1550 Il Decamerone (The Decameron), by Boccaccio. Illustrated. Printed in Venice by Ferrari.


A handsome, illustrated, 16th century Venetian printing of Boccaccio's Decameron.

This edition is illustrated with ten woodcut engravings, numerous inhabited initials, a portrait of Boccaccio, and several Giolito de Ferrari printer's marks.

This copy also retains the tooled boards of an attractive diced calf binding from circa 1750-1850 (dating based on style).

About This Decameron -

Gabriel Giolito de Ferrari printed a number of editions of Boccaccio's Decameron, in several sizes. This is Ferrari's quarto edition; the quarto editions were the largest and finest editions, more elaborate than the smaller "pocket editions"; this edition includes ten woodcut illustrations, as well as numerous inhabited initials.

Gabrial Giolito de Ferrari is known for being a 16th century proponent of women's rights, and this edition is dedicated to "La Delfina de Francia", Caterina de' Medici.

In the dedication to Caterina de' Medici, Ferrari states, "materie piacevoli contieni, et per la Maggior parte di Donne, et per cagion di Donne dal suo Autore su Composto", roughly translated: "the material contained is pleasant, and for the major part related to women, and for the sake of women written by its author".

It was a somewhat risque dedication, as the content of the Decameron includes salacious sections, and one of the Ferrari inhabited initials (often used throughout this printing) is that of a phallically erect Apollo chasing Daphne (turning into a tree).

As advertised on the title page, Ferrari included the commentary of several authors (prepared by Antonio Brucioli) in the margins, and, at the rear (with it's own title page), a Francesco Sansovino work, with explanations of the proverbs and difficult words found in the text, "useful to students of the vernacular language".

There is also a short Vita (Life) of Boccaccio printed at the beginning of the work.

Bibliographic Details -

Universal Short Title Catalogue number 814832; eight copies of the 1550 printing recorded, with none in North America.

The Worldcat entry, 702166407, adds a copy at Yale (North America).

Physical Attributes -

Measures approx. 22 x 16 x 3.5 cm, quarto. Respined. Diced calf boards richly tooled in blind (but with an outer double gilt fillet frame); a greek key roll around the outside, draped pointille device within that, and a central frame of numerous tools and rolls, with corner urns.

The replaced spine is rather bare, with five raised bands, the title in gilt on red morocco in one compartment, one compartment with a central floret, and the year "1550" in gilt at the base of the spine. Black and white endbands. Sprinkled edges. Marbled endpapers. Illustrated (previously described).

Pages - 6 prefatory leaves, pages 1-502, one blank leaf, 32 leaves of material at the rear

Collation - *6, A-Z8, AA-HH8, II4, a4, b-d8, e3 (should be four, e4 is missing, a blank leaf which was often not retained).

Condition -

See pictures. Early 19th century binding, with an older respining and corner repair (the boards were retained). Wear to edges especially of old boards, with a few scrapes, etc. Gutters repaired at hinges, marbled paper to match.

1819 gift inscription on unpaginated blank front endpaper, with the giftee rubbed out; name, in same hand, at top of page. Small worm hole in fore-edge margin in first four leaves.

Some toning, spotting, etc. to paper throughout. Occasional ink smudge, thumb, dog-eared page, etc.. Errant ink marks on the reverse of Boccaccio portrait leaf. Tear in bottom margin of leaf A3. Occasional moisture marks from edges, light. Pages are mostly clean, with good margins. Two more very small worm holes appear near the fore-edge margin at page 80, continuing nearly to the end, occasionally touching the marginal printed notes. At the end, two more small holes in the upper fore-edge margin. Candle ember mark at 400/401.

Moisture mark in gutter near end. Last leaf, a blank leaf that would be e4, missing. Worm track in last 4 leaves.

I nitpicked, but, other than a blank leaf at the end, the book collates complete and has nice wide margins (not intruding on the marginal notes and page headings).

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