LAPINI, Frosino

LAPINI, Frosino. Lettere toscane…in quattro libri

 Bologna, Appresso Anselmo Giaccarelli, 1556.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. (viii) 311 (i), (no signature)4 A-T8 V4. Four books bound in one volume. Italic letter, some Roman. Woodcut printer’s device on title page (Hercules fighting Hydra with his club; scene framed within an oval composed by branches of palm and olive tree; motto: “Chi non ci vuol fatica non ci nasca”, that is, anybody who cannot be bothered to toil in life, he would better not be born”, with reference to the Greek hero’s labours). Historiated initials in two size and one initial from a third different set (p. 137, I5), full-page diagram on p. 295, (T4), occasional marginal spotting, browning and ink thumb marks, marginal paper flaws to N4, quire Q with dampstaining throughout outer margin. Occasional early ink underlining and marks on margins, the rare recent pencil signs. Bookseller label on front pastedown (Libreria Antiquaria Angelo Gandolfi, Bologna), bookplate of the French bibliophile, palaeographer and librarian Léon Dorez (1864-1922) on verso of front flyleaf, ms. note of acquisition in French on recto: “Léon Dorez avril 1910”. In contemporary limp vellum, rebacked, a little worn and to cover edges, yet a resistant binding.

First edition of this work in four volumes of the Florentine humanist Frosino Lapini (1520-71). A priest and educator, Lapini was a very prolific writer within the Medicean Court. He translated Latin and Greek classics into Italian vernacular, he undertook intense editorial activity of both classics and modern works, and he engaged with the codification of rhetorical and grammatical rules, and pedagogy. These “Tuscan Letters” are a fitting example in order to understand the intellectual profile of the writer, which was informed by passion for educating and teaching, as well as ambition of being a moral philosopher. As regard to the topics and the style, his work is close to Giovanni della Casa’s Galateo (1558). The dedicatory letter introduces it as a collection of epistles sent to his pupils for real, which the author decided to publish in order to avoid them to be disposed or copied. All the letters appear to have been written in Florence or Bologna between 1553 and 1556. Through the ancient genre of the “familiar letters”, Lapini has the opportunity to illustrate a variety of subjects, stretching from the moral themes of the first book (“On good and its virtue”, “On virtue”, etc.) to properly educational topics, exploring a number of compulsory fields within the Renaissance pedagogical literature: among them, the “Govern of the Prince” (I, pp. 81-104), the “Condition of the Servant” (II, pp. 150-52), the “Strength of Honour” (III, pp. 160-164), “Friendship” (III, from pp. 201-12). Particularly remarkable, divided between book III and IV there is a section on the use of language and its regulation (“About holding one’s tongue”, starting at p. 197, and “On language”, from p. 213 onwards).

CICERO, Marcus Tullius

CICERO, Marcus Tullius. Officiorum libri tres, Cato maior, vel De senectute, Laelius, vel De amicitia, Paradoxa stoicorum sex, Somnium Scipionis ex dialogis De republica. Cato item, et Somnium Graece, observationes.

 Venice, apud Bartholomaeum Zanetum Casterzagensem, 1538.


8vo, ff. (xi) 129 (xi) 29 (i), a8 b4 A-I8 K4 L8 M10 N-O8 P4 Q10 R6 S4 T6 A-D8. Italic and Greek letter, some Roman. A student’s schoolbook copiously annotated by three different early hands at least. Sketch of a coat of arms enclosing a fountain and ownership notes on title page, of which the latest two, probably C17th and C18th, are easily readable (“Gabriel. Ottobon” and “Gioan Batista Fontana”). No pastedowns. Inner covers, front and rear endpapers show extensive annotations and scribbles, especially by Fontana, who left his purchase note, and several quotations and maxims from classical authors, such as Cicero, Pliny, Martial, Livy, Horace and Polydorus, mainly on Justice and moral teaching. Blank T6 bears register and imprint without date on recto, plus a couple of ms. acronyms and an enthusiastic note: “viva la signora Orsolina Barbaro mia patrona oservandissima”, which is written backwards in two different manners, exalting a certain lady Barbaro who seemed also to have been patron to this student. Imprint repeated in Greek also on last. Initial quires waterstained to lower outer margin, also affecting front cover, no text loss; final quires with waterstaining to lower outer page corners. In contemporary limp vellum, visible ties, ink title to spine, caps slightly defective, lacking laces. An interestingly annotated copy in good condition.

This school handbook is a selection of Cicero’s works, which gathers together De officiis (On Duties or On Obligations), De senectute (On Old Age), De amicitia (On Friendship), Paradoxa stoicorum sex (Six Stoic Paradoxes) and the Somnium Scipionis (The Dream of Scipio), which is a part of the sixth book of De re publica (On the Republic, which is mostly no longer extant); plus the editor’s observations. A Greek translation of De senectute and the Somnium are found at the end. De officiis is divided into three books, which expound Cicero’s conception of the best way to living, behaving, and observing moral obligations. The essay was written in the form of a letter to his son Marcus. De senectute is also called the Cato Maior. In order to lend his reflections greater import, Cicero wrote his essay such that the esteemed Cato the Elder was lecturing to Scipio Africanus and Gaius Laelius. In De amicitia, Cicero writes about his own experience with friendship. Cicero ponders the meaning of friendship by using the relationship between Scipio Afriacanus and Laelius to expound his views. The Paradoxa Stoicorum attempts to explain six famous Stoic sayings that appear to go against common knowledge. Lastly, Scipio’s dream is a fictional vision of victory against the Punics set two years before general Scipio oversaw the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC. The book also includes an initial letter from the editor, the humanist Paolo Magnolo, to his addressee, the Bishop of Brescia Andrea Cornelio. Magnolo’s “observationes” contain all Cicero’s references to Greek authors, such as Plato, Aristotle and Xenophon. Most of these are based on the excellent earlier Aldine editions on the orator’s works.