Venezia, Francesco Marcolino da Forli, octobre 1540.
Folio [307 x 217 mm] of 104 ll., sign.: A4-Z4 – AA4-CC4 ; roman characters. Below the title, a woodcut: Académie des Sciences, signature “Ioseph. Porta Garfagninus”. Full-page portrait of the author on the back of the title. On the verso of the last l.: large decorated border around the mark. In the text, many woodcuts, placed on the verso of each leaf, picturing the playing cards, chances, Virtues and Vices, with explanations in verse by L. Dolci. The large woodcut has been attributed to Giuseppe Porta Salviati (an by Nagler n°4 to Francesco Salviati). (Sander 4231). The lower half of page 9 was handwritten from the beginning due to a printing error; minor restorations in the margins on few leaves but a good complete copy. Full mottled vellum, spine ribbed, mottled edges, title and number labels on the head and foot of the spine. Contemporary binding.
“Extremely rare first edition” of the most famous fortune-telling book by means of cards “that is almost never found complete” (Olschki, Livres à figures, n°651). Mortimer 279; Sander 4231; Brunet, III, 1407.
This book, being since 1540 a game of cards of divination, was manipulated time and time again; complete copies in contemporary bindings are therefore extremely rare.
« Very rare edition » according to Brunet, who describes the volume as follows: “This singular book encloses several questions and the answers obtained by means of playing cards, whose all chances are on the pages, with explanations in verse, by L. Dolce. It is very sought-after for the wood-engraved figures by Joseph Porta Garfagnino that illustrate it. The 1540 edition is very rare”.
Cicognara (1701) who was only able to describe the second edition of 1550 qualifies this first one of “rarissimo”.
Marcolini, born in Forli at the beginning of the 16th century, dead in Venice in 1553, sets himself up as a printer in the city of Doges. Works printed by Marcolini have been the topic of two bibliographical works, one by Gaetano Zaccaria: Catalogo ragionato (Fermo, 1850, 8vo with an appendix by R. de Minicis. 1853); the other by Scipione Casali: Annali della tipografia Veneziana di Francesco Marcolini da Forli (Forli, 1864, 8vo).
The Venetian poet Lodovico Dolce is the author of the Tercets that answer the questions enclosed in the book. These questions and answers in verse form an endless game of variations embroidering themes such as Fortune, good or bad as the case may be: themes of love, loyalty and infidelity, marriage, children, friendship, beauty, health or lack of health, political success, war or peace, etc.
This precious volume whose English title would be “The oracle called garden of thoughts” is adorned with a frontispiece, “masterpiece of wood engraving”, the portrait of the author, 100 woodcuts, including 50 allegorical illustrate vices and virtues and 50 others the portraits of philosophers, about 6750 playing cards with a short Italian text in the first part and 4500 playing cards with 2250 tercets (stanzas of 3 lines in alternate verses) in the second part.
The figures that illustrate this volume (reprinted in 1550) are from the famous G. Porta Garfagnino, and the frontispiece is a masterpiece of wood engraving. Marcolini’s portrait on the back of the title has been attributed to Titian and to Giuseppe Porta Salviati. The frontispiece title bears the signature of “Joseph Porta Garfagninus” known as Giuseppe Porta Salvati, student of Francesco Salviati.
The volume is dedicated to the duke of Ferrare “Ercole d’Este”. The final leaf is decorated with Marcolini’s printer’s mark that bears the mention “Veritas temporis filia”.
Giorgio Vasari obviously mentions Marcolini and the “Garden of Thoughts” in his “Vies des plus excellent peintres, sculpteurs et architects (Lives of the most excellent painters, engravers and architects)”. He gives a eulogistic portrait of Marcolini famous for the beauty of his woodcuts.
Marcolini dedicated the two pages following the Dedication to “explain to the reader the instructions for the use of the book”. From the fifty questions asked in the book, thirteen are addressed to men, thirteen to women and twenty-four to couples. It is necessary to draw two cards to find the right tercet that answers the question asked. Each page offers a choice of 45 pairs of cards. Tercets enclose 50 sections in which each encloses 45 tercets; each of these sections, dedicated to a different philosopher, is adorned with the wood-engraved portrait of this philosopher. “Cosi il Vasari, nelle vite, a proposito dell’opera e del frontespizio : « E chi non vede senza meraviglia l’opera di Francesco Marcolini da Forlì ? Il quale oltre all’altre cose, stampò il libro Giardino de’ pensieri in legno, ponendo nel principio una sfera da astrologi, e la sua testa col disegno di Giuseppe Porta da Castelnuovo della Garfagnana ; nel qual libro sono figurate varie fantasie, il Fato, la Invidia, la Calamità, la Laude, e molte altre cose simili, che furono tenute bellissime » ; innumerevoli notizie sull’edizione in Casali, n. 54 : « la somma rarità di questa prima edizione delle Sorti proviene principalmente dall’uso che ne fu fatto come giuoco », senza dimenticare che il libro venne posto all’Indice per alcuni quesiti ritenuti immorali e perchè « nelle riposte si fa sovente allusione con dispregio ai costumi degli ecclesiastici, e specialmente de’ prelati di allora, che non erano certamente migliori dei prelati d’oggigiorno. Questa opera è dunque fra le condannate dall’Indice […] la qual condanna deve aver contribuito a renderne ancora più ragi gli esemplari”.
A precious copy in its contemporary binding bearing the manuscript ex libris “Livre de madame la marquise Victoer Casati Ardizzone (Book of madam the marchioness Victoer Casati Ardizzone)”.