1569 1st edition, Libro de Marchi de Cavalli. 1st known brands book. Horse markings.


The first known catalogue of brands (agriculture). The brands cataloged here are applied to horses, mainly in Italy, and mostly of the rich and/or royal. This work includes a recognizable 16th century plate showing the names of various ailments of parts of the horse body, corresponding to an index.

About this Edition -

The brand plates are undoubtedly from the 1st edition; for the 1588 2nd edition they were recut (and look different). Oddly, this copy has 72 brands. At first I thought my copy was incomplete, but when I came across the Austrian copy I realized that my text was a different variant (different type, different initial capital, etc.); the text in my copy is obviously circa 16th century, and looks of an even older style than the Austrian copy, and it does not match the 1588 edition type.

Although it's likely my copy is missing a few brands, it may be a different variant of the 1st edition (either earlier or later). There seems to be two variants in the bibliographies, one with 76 plates and one with 87 plates. The Austrian Library copy would be of the larger variant, due to the number of plates. I have not been able to review a copy of 76 plates to see if the type matches.

I produced a facsimile gathering of the fourteen plates the Austrian copy had, which mine did not. This gathering was printed on acid free paper, with a similar weave. I sewed the gathering and trimmed it to fit within the box (see pictures). With those fourteen plates added, I believe all the brands of the 1st edition are demonstrated (86 brands, and one horse plate, totaling 87 plates). The added gathering is not for sale, but will be provided (free-of-charge) to the purchaser of my book.

Rarity -

This book seldom reaches the market. Princeton's Rare Books and Special Collections refers to their copy as a "highlight". In an article entitled "Brand Books in the Princeton Collections of Western Americana" (William S. Reese), the author writes:

"The earliest example known is the Libro de marchi de caualli . . . (Venice, 1569), a copy of which is in the Princeton collection. Although the plates are elegant examples of Venetian engraving, the format of the book anticipates later developments in its duodecimo size, intended for pocketsized portability in the field, and its clear presentation of the branded patterns. Entirely devoted to horses, it always illustrates a primary brand, and often a secondary one to be found on the opposite flank or some other part of the horse. Most of the brands seem to be modified versions of family symbols, or in some cases simplified versions of coats of arms. A few of the letters or patterns anticipate ones later popular in the West, such as the letter “W” in lazy loops, what would later be called a “running W.” The eighty-six plates record brands from all of Italy, primarily those of great magnates and princes. Its use may have been more for identifying post or war horses than commercial purposes, but in this little volume the idea of the brand book achieved its basic form."

More on the Brands -

I haven't studied all the plates, but I did focus on the 25th plate because it was in my copy, but not the Austrian National Library copy (available in Google Books for viewing). In my copy, the 25th plate shows a diamond surrounding "CR"; the information given lists the brand as "Carlo Rouina Gentiluomo Bolognese". Upon study, I found that this was the brand of Carlo Ruini, who produced the well-regarded 1598 work Anatomia del Cavallo (published posthumously), with many anatomical horse images influenced by De Fabrica Corporis Humani.

I'm sure many of the other plates would provide for interesting study.

Provenance -

Ex libris of Friedrich Otto von Munchhausen, identified as "F.O.V.M." in a ribbon over the arms of Munchhausen; the same arms of the infamous Baron von Munchhausen, who was his uncle. Also, a treat to the bookish, both monks in the arms carry a girdle book.

Physical Attributes -

Protected in clamshell box (red, with gilt title on black leather label on spine).

Book measures 14.3 x 10 x 1.5 cm. Calf spine, with five raised cords, calf protected corners and sprinkled paper boards. Title on tan leather in gilt on spine in one compartment, "Marchi de Cavalli". All page edges sprinkled red.

Pagination - (1), title page, 72 leaves with plates on one side, (no A1 present, listed as blank in biographies (Mortimer)), A2-A8, (1)

Condition -

See pictures. A little shelf wear and a few marks to the protective clamshell. Either four, or fourteen, brands missing; those fourteen provided in facsimile on similar weave paper (acid free), bound into a gathering (8vo) and hand sewn. Binding has shelf wear, edge wear, chip at top of spine, and a little cracking at the joints. Several exlibris removed, leaving ghosting on endpapers. Still, one ex libris, and several bookseller notes. Title page plate cutout and remounted on matching paper. Some repairs to pages edges (fills). Horse plate still has edge wear (see photos). Occasional mark and/or spot. Bookseller writing on rear pastedown.

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