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BACCANTI, Alberto. Maometto, legislatore degli arabi e fondatore dell’Impero musulmano; poema del canonico Kav. Baccanti. Casalmaggiore, Fratelli Bizzarri, 1791.

4to. [25.4 x 19.5 cm], In two volumes. I: (5) ff. (half-title, engraved portrait of Mohammed as “Il profeta guerriero,” title, engraved portrait of Baccanti, and Argomento e Protesta), 199 pp. (1) p. blank, and with 6 engraved plates numbered I-VI. II: (2) ff. (half-title, title), 197 pp., (1) p. blank, (1) f. imprimatur, and with 6 engraved plates numbered (VII-XII). Total of 14 full-page engraved plates in the two volumes. Quarter bound in contemporary vellum and blue paper, paper title label laid to spine of volume I, printed wastepaper pastedowns (theatrical broadsides). Minor rubbing and staining to spine and wrappers, remnants of bookplates inside upper covers of both volumes, lower edge of upper wrapper and front endpapers of volume II carefully restored. Fore-edge and lower edge untrimmed, occasional minor marginal spotting and staining. Generally very good.


Very rare first and sole edition of this illustrated poem on the life of Muhammad, composed in twelve cantos of ottava rima, with twelve full-page engraved plates by the Casalmaggiore painter Paolo Araldi (d. 1811), as well as two frontispiece portraits of the author and of Muhammad astride a rampant horse. The twelve plates, one for each canto, depict Muhammad in the stages of his prophecy: ascending with the archangel Gabriel into the seven circles of heaven, preaching to his first followers in Mecca, leading his armies to battle along the Arabian Peninsula, and uniting the disparate tribes under his leadership.

As Baccanti explains in the foreword, the present poema esegetico—in contrast to works portraying Muhammad as “an odious impostor and a man of most dissolute morals”—characterizes the prophet as a statesman and general of “rare talents” who, regardless of the truth of the religion he founded, succeeded in creating a unified Arabian caliphate that laid the foundation for the rise of the Ottoman Empire.

Born in Casalmaggiore, Alberto Baccanti (1718-1805) studied theology at Cremona before traveling to Rome in 1741, under the auspices of the Gonzagas, to work in the Vatican as a papal secretary. He returned to Casalmaggiore in 1755. Tipaldo lists an additional 10 printed works and 11 manuscript works written by Baccanti, chiefly poems, orations, and exequies in verse.

Paolo Araldi (d. 1811), the illustrator, was born in Casalmaggiore and taught painting at the Academy of Parma. He was the teacher of the painter Giuseppe Diotti (1779–1816).

OCLC U.S. copies: Chicago, Harvard, Getty.

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