(Paris: Isidore Liseux, 1883).
A VERY SCARCE AND BEAUTIFUL EDITION OF COLONNA'S GREAT ROMANCE, THE DREAM OF POLIPHILI, THE MOST MAGNIFICENT AND SERENELY BEAUTIFUL ILLUSTRATED BOOK OF THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE. With scholarly notes and a long and very fine introduction and translation Claude Popelin. One of the great works of the early Renaissance, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili presents a mysterious arcane allegory in which the main protagonist, Poliphilo pursues his love, Polia, through a dreamlike landscape. In the end, he is reconciled with her by the "Fountain of Venus". The original edition, published in 1499, has long been sought after as one of the most beautiful incunabula printed. Here we see that tradition of the printer's craftsmanship brought to the modern period with woodcuts skillfully copied from French editions dating back to 1546.
The illustrations were so striking for their time that the HYPNEROTOMACHIA served as a sort of pattern-book, influencing book illustration styles all over Europe. For some time, attribution of the illustrations was made to Giovanni Bellini (ca. 1430-1516) or to Raffaello Sanzio (1483-1520) but it is a fact of course, that present scholarship can only conjecture as to the true artist. “[A]rtists...craftsmen...decorators got hold of this incomparable album of compositins in the antique taste. In the countries beyond the Alps its repercussions are even more clearly traceable than in Italy itself, where a greater variety of other sources for the study of clasical forms were to be found. In the north an astonishing proportion of all Renaissance ornament and accessory design can clearly be proved to derive from Colonna’s POLIPHILO” (E.P. Goldschmidt, ‘The Printed Bookof the Renaissance, 1950, 52).
The text, attributed to "Franciscus Columna" is based on the fact that the woodcut initials form an acrostic of his name, is a blending of the courtly romance of the Middle Ages with the revival of classical culture. It has recently been argued that the hidden autor was not the traditional candidate but rather the Servite friar Eliseo da Treviso (fl. 145-1506): see two articles by Piero Scapecchi in “Accademie e bibloteche d’Italia, 1983: 286sqq. and 1985: 68 sqq. This revised opinion is not strongly grounded however. Collona’s authorship is implied by several contemporary evidences. The aforementioned acrostic (POLIAM FRATER FRANCISVS COLCMNA PERAMAVIT), the unique setting of the first sheet ( l.4) of HYPNEROTOMACHIA preserved in a Berlin copy (presumably a rare cancellandum) contains Italian verse by on Matteo Visconti of Brescia refering more openly to “...Francisco alta columna l Per cui phama imortal de voi [scil. Polia, and Visconti’s own loved one Laurea] rissona.” Finally, an act of the Dominican order; of 5 June 1501,instructed that Francesco Colonna should be compelled to repay expenses which the Provincial of the Order had incurred “on account of the printed book.”
George Painter, in his fascinating essay, gives an appropriate context to the book: "Gutenberg's Forty-two-Line Bible of 1455 and the HYPNEROTOMACHIA of 1499 confront one another from opposite ends of the incunable period with equal and contrasting pre-eminence. The Gutenberg Bible is somberly and sternly German, gothic, Christian, and medieval; the HYPNEROTOMACHIA is radiantly and graciously Italian, classic, pagan, and renascent. These are the two supreme masterpieces of the art of printing, and stand at the two poles of human endeavour and desire."
The text, attributed to "Franciscus Colonna", is a blending of the courtly romance of the Middle Ages with the revival of classical culture. In search of his lost love, Polia, Polifilo is carried through a dream-world of pyramids and obelisks, ruined temples, bacchanalian festivals, and other classical scenes before finding her and attaining enlightenment at the temple of Venus. It “teaches that all human existence is no more than a dream, and along the way records many things most worthy of knowledge.”. Item #29725
2 volumes. FIRST PRINTING OF THIS IMPORTANT LIMITED EDITION, one of only 400 copies on Hollande paper of a total edition of only 410. With a great profusion of illustrations throughout the text being woodcuts after those first issued in the original first edition of 1499 now re-engraved by A. Prunaire. Large 8vo, very handsomely bound in contemporary three-quarter brown morocco over marbled boards, the spines with wide raised bands ruled in blind, two compartments with gilt lettering, marbled endpapers. ccxxxvii, 379; 458 pp. A very handsome set, the bindings very attractive and in fine shape with just a little rubbing at the extremities, the text all fine but for the lightest of spotting to which the Hollande paper is prone, in this case it is very minor.
(Paris: Isidore Liseux, 1883).