Compendio del gran volume dell'arte del bene et leggiadramente scrivere tutte le sorti di lettere e caratteri... Con un nuovo breve et util discorso delle cifre.
Venice: Appresso gli Heredi di Marchio Sessa, 1578.
Quarto: 18 x 14 cm. 62 lvs. Collation: A-G8, H6
PALATINO’S WRITING MANUAL (1st ed. 1540), WITH A NEW PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR.
A fair, complete copy in 17th c. vellum (vellum lightly soiled, lower cover stained, small defect to spine). The contents are in overall good condition, with light to moderate soiling and exhibiting the wear common to these utilitarian publications. There are careful restorations to the outer margin of the title page (one letter made good in pen), upper corner of the final two gatherings, and the outer margin of the final leaf, never affecting the text. Two leaves (B7, C1 and C2) with small burn-holes from ink corrosion in the margin, touching the rule on the second leaf. Leaves F1 and F2 with stains in the lower corners, text of leaves G1 and G2 slightly shaved at foot, ink spot on leaf F7, light oil stain to head of leaves in gatherings E and F; rear free endpaper very worn.
With early calligraphic ownership inscriptions in Latin and Italian on the front and rear free endpapers, and instructions for cutting a pen, creating colored inks, and coloring paper.
The first ownership inscription reads “Ex libris Petri Hyeron[y]mi Stefani Lucensis Civitatis Ad usum Am[icorum?]. Haec quae sunt supra verba notata lege Huius si quaeris Dominum cognoscere libri.” [From the library of Pietro Girolamo Stefani of the city of Lucca, for the use of his friends. If you wish to know the name of the master of this book, read the words written above.]
Instructions for cutting a pen:
The rear inscription, in the same hand, reads, “Compro in Roma l’anno 1692 [indistinct, possibly initials]. Dica a Maria Elisabetta che bisogno che temperi la penna così. Cioè, a punta larga, e di taglio corto, et un tantino [indistinct] lunga della parte destra, o vogliamo dire da mano dritta.
[Tell Maria Elisabetta that she needs to sharpen her pen like this. That is, with a broad point, and short edge, and a little [indistinct] long on the right side, or, that is to say, from the right hand side.]
Instructions for making ink and preparing colored paper:
The writer of the instructions above has also written, on the recto of the rear free endpaper, instruction for writing with false or true gold ink (“Per scrivere in oro falso, o buono”) and preparing black paper. The recto of the front free endpaper has a recipe for “fine” writing ink (“inchiostro fino.”)
On the front pastedown, in another early hand, are instructions for making gold-colored ink without using actual gold (“Per fare senz’oro dell’inchiostro di color d’oro…”) and writing with silver and white ink on black paper. On the rear pastedown, in the same hand, are instructions for making shiny black ink (“inchiostro nero lucente”).
Palatino’s Writing Manual:
Originally published in 1540 with the title, “Libro nuovo d’imparare a scrivere” (“A new book for learning to write”), Palatino’s writing manual became an immediate and popular success. The first edition was printed at Rome in August 1540 by Bernardo Giunta for the publisher Baldassare Cartolari. The second Cartolari edition (1543) and the third (1544) were printed anonymously for Baldassare’s widow, Girolama. In 1545 Antonio Blado printed an expanded 1545 edition, which included 15 additional woodblocks and more exotic alphabets.
The present edition of the “Libro Nuovo”, printed here with a different title, contains a new preface by Palatino. It is a re-issue of the 1566 edition printed at Rome by the heirs of Valerio and Luigi Dorico. The xylographic title (leaf A6) retains the original date.
Despite Palatino’s subsequent fame, very little is known of his early life. He was a native of Rossano in Calabria and was active in Roman intellectual circles and the Apostolic chancery beginning in 1538. The inscription above the central arch of the Porta del Popolo is attributed to Palatino.
In his “Libro nuovo”, Palatino presents examples of chancery, mercantile, and bastard hands, as well as regional and non-Italian styles (Spanish, German, French, Flemish, etc). There is an abundance of non-Roman alphabets and scripts, including Hebrew, Chaldean, Arabic, Greek, Egyptian, Syrian, and Cyrillic. The inclusion of cipher alphabets (“lettere cifrate”) and a short tract entitled “Delle Cifre” (“On Cyphers”) make the book notable for its contributions to the history of cryptography. Palatino also includes a playful rebus in verse and a page of “Lettera Mancina” (the mirror-writing made famous by Leonardo). The final part of the work is a short monograph “De gli instrumenti”(“On writing instruments”), in which Palatino -following Tagliente- describes mixing inks, selecting and making pens, and steps that must be mastered by the student.
Bonacini, Arti Scrittorie, 1342; Johnson, Catalogue of Italian Writing Books, in “Signature” (1950), no. 10; Edit16 CNCE 30282; BM STC Italian 485; Brunet IV, 314