WRITTEN BY A WOMAN

Istoria del viaggio d’Alemagna del serenissimo Gran Duca di Toscana Ferdinando Secondo …

Venice, [1630].

4to, pp. 392, [4], with a few woodcut diagrams in the text denoting seating arrangements at banquets; a very good, crisp and clean copy bound in 19th century half vellum and marbled boards.

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First and only edition of a rare account of the journey Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Granduke of Tuscany, made to celebrate his coming of age and taking on the running of government. Ferdinando II travelled from February to July 1628 and first visited Rome to pay homage to the Pope, then Loreto, Bologna, Modena, Ferrara, Venice, Padua, Verona, Milan, Trent, passing into Germany, Munich, Ingolstadt and Nuremberg, then on to Prague, Salzburg, Linz, and Innsbruck where he met the Emperor, and then back to Florence.

Margherita Costa was not an eye-witness but compiled the account by using the notes of Benedetto Guerrini, who, as Ferdinando’s secretary, had been part of the travelling party. Costa is an interesting figure; one of a handful of women authors who made an impact on Italian cultural life. A native of Rome, from a humble background, she established herself as an accomplished singer and poet, enjoying the patronage of Cardinal Aldrobandini in Rome. Her intense rivalry with another female singer in Rome inspired Domenico Mazzochi’s opera La catena d’Adone (1626) with two parts written especially for the warring women; in the end the opera was performed using castrati. By 1628 she had moved to Florence to chronicle the wedding celebrations of Margherita de’ Medici and Odoardo Farnese in 1629. She became a member of the Medici court and was probably commissioned to write the present account. In 1638 she issued two collections of verse both dedicated to Ferdinando II, La Chitarra and Il Violino (both published in Frankfurt and very rare). Later she lived in Turin, and by 1646 she resided in Paris enjoying the patronage of Cardinal Mazarin. In Paris she published several libretti and appeared as a singer. She returned to Rome in 1648 and died there apparently in 1657 (cf. Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo, vol. III, col. 1555-56).

Her account of Ferdinando’s journey follows the footsteps of the Granduke. She has a good eye for detail and anecdote and takes great care to describe the various festivities laid on to welcome Ferdinando II in the towns. She gives important information on the seating arrangements at official banquets; notes the official presents, mostly intricate art objects; and relates the various visits to art galleries and private collections. In Nuremberg apart from admiring the obligatory Dürer pictures in the town hall, they also visit the picture gallery assembled by the merchant Felinger. In Prague and Innsbruck they visit the imperial art collection and Wunderkammer. The account contains a wealth of information on early 17th century princely travel.

Vinciana 1382; Watanabe-O’Kelly, Festivals and Ceremonies, 1274; no copy in the Festival collection of Paul Gourary (Christies New York, June 2009); OCLC locates 6 copies in US: Newberry, Chicago, New York Public, Congress, Getty, and University of California; OCLC locates further copies in Europe.

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