Bibliotheca Brookeriana III: Art, architecture and illustrated books

Bibliotheca Brookeriana III: Art, architecture and illustrated books

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 497. Cresci, Essemplare di piu sorti di lettere, Rome, 1560, printed on vellum, bound for Cardinal Borromeo.

Cresci, Essemplare di piu sorti di lettere, Rome, 1560, printed on vellum, bound for Cardinal Borromeo

Auction Closed

July 9, 02:57 PM GMT


150,000 - 200,000 GBP

Lot Details


Cresci, Giovanni Francesco. Essemplare di più sorti lettere di M. Gio. Francesco Cresci Milanese, scrittore della Libraria Apostolica. Rome: Antonio Blado for Giovanni Francesco Cresci, 1560

The dedication copy of the first edition, printed on vellum, for Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, in a fine contemporary binding with his arms. The flyleaf contains a seventeenth-century inscription, with calligraphic flourishes, stating "Il libro del B[ea]to Caro Borromeo Arcives[cov]o di Milano sopra il quale esso B[ea]to ha imparata a scrivere"; the book from which the Blessed Carlo learned to write.

Cresci, a writing master from Milan, was scriptor at the Vatican Library and, from 1560, for the Sistine Chapel, and he attempted to produce an easier method of writing the various hands in use at the time (for his second writing manual, see lot 498). This first work of his proved popular and went through numerous editions in both Rome and Venice. Of particular importance is the list of plates (quires *-**), which provide explanations of the different scripts as well as practical instructions. The woodcuts were by Francesco Aureri, who is mentioned in the text on B1.

This copy contains a manuscript poem addressed to Cresci by Giovanni Battista Forteguerri, written in a fine calligraphic hand on A2v, which is printed in the standard copies of this edition. There are also a few corrections in brown ink in a professional hand, not inconceivably that of Cresci himself.

Rare: USTC records just four copies of this edition, in Rome, Milan, Florence and Madrid, and Bonacini additionally records one at the Newberry Library, Chicago.

The covers of the elegant binding are decorated with a wide border created by repetition of a rectangular tool with a lotus flower motif (also used in Davis Gift 305, a binding for Paul IV by Niccolò Franzese). According to Franca Petrucci Nardelli, this tool was inspired by woodcuts in Niccolò Zoppino’s pattern book for lacemakers, Gli universali de i belli recami antichi, e moderni (Venice 1537; lot 545). The binding was executed in a shop which undertook official bindings for the Vatican, presided over by Niccolò Franzese (d. 1570/1571), who had been appointed to the post in 1556.

Oblong 4to (158 x 222 mm), printed on vellum. collation: [fleuron]4 *-**4 A2 B-H4: 42 leaves. Each page within a decorative woodcut border, 53 woodcuts of handwriting styles, woodcut initials, 12-page woodcut alphabet in large Roman capitals, hand-stamped signatures and foliation. 

binding: Contemporary Roman red morocco richly gilt (226 x 166 mm), by the Vatican binder, central gilt and painted arms of Cardinal Carlo Borromeo within a gilt leafy border and cornerpieces, four pairs of red silk ties, in a modern red buckram drop-backed folding box. (Corners slightly rubbed, ends of spine repaired, a few ties defective.)

provenance: Cardinal Carlo Borromeo (1538-1584, archbishop of Milan), arms on binding and inscription on flyleaf — Prete Giovanni Bianco, a gift from Conte Giulio Cesare Borromeo (1593-1638, the son of Carlo Borromeo's cousin Renato), inscription on flyleaf dated 17 April 1609 — Tammaro De Marinis, sale, Hoepli, Milan, 6 May 1925, lot 262 — Jacques Rosenthal, Munich, catalogue 87 (1927), no. 206 — [L’Art Ancien, Lugano (ca 1953), a copy on vellum mentioned by Bonacini] —Walter Petschek (fl. 1920-1930s), sale, Christie’s, New York, 9 June 1999, lot 26, $220,000 to Joseph Freilich. acquisition: Purchased in 2002 from Joseph Freilich. references: Bonacini 415; Edit16 13745; binding: De Marinis, Legatura artistica 3008