AN UN-ENLIGHTENED UTOPIA

Della futura rinnovazione de’ cieli e della terra e de’ suoi abitatori libri tre.

[Florence,] Stamperia Bonducciana, 1780.

4to, pp. viii, ‘160’ [i.e. 260]; title copper-engraved with decorative border and large armorial cartouche, copper-engraved initial E (showing St Peter’s Basilica), woodcut ornaments and initials; some spotting and browning in places, and minimal marginal worming to final few leaves (not affecting text); a very good, clean copy, uncut in contemporary carta rustica; binding somewhat browned and worn, and slightly loose.

£685

Approximately:
US $842€789

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First edition of this utopia by the Tuscan Dominican Pier Vincenzo Barsanti.

Barsanti (fl. before 1784), professor of theology at the episcopal seminary of Cortona and then prior of the convent of Santa Caterina in Livorno, bases his book on work he had presented previously to the Accademia Etrusca of Cortona, the vast scope of which made it ripe for expansion. Over the course of three books, he speculates about matters ranging from the fate of unbaptised infants to human reason, the tendency of philosophers and poets to plagiarise sacred texts, the art of navigation, and the possibility of the plurality of worlds.

A contemporary reviewer, in the Göttingische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen of 1781, was unimpressed by Barsanti’s efforts: he ‘may have meant well with his book; for us, on the other hand, he has rewarded us so little for the trouble of reading it, that we have not even found in it so much as a new, pleasant, plausible dream, let alone a tenable, newly thought or articulated idea … What we have learnt from this book is that the sun of scientific culture, even in enlightened lands, generally will only illuminate a narrow strip, and that many monasteries have yet to receive a ray of it’ (p. 1208 trans.).

OCLC records seven copies in North America, at Stanford, Chicago, Oklahoma, Penn State, Harvard, Wisconsin, and the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC.

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