WORD GAMES IN RENAISSANCE LOMBARDY

Giuoco piacevole.

Mantua, Giacomo Ruffinello, 1575.

4to, ff. 56 (errata in the last leaf); woodcut headpiece and device to title; a very good copy, bound in nineteenth-century half vellum.

£2750

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First edition of a rare Renaissance collection of tales in prose and verse.

Set in the Lombard city of Brescia during the Carnival days of what is described as the prosperous and peaceful year 1566, the book employs the narrative frame canonized by Boccaccio in the Decameron, though with pointedly opposed features. In the palace of Barbara Calini (a prominent aristocrat at the centre of the arts scene in Brescia, the dedicatee of a book of madrigals published by the musician Giovanni Contino) eight noble guests enjoy a fine dinner and a dance; as a late entertainment, Barbara dismisses the idea of joining in the city Carnival celebrations, and opts of a game of stories instead. Each guest is called to improvise a tale in prose or verse; each tale must feature a series of elements (a city, an abode, a guest, a garden, a nymph, a tree, an animal, a bird singing a song) all starting with the same letter of the alphabet, and each guest is assigned a letter.

Adams M 1783; Olschki Choix II, 2610; one copy only in the UK (British Library), two in the US (Huntington, Folger), one in Canada (Toronto).

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