Bibliotheca Brookeriana: A Renaissance Library. Magnificent Books and Bindings

Bibliotheca Brookeriana: A Renaissance Library. Magnificent Books and Bindings

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 26. Francesco Colonna, Hypnerotomachie, Paris, 1546, Parisian calf by Wotton Binder C for Marcus Fugger.

Francesco Colonna, Hypnerotomachie, Paris, 1546, Parisian calf by Wotton Binder C for Marcus Fugger

Auction Closed

October 11, 11:51 PM GMT


300,000 - 400,000 USD

Lot Details


Colonna, Francesco. Hypnerotomachie, ou Discours du songe de Poliphile, deduisant comme Amour le combat à l’occasion de Polia. Soubz la fiction de quoy l’aucteur monstrant que toutes choses terrestres ne sont que vanité, traicte de plusieurs matieres profitables, & dignes de memoire. Nouvellement traduict de langage Italien en François. Paris: Louis Blaublom (Cyaneus) for Jacques I Kerver, 20 August 1546

First edition of the first French translation of this famous archaeological-architectural romance, lavishly illustrated with woodcuts based on those designed for the first edition (Venice, 1499; see lots 381 & 382 in the sale of Bibliotheca Brookeriana, 12 October 2023), and fourteen new subjects. It is often considered one of the most beautiful books of the French Renaissance.

The genesis of the translation (in fact, a condensed adaptation) is obscure. The editor, Jean Martin (ca. 1507–1553), claims in his dedicatory letter to Henri de Lenoncourt, that it was made by a “Gentilhomme vertueux, & de bon savoir,” adding, in the book’s preface, that he had needed to give it only finishing touches. Jacques Gohory, in a bitter preface to the second edition, published after Martin’s death by Kerver (1554; reprinted 1561), identifies the translator as “a knight from Malta, a cultured and talented man,” and insists that the translation was in his hands before Martin’s, who botched the job (Duché-Gavet, “Jacques Gohory’s copy of the Poliphile (1546): A first analysis of his handwritten marginalia,” in Marginal Notes: Social Reading and the Literal Margins [2000], pp. 21–40). Some modern critics doubt the existence of this Eques Meltensis, and credit Martin with crafting the entire book; others persist in uncovering his identity: the Lyonese humanist, Jean de Vauzelles (or his brother George), are the latest contenders.

Martin, a self-styled “studieux d’architecture”, most certainly shaped the book. He was working, almost simultaneously, on French translations of the treatises on architecture by Serlio, Vitruvius, and Alberti, and he explicates here much architectural terminology, adds printed glosses and scholia in the margins (found on twenty-eight pages, and absent in the original), and strips from the text many non-architectural descriptions. New woodcuts of buildings and formal gardens are incorporated, and architectural or antique elements are placed in some others. The book nourished antiquarian fantasies and became a sort of model book for designers of ephemeral architecture and garden art.

The blocks were cut by multiple cutters (Mortimer recognized four hands), one of whom might be Jean Goujon, the illustrator of Martin’s translation of Vitruvius (1547). A preparatory drawing for the title-block is associated with the Fontainebleau designer Luca Penni.

This copy was bound for Marcus Fugger (1529–1597), the eldest son of Anton Fugger, head of the powerful textile trading, banking, and mining family based in Augsburg. Marcus matriculated in June 1546 at the Collegium Trilingue in Louvain, and began there to build a library, acquiring books both new and second-hand, sometimes inscribing on the pastedown of the upper cover his name or initials MF, a date, the adage O.R.V.E. (Omnium Rerum Vicissitudo Est, from Terentius Afer’s Eunuchus), and a drawing of the family arms. A few years later, Marcus was buying heavily in Paris, commissioning (until about 1552) large numbers of standard bindings, in brown calf, these simply decorated, often with the small tool of a hand holding a branch, upon which perches a bird, or a crowned double-headed eagle (for reproductions of three such bindings, see Hobson & Culot, Italian and French 16th-century Bookbindings, no. 41). He also commissioned exquisite bindings from the royal binder, Gomar Estienne (see lot 33), from Claude de Picques, and from a shop known as “Wotton Binder C”. He habitually wrote his name (“Marx Fugg.,” “Marcus Fugger,” or similar) on the paste-down of the upper cover, and some of his luxury bindings are tooled in gold with the letters O.R.V.E. and his initials. After his father’s death, in 1560, Marcus became leader of the firm, and thereafter his book purchases dwindled.

Folio (331 x 214 mm). Roman type, with some italic including shoulder-notes, 45 lines plus headline. collation: ã*6 A-Z6 Aa-Bb6 CC8: 164 leaves. Woodcut title-border signed with Jacques Kerver’s initials and the turtle symbol of Louis Blaubom, 181 woodcut illustrations (including 13 full-page), variously attributed to Jean Cousin and Jean Goujon, 10-line woodcut floriated initials, Kerver’s woodcut device on Cc8v. (Occasional very light marginal spotting, marginal restoration to upper fore-edge corner of Aa6.)

binding: Parisian tan calf over pasteboards (339 x 224 mm), ca. 1550, by Wotton Binder C, gilt fillets around sides, double gilt fillets framing an interlaced rectangle and lozenge with loops at angles of rectangle, gilt quatrefoils at outer angles, central cartouche composed of circles of an open leaf and tendrils, with azured stirrup tool at first sides, in center “DISCOURS. / DV. SONGE. DE. / POLIPHILE.,” spine with 6 full and 2 half bands, gilt quatrefoil in each compartment, gilt edges. (Corners, joints, and second spine compartment restored.) Black morocco folding-case. 

provenance: Marcus Fugger (signature “Marcus Fuggerus” on front pastedown), by descent to — Philipp Fugger (1567–1601), by descent to — Marcus Philipp Fugger (1598–1620), by descent to — Marquard Fugger, Graf von Kirchberg und Weissenhorn (1596–1655) — Öttingen-Wallerstein, family library at Schloss Maihingen (armorial ink-stamp on title-page — Eugen Wolfgang Karl Friedrich Joseph Notger, Fürst zu Öttingen-Öttingen und Öttingen-Wallerstein (1885–1969; Karl & Faber, Munich, 6–7 November 1933, lot 170) — Raphaël Esmerian (1903–1976; Antoine & Étienne Ader, Jean-Louis Picard, Jacques Tajan & Claude Guérin with Georges Blaizot, 6 June 1972, lot 50), purchased by — unidentified owner (FF 116,000) — Fernand Pouillon (1912–1986; Ader Picard Tajan & Claude Guérin, Monte Carlo, 1 July 1986, lot 172) — François Ragazzoni (Tajan, Paris, 13 May 2003, lot 9) — Livio Ambrogio (bookplate). acquisition: Purchased from Stéphane Clavreuil Rare Books, London, 2019. 

references: BP16 112393; USTC 12610; P. Renouard, ILP, IV: no. 160; Mortimer, French, no. 145; for the binding see: Foot, “Thomas Wotton and his binders,” in The Henry Davis Gift: … Volume I: Studies in the History of Bookbinding (London, 1978), p. 153 (Appendix V: Bindings by Wotton’s binder III [Wotton’s binder C] for other collectors, no. 23); for the translator of this edition see: Elsa Kammerer, Jean de Vauzelles et le creuset lyonnais: un humaniste catholique au service de Marguerite de Navarre entre France, Italie et Allemagne (1520–1550) (Geneva 2013), pp.399–403.