Florence: Appresso i Giunti, 1560.
Quarto: 20.8 x 14.3 cm. , [1-8], 9-122 pp. Collation: A6, B-P4, Q2
Bound in 18th c. ivory vellum, edges of text block dyed blue. A very nice copy with scattered marginal foxing, heavier to gatherings C and and N and occ. in the upper margins. Small marginal tear to leaf A2, vestiges of contemporary signature on title. Bound together with a copy, stained and lacking the title, of her second book of poetry (1564).
First edition of the poems of Laura Battiferra, a prolific poet of Renaissance Florence, containing mostly sonnets, madrigals, and free translations from Latin texts such as Hymn to glory by St. Augustine, Oration to the Prophet Jeremiah, and the eclogue Europa. Also included are poems by, among others, Annibale Caro, Benedetto Varchi, Gabriello Fiamma, Benvenuto Cellini, and the painter Agnolo Bronzino, whose portrait of the author hangs in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio.
Colophon: "Stampato in Firenze nella stamperia de' Giunti l'anno MDLX." Includes author's dedicatory epistle to her patron, Eleonora, Duchess of Toledo, consort of Cosimo de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Woodcuts: title vignette (Medici coat of arms); printer's device on last page (the Giunta lily, entwined with a serpent); p. 8 is blank except for a cluster of type ornaments in center; historiated initials; tail-piece. Printed in an attractive italic type.
“Celebrated by her contemporaries, Laura Battiferra degli Ammannati flourished as a poet at the crossroads of Renaissance and Catholic Reformation culture. An arresting profile by Agnolo Bronzino, court painter to the Medici, depicts her as a Petrarchist at the height of her glory, around 1560. Battiferra in old age, a devoutly religious matron, appears with her husband Bartolomeo Ammannati witnessing a Gospel miracle in Alessandro Allori's panel for the couple's funeral chapel in the Florentine Jesuit church of San Giovannino. Fellow writers praised her as a phenomenon, remarkable among women for talent, intellect, and moral character. They canonized her among celebrated moderns, compared her with Plato, and avowed her superiority to Sappho, legendary ancestress of all female writers. Beginning in the decade of the 1550s, prominent male peers embraced her in their intellectual communities, from prestigious Italian academies to more informal groups that met like salons to engage in the latest literary debates. Of a spiritual bent fiercely loyal to the Roman Catholic Church, these coteries gravitated to the venerable monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli in the heart of Florence beside Brunelleschi's Rotunda, to patrician villas in the surrounding countryside, and sometimes to the warmth of Battiferra's own fireside. Their circles, in ever shifting combinatory activity, produced fashionable, multi-voiced lyric anthologies, preserved in print and manuscript, that measure the parabola of Battiferra's fame.
“Battiferra's portrait by Bronzino, of undocumented date, probably coincides with her publishing debut in 1560, ‘il primo libro delle opere toscane di Madonna Laura Battiferra degli Ammannati (The First Book of Tuscan Works by Madonna Laura Battiferra degli Ammannati [Florence: Giunti, 1560]). An impressive project in its final form, this carefully shaped lyric anthology collects 187 poems, 146 by the author and forty-one by distinguished male correspondents, among them Benedetto Varchi, il Lasca, Agnolo Bronzino, and Benvenuto Cellini. Her ‘second book,’ forecast in the title of the first, appeared at the same press in 1564 ‘I sette salmi penitentiali del santissimo profeta Davit. Tradotti in lingua Toscana da Madonna Laura Battiferra Degli Ammannati. Con gli argomenti sopra ciascuno di essi, composti dalla medesima: insieme con alcuni suoi sonnetti spirituali (Seven Penitential Psalms of the Prophet David, Translated into the Tuscan Language by Laura Battiferra degli Ammannati, with Considerations on Their Subject by the Same Lady, Together with Some of Her Spiritual Sonnets). Its subject matter reflects the new, more somber religious climate of the Catholic Reformation, which had drawn churchmen from all Europe to discuss, draft, and publish stringent guidelines for the community of the faithful at the Council of Trent ( 1545-63). Had she lived to see it through, Battiferra would have published a third book. Entitled simply ‘Rime’, it survives in a late-sixteenth-century manuscript left incomplete at her death and recently rediscovered at the Casanatense Library in Rome…
“Although samples of Battiferra’s elegant, fluid prose survive in her letters and her ‘Orison on the Nativity of Our Lord’, her forte is lyric poetry, above all the sonnet… In formal terms, the two parts of the Italian sonnet (an octave consisting of two quatrains and a sestet consisting of two tercets) can be compared to a syllogism. Typically the octave lays out the premises, the sestet, the conclusion. Its ideal syntax is a single sentence, a taut and difficult standard that Battiferra is well capable of reaching in her mature poetry. Sonnets attributable with certainty to her youth, such as those (unpublished) on the death of her first husband, tend to be choppier, more fragmented, separating into their four parts. Her best work establishes a momentum in the dictum that overcomes formal division and drives the thought to its logical end, as if all in a single breath. Often the end reserves a surprise, a witty punch line. It may for example, reveal an unexpected speaker – an angel from heaven, the Tiber River, Jove, all the best poets. It may rise to a rhetorical climax, as does her sonnet to Vincenzo Grotti about the Duchess of Camerino’s country gatherings, a syntactic tour de force topped with a pun on the name of the woman, Cibo (food) who inspires her circle with spiritual nourishment. The same unified rising dynamic structures her finest madrigals, a variant form she often uses to mark closure in a micro-sequence of sonnets.
“Battiferra proves herself in other Petrarchan forms as well. She composed a number of madrigals, one sestina and two canzoni. Terza rima, powerfully authorized by Dante’s Comedy and Petrarch’s Triumphs, provides her a vehicle for ‘Orazione di Geremia profeta’ in her ‘Primo libro’. Significantly, the ‘Primo libro’, which also includes an eclogue, allows no un-Petrarchan forms…
“Her work falls into two periods. Petrarchism as an expression of mannerism, steeped in Renaissance classicism, characterizes her earlier years, from the late t 540s to 1560, when she published her ‘Primo libro’. Personified river gods take the place of city names; her dukes Cosimo and Guidobaldo are new Joves; Cosimo's Roman son-in-law Paolo Giordano Orsini is a new ‘Quirinus’ (Romulus); Chiappino Vitelli is Hercules, Hector, Ulysses, and Scipio, whose praises even Homer and Virgil would have been hard put to sing. The poet's ‘I sette salmi penitentiali’ of 1564 exemplifies a spiritualized Petrarchismo that leads as a transition into her later period, roughly the last two decades of her life, when her emphasis shifts from profane to sacred under new post-Tridentine esthetic ideals. The elevated Petrarchan lexicon descends to a more humble Gospel register. The Society of Jesus labors in Christ's ‘vineyard’; their Father General Claudio Acquaviva flows as a font of ‘living waters.’ Now she puts her hand to narrative verse in ottava rima, telling the story of Abraham and Isaac. Now she sets out to compose a religious epic… Laura Battiferra's two periods define her evolution as an artist from Medici partisan to Jesuit patron, from a young woman in quest of public celebrity to an older matron who wrapped herself in the quietude of prayer, from a student of the classics and follower of Petrarch, to biblical scholar and a mirror of the Catholic Reformation.”(Victoria Kirkham, Laura Battiferra and her literary circle: an anthology / edited and translated by Victoria Kirkham. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2006, Introduction, p. 1 ff.).
Giunti, tipografi editori di Firenze, 1497-1570, no. 311; Ferri, P.L. Biblioteca femminile italiana, p. 42; Short-title catalogue of books printed in Italy and of Italian books printed in other countries from 1465 to 1600 now in the British Museum, page 76; Adams; B-379; EDIT 16; CNCE 4630; Index Aurel., I, A/10, *114.731; STC (Italy), I, 180