Librorum Francisci Petrarche impressorum annotatio.  De ignorantia suiipsius et multorum liber I.  De ocio religiosorum liber I … 

Venice, Simone da Luere for Andreas Torresanus de Asula, 27 March 1501. 

Part one of two, folio, ff. [305], without final blank leaf; text in 2 columns, capital spaces with guide letters; occasional light marginal damp staining, a few ink marks, small adhesions affecting a few letters to e8v and f1r; very good in recent stiff vellum, title and date inked to spine; ownership inscription of Ulisse Aldrovandi to head of first title (‘Ulisses Aldrovandi ac Amicorum’), with manuscript shelfmark, his annotations to c. 44 pp., occasional underlining and marginal marks to a further c. 131 pp; author and title manuscript to lower edge (as in many books from Aldrovandi’s library), notes to i5v and to last leaf in two later hands.


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Part one of the second collected edition of Petrarch’s Latin works (first Basel 1496), owned and annotated by the great Italian naturalist and physician Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605). 

A prime example of the Renaissance polymath, Aldrovandi studied mathematics, Latin, law, philosophy, and medicine in his youth, before becoming a pioneering professor of natural history at the University of Bologna, where he also founded and curated an important botanical garden.  ‘His work as a teacher and as the author of volumes that constitute an irreplaceable cultural patrimony earns him a place among the fathers of modern science … he was among the first to attempt to free the natural sciences from the stifling influence of the authority of textbooks, for which he substituted, as far as possible, direct study and observation of the animal, vegetable, and mineral worlds’ (DSB). 

It is clear from his annotations here that Aldrovandi carefully read several of the Latin works of Petrarch: the polemical De sui ipsius et multorum ignorantia, upholding the human values of literature inspired by Christian truth (a8v: ‘Totum perlegi die 14 Septembris 1571 ego Ulisses Aldrovandi’); the Itinerarium, a pilgrim’s guide to the Holy Land (c7v: ‘Totum perlegi’); the Propositum factum coram rege Ungarie (c8v: ‘Totum perlegi’); the philosophical De vita solitaria, celebrating the secluded life, in the company of a few friends and many books (f10v: ‘Totum perlegi ruri Sti Jo. Pauli 23 Julii 1551 Ego Ulisses Aldrovandi’); and the first book of the De remediis utriusque fortunae, a dialogue intended to help the reader face both good and bad fortune alike (k8v: ‘Totum perlegi … 29 Julii 1551 Ego Ulisses Aldrovandi in agello St. Jo. Pauli’).  A few of Aldrovandi’s notes can also be found in the second book of the De remediis, in the Secretum (Petrarch’s self-examination of his moral and spiritual failings), and to the Rerum memorandarum libri

Aldrovandi’s notes reveal his diverse interests, referring, inter alia, to Cicero (a5r), the papacy (f1r), the tomb of the prophet Muhammad (f3r), the form of the human body (ff3v), sleep (g1v), Plato (g4v), horses (g5r-v), hunting (g6r), parents and children (h5v), fish ponds and vivaria (h8r), crows and magpies (h8v), love sickness and remedies therefor (i2r-v), ingratitude (i7v), ballistas (k2r), earthquakes (o6r), blindness (o8r), and death (p9v). 

A later (late-seventeenth-century?) owner has added a note of a devotional nature to the margin of i5v, while another note at the end of the index reads ‘Omnia quae nobis notatu digna uisa sunt ex hac excerpsimus tabula’. 

After his death in 1605, Aldrovandi’s books and museum continued to be housed in his home until around 1617 when, in accordance with his 1603 will, the collections were transferred to the Palazzo Comunale of Bologna (although the reduced number of books in the 1657 inventory suggests that the library may have been subject to some neglect).  In May 1742 all the collections were transferred to the newly founded Istituto delle Scienze, but while the manuscripts were kept together, the printed books were dispersed throughout the Istituto’s holdings.  Another blow to the collection arrived in 1797 when several books and manuscripts were removed by the Napoleonic commissioners and sent to France.  The books and manuscripts that returned after the Restoration were returned to the Istituto’s library (now the Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna).  Some duplicates and other books have since been sold or exchanged and have ‘ended up in local and foreign libraries, while others made their way onto the antiquarian book market, where they still occasionally surface’ (Duroselle-Melish & Lines). 

Adams P-773; EDIT16 31762; USTC 847783.