X hits on this document





44 / 70

or quarto, so large that he who tries to read it must support it on

a kind of scaffolding.  In the class of illustrated books two sorts

are at present most in demand.  The ancient woodcuts and engravings,

often the work of artists like Holbein and Durer, can never lose

their interest.  Among old illustrated books, the most famous, and

one of the rarest, is the "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili," "wherein all

human matters are proved to be no more than a dream."  This is an

allegorical romance, published in 1499, for Francesco Colonna, by

Aldus Manucius.  Poliam Frater Franciscus Columna peramavit.

"Brother Francesco Colonna dearly loved Polia," is the inscription

and device of this romance.  Poor Francesco, of the order of

preachers, disguised in this strange work his passion for a lady of

uncertain name.  Here is a translation of the passage in which the

lady describes the beginning of his affection.  "I was standing, as

is the manner of women young and fair, at the window, or rather on

the balcony, of my palace.  My yellow hair, the charm of maidens,

was floating round my shining shoulders.  My locks were steeped in

unguents that made them glitter like threads of gold, and they were

slowly drying in the rays of the burning sun.  A handmaid, happy in

her task, was drawing a comb through my tresses, and surely these of

Andromeda seemed not more lovely to Perseus, nor to Lucius the locks

of Photis. {6}  On a sudden, Poliphilus beheld me, and could not

withdraw from me his glances of fire, and even in that moment a ray

of the sun of love was kindled in his heart."

The fragment is itself a picture from the world of the Renaissance.

We watch the blonde, learned lady, dreaming of Perseus, and Lucius,

Greek lovers of old time, while the sun gilds her yellow hair, and

the young monk, passing below, sees and loves, and "falls into the

deep waters of desire."  The lover is no less learned than the lady,

and there is a great deal of amorous archaeology in his account of

his voyage to Cythera.  As to the designs in wood, quaint in their

vigorous effort to be classical, they have been attributed to

Mantegna, to Bellini, and other artists.  Jean Cousin is said to

have executed the imitations, in the Paris editions of 1546, 1556,

and 1561.

The "Hypnerotomachia" seems to deserve notice, because it is the

very type of the books that are dear to collectors, as distinct from

the books that, in any shape, are for ever valuable to the world.  A

cheap Tauchnitz copy of the Iliad and Odyssey, or a Globe

Shakespeare, are, from the point of view of literature, worth a

wilderness of "Hypnerotomachiae."  But a clean copy of the

"Hypnerotomachia," especially on VELLUM, is one of the jewels of

bibliography.  It has all the right qualities; it is very rare, it

is very beautiful as a work of art, it is curious and even bizarre,

it is the record of a strange time, and a strange passion; it is a

relic, lastly, of its printer, the great and good Aldus Manutius.

Next to the old woodcuts and engravings, executed in times when

artists were versatile and did not disdain even to draw a book-plate

(as Durer did for Pirckheimer), the designs of the French "little

masters," are at present in most demand.  The book illustrations of

Document info
Document views127
Page views127
Page last viewedFri Oct 28 07:12:22 UTC 2016