Small square 8vo, ff. , 279; f. 275 numbered ‘277’; without last blank 2M8; woodcut printer’s device to title and colophon, woodcut initials and ornaments; sporadic light foxing, but a very good copy, bound in mid-nineteenth-century English russia, spine gilt in geometric compartments and lettered directly in gilt, edges gilt, grey endpapers; a little rubbed.
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Historia del valoroso cavallier Polisman, nella quale, oltre alla sua origine, vita, & imprese, si contengono anco diversi avvenimenti di viaggi, tornei, maritaggi, battaglie da mare, & da terra, & infiniti generosi fatti, di altri nobilissimi cavallieri ...
Second edition (in fact a reissue of the first edition published in 1573) of a rare pseudo-Hispanic Italian chivalric romance, with a curious printing history.
An uncommon work, the Historia del valoroso cavallier Polisman recounts the adventures of the usurped heir to the county of Provence and his travels in the Ottoman Empire. Visiting Alexandria, Cairo, Constantinople, and Corinth, Polisman meets giants and mages, is shipwrecked, and wins the hand of Listandora from the Turkish Sultan, before returning to free Provence from the tyranny of Tiberio. Published at the height of popularity of chivalric romances, the work claims to be a translation from Spanish, although it is almost certainly an original Italian piece, perhaps with links to England to be found in the character of Ascot.
A reported Spanish edition of 1517 is attributed to Fernando Bernal by Leandro Fernandez de Moratin (Orígines del teatro español, 1838), and later misquoted as 1527 by Gayangos and Gallardo: ‘No copy of the book is known, and the only reputed edition, that of 1517, is mentioned on very doubtful authority. There is, however, an Italian Polisman, first published in 1573 (reprinted 1612, note), which professes to be “nouamente tradotta di lingua Spagnola in Italiana, Da m. Giouanni Miranda.” The concatenation of the names Polisman and Ascot in this story suggest an English origin; but Ascot is the name of a person and not a place. The fact that the translator’s name is given as Miranda, and that there figures in the story “un capitano onorato, che hauea nome Miranda amicissimo di Polisman,” seems to indicate that the romance was written by Miranda in Italian. The statement that it was translated from the Spanish may well be a pretence … and may have given rise to the confused rumour of a Spanish edition.’ (Thomas, Spanish and Portuguese Romances of Chivalry, pp. 134-5). The references to a 1517 edition are likely a confusion with Bernal’s Floriseo of the same year.
The work was first published by Christoforo Zanetti at Venice in 1573, though some authorities have reported editions of 1572 and 1593, likely as a result of misprints. The present edition appears to be a reissue of the first, with the first and final sections reprinted, published ‘during a minor revival which seems to have been … a speculation on the part of the Venetian printer Lucio Spineda’ (Thomas, p. 191). The romance would later be revived by Alessandro Caldari in his tragedy Il Polismano (Florence, 1737).
In his census of extant copies, Stefano Neri (Historia del valoroso cavallier Polisman (1572) di Juan de Miranda: guida alla lettura, Progetto Mambrino) finds three copies in Italian public libraries, two in the UK (Bodleian and UCL), two in the US (Harvard and Newberry), one at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, one at the Biblioteca Nacional de España, and one at the Royal Library of Belgium. This appears to be no. 4 in Neri’s census, the only known copy in private hands.
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