con i caratteri di Caligula Bazalieri [...] Essa era rimasta fino ad oggi sconosciuta e l'esemplare apparso alla vendita Sotheby è probabilmente unico. L'illustrazione, rozzamente incisa, è opera di un artista che si fa conoscere; infatti ai quattro lati dei fregi che ornano le cinque tavole dei re (carte 2 verso 4 verso) si legge: 'PIERO CIZA FE QVESTO INTAIGIO'. Queste parti firmate (collocate però in senso inverso ad alcune altre figure) sono adoperate anche nella edizione di Giustiniano Ribeira del 1508” (T. De Marinis, “Le illustrazioni per il Libro de le Sorte di Lorenzo Spirito”, p. 72).

In addition, the copy has a tipped-in letter at the back from Tammaro De Marinis - dated on 10 August 1935, and addressed to the great collector Charles William Dyson-Perrins, asking for details about two other editions “de l'ouvrage de Lorenzo Spirito dont Vous possédez deux éditions, de 1501 et 1508 (nos. 157 et 187 de Votre catalogue)”.

Sander 7047; T. De Marinis, “Le illustrazioni per il Libro de le Sorte di Lorenzo Spirito”, Idem, Appunti e ricerche bibliografiche, Milano 1940, pp. 67-83 (describing this copy, see pp. 71-72, 78, and pls. CXI-CXV); S. Urbini, Il Libro delle sorti di Lorenzo Spirito Gualtieri, Modena 2006; A. Rosenstock, Das Losbuch des Lorenzo Spirito von 1482: eine Spurensuche, Weißenhorn 2010; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 42.