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IMPERATO, Ferrante. HISTORIA NATURALE... nella quale ordinatamente si tratta della diversa condition di minere, pietre pretiose, & altre curiosita. Con varie historie di piante, & animali, sin’hora non date in luce. In questa seconda impressione aggiontovi da Gio: Maria Ferro spetiale alla sanita, alcune annotationi alle piante nel libro vigesimo attavo. Venetia [Venice]: Presso Combi & la Noù. M.DC. LXII. [1672].

Bound in two volumes, folio (355 by 255mm), (8), 348; 349-696, (7 index), (1 errata)pp, title in red and black with engr. vignette, folding engr. plate, 126 text woodcuts, numerous errors in pagination (mostly in second vol.), but text continuous. Contemp. heavy Italian rustica card wrappers, old manuscript lettering at spines. Wrappers lightly soiled, occasional light dampstaining (esp. at early leaves and top gutter of second vol.), some marginal smudges, else a fine, fresh, uncut and very amply-margined copy. $12,000.

¶ Second edition of “the first museum catalogue, containing plants and animals” (Cole Library). Like Francesco Calzolari and other of his colleages, the Neapolitan pharmacist Ferrante Imperato (1550-1625) accumulated over the course of his career an impressive natural history collection, among the very first of its kind in Italy. The pioneering catalogue of his museum prepared by Niccolo Antonio Stigliola was originally published in 1599. The work was much sought-after by 17th-century writers on the subjects of minerals and museums; aside from the present revised and expanded edition, a Latin version appeared at Cologne and Leipzig in 1695. Divided into 28 books, the catalogue contains substantial sections on mining (5 books) and alchemy (9 books), the remainder being devoted to animals and botanical specimens. Ferrante Imperato assembled his collection and published his catalogue at the moment when the wunderkammer was beginning to proliferate throughout Europe, amidst a tectonic paradigm shift in the Western conception of the natural world. Thus, the present work displays elements of both the Renaissance fascination with occult connections revealed in similitudes, and the emerging Classical preference for systematic classification and discrimination. The revolutionary nature of Imperato’s project is hinted at on the first page of his introduction where, just before referencing Aristotle, he subtly reverses the older relation between art and nature, by suggesting that art conduces to the perfection of stones and metals (la consideration delle spizie de metalli, epietre, con gli artificij di condurle all loro perfettione). “Ferrante Imperato took a scientific interest in his collection and was one of the first people to recognise the mysterious ‘bronteae’ and ‘ombriae’ as meteoric stones and proved that ‘Jew stones’, a popular ‘Wunderkammer’ specimen, were in fact the pertified points of an ‘echinus’” (Grinke). The edition under notice contains in its final section some addenda by Giovanni Maria Ferro (d. 1682), along with some additional woodcuts. The large folding illustration of Imperato’s cabinet of curiosities, the first such image to appear in print, is now reproduced in a fine copper-plate engraving (Hofer 76), an improvement on the somewhat cruder woodcut of the original 1599 version. The alert viewer will note that the illustration “clearly shows a two-headed snake and a lizard with two bodies joined to a single head” (Daston & Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, p.193). Grinke, From Wunderkammer to Museum, no. 22. Hunt 321. Murray I, p. 85. Nissen ZBI, 2111. Sinkankas 3109. Wellcome Cat. III, 328. Cf. Adams I-84 (ed.1599). Bird, 16th-Cent. Medical Books, 1308. Cole Library 319 (ed.1599) & 320 (ed.1695). Kelly, Catalogue of James Sutherland’s Library, 160. Mortimer, Italian, II, 345. Pritzel 4433. *For information on the proto-museums of the 16th and 17th century (all of which reference Imperato’s collection) see: L. Daston & K. Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature 1150-1750, New York, Zone Books, 1991; E. Hooper-Greenhill, Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge, London, Routledge Press, 1992. W. B. Ashworth, “Emblematic Natural History of the Renaissance” and K. Whitaker, “The Culture of Curiosity” [Both in:] Cultures of Natural History, N. Jardine (ed.), Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996. $12,000.


PROUST, Marcel. A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU. Paris: Grasset [&] Editions de la Nouvelle Revue Française, 1914-1927. 13 vols, 8vo, half red leather, a few volumes skillfully rehinged. Very good set.

¶ First Edition of Proust’s great work (wtih Le Cote de Geurmantes in the second state with the errors corrected and with the Grasset imprint). “How many times have you wished you had read the Recherche but dropped the book after reading the first paragraph? You might or might not want to recognize yourself. Reading Proust is indeed all about what has already been said: a work of fiction, chronicling the fall of aristocratic Parisian elites in a pre-first world war context woven in the poetic tapestry of ground breaking metaphors, at times comic or tragic, which transports the reader onto the labyrinthic journey of Time. Yet, have you ever thought of reading Proust as a meditation exercise where the experience of losing one’s time in the many folds of the tentacular text becomes the most appropriate way to regain a sense of time? If not, then relax, take a deep breath and open again that first book!” (Prof. Fanny Daubigny). $12,500.










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