Folio [30.5 x 19.5 cm], (10) ff., 307 [i.e. 308], (13) ff., including woodcut title showing Ferrara and Este arms, and full-page woodcut portrait of the printer Rossi on EEEviii v. Bound in 18th-century stiff vellum, title stenciled on spine. Some minor staining in scattered leaves and some trivial worming in margin, but generally a broad-margined and fresh copy, excellent.
Rare and most likely the earliest acquirable edition of the municipal laws of Ferrara, one of the richest and most cultivated of Northern Italian courts, published shortly after the concluding session of the Council of Trent (1563). This publication significantly revises the previous publication of local statutory law, and is signed by a committee of local jurists (3v-4r). The statutes govern all aspects of civil and criminal law, from the buying and selling of goods and property, marriage, testaments, to criminal procedure.
To book historians, the work is also of interest for containing a portrait of a printer. Note: Rossi had no editorial or authorial part in the work; he is expressly designated “Typographus” (printer) in the identifying legend. This is of interest to historians of the book for showing the developing confidence and prestige enjoyed by 16th-century printers, and is analogous, though considerably more assertive, to putting an element of the printer’s process or trade in a publisher’s device. “Rossi was near the end of a career as a printer at Ferrara that covered more than 50 years and certainly justified the use of his portrait in this volume” (Mortimer, I.261). Although it should be regarded as a form of self-indulgence and did not catch on—as say, the author portraits on which it was obviously based—it nonetheless remains an interesting bit of evidence for the elevated status of Italian printers. There is no repertory of examples and we know of no study of the subject, but in querying colleagues we have located only two earlier analogous portraits. Rossi pictured himself in smaller format in the colophon to another book he published: Giovanni Maria Verrato’s 1561 response to critics of the Council of Trent: Contra responsiones et protestationes. And Francesco Priscianese pictured himself in a Latin grammar published in 1540. Also, Prof. Anthony Grafton draws our attention to the portraits of the illustrators in the Historia Stirpium of Leonhart Fuchs (1542). Further searching would doubtless turn up a few other examples, but it is clearly an isolated phenomenon.
The statutes received an incunable edition in 1476 published by Severino da Ferrara (BMC VI.609, the only copy we have been able to locate): this edition is not in Goff, and we locate no American copy. The next edition was published by Rossi in 1534 with a less elaborate version of the title cut, and without the portrait. The present edition is next, making it third. According to Mortimer, the hypothetical issue points raised by F. Berlan in his Bibliografia degli statuti municipali ed inediti di Ferrara (Rome 1878) pp. 21-7 are in need of substantial copy-checking. There are no copies of the editio princeps or the 1534 edition in America; for the present edition, OCLC lists Kansas, Minnesota and the Waseda Library, to which should be added the Harvard copy described by Mortimer.
* Mortimer, Italian 182; Adams F266; Fumagalli, Lexicon, p. 128, fig 45 (portrait); L. Manzoni, Bibliografia degli statuti, ordini e leggi dei municipali italiani I.2 (Bologna 1876), pp. 177-78.