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The First General Work with an Account of Columbus
Illustrated with Many City Views
& the Famous Tower of Babel Cut
Columbus/ City Views/ Biblical History.
[BERGOMENSIS] FORESTI, Jacobus Philippus [Venice, 1503]
Novissime hystoria omniu[m] noviter [editae]…que Supplementum Chronicaru[m] nuncupantur.
Folio [31.5 x 21.5 cm]
(462) ff. including final blank, with woodcut Pallavicini arms in red and black on title, numerous floriated initials, red capital strokes throughout, printed marginalia and timeline in gutter, 4 full-page woodcuts in ornamental borders, and 89 woodcut city views in text. Thoroughly annotated in margins in a contemporary hand. Bound in half calf and marbled paper over boards – somewhat scuffed and bare; paper letterpiece on spine. Title entirely re-margined, with some thumbing and soiling, early ownership inscription at lower margin; next seven leaves re-margined at outer edge, with some waterstaining and repairs at lower gutter. Some repairs to last nine leaves including one index leaf with significant text loss. Diminishing mild waterstaining to upper edge of first dozen quires, and some pale staining to lower gutter of later leaves, else crisp and bright; good.
First 16th century edition of this illustrated world history by the Augustinian monk Foresti, notable for being the first edition to contain an account of Columbus’ voyage of 1492-1493, and the second to contain Albertino’s full-page woodcut of the construction of the Tower of Babel. This was the first account of the discovery of America to appear in a general work (rather than a news report), testifying to the rapid absorption of the discovery in Italian literary culture. The work’s remaining full-page woodcuts, newly cut for the present edition, illustrate the Creation, Expulsion, and Murder of Abel by Cain.
The work also contains 89 woodcuts of Italian and European city views, including large views of Milan, Genoa, Rome, Venice and Verona. A majority of these are topographically specific and not simply generic or imaginary views. A classic of High Renaissance Venetian book illustration, the work is included in the most prestigious collections devoted to the graphic arts (Mortimer, this edition), and from the standpoint of the history of the hook, the work’s first illustrated edition (1486) shows the increasing importance of illustration in genres which traditionally lacked pictures. The culmination of this trend is certainly Schedel’s Nuremberg Chronicle, of which the present work is considered a forerunner.
Foresti’s compendious, 16-book chronicle (in a single volume here) traces the history of the world from the Creation to the present day, concluding with a short chapter on the events of 1503. In addition to its four full-page plates of Biblical scenes, its five large woodcuts of Italian cities have been updated and improved from earlier editions. The view of Milan is newly enlarged from a block first used in 1490, and the views of Rome, Venice and Florence are copied directly from the 1490 edition.
The full-page Tower of Babel woodcut, which first appeared in 1490, depicts a hexagonal brick tower in the midst of construction, surrounded by scaffolding and clusters of diligent laborers. Along with the Temple, the Tower was the most architecturally significant structure in the Bible, although attempts by later antiquarians to reconstruct it are far less numerous than those of the Temple, the best known being that of Athanassius Kircher (1679).
Adams F-748; Mortimer Italian 195; Brunet I.787; Sander I.920; Harrisse p. 87. The present edition is the fifth; it was preceded by editions of 1483, 1485, 1486 and 1490, the first two being unillustrated