London: THOMAS WOODCOCKE, 1578. First editions. Rare first edition of Florio's first fruites: Small quarto (7 x 5 1/8 inches; 180 x 130 mm). , 163 leaves. Verso of final leaf is blank. With engraved title-page and numerous woodcut initials and devices. The title-page is reinforced on the inner margin on a stub. Title-page is a bit browned. Old ink manuscript on the final blank verso, dated 1595. A few signatures with incorrectly numbered leaves, however signature A is in the corrected variant according to ESTC. Text printed in two columns, one in Italian and the other in English.
Bound with Florio's second frutes: First edition. , -205, [2, table], [1, blank]; , 48, 85-217, [1, colophon]. Book in two parts with separate title-pages. Second Frutes is in Italian with the English translation on the facing page. The Giardino di ricreatione is an alphabetical listing of proverbs in Italian only, has separate dated title page, pagination, and register. A few pages are incorrectly numbered, but collates the same as the British Library. Both parts with engraved title-pages. The top margin of part one title-page trimmed close, just barely touching the engraving. Other woodcut initials and devices.
Both volumes bound together in full contemporary paneled calf. Rebacked with original spine laid down. Boards ruled in gilt. Spine intricately stamped and lettered in gilt. All edges marbled. Boards rubbed and scuffed. Some minor water-damage to back board. Some dampstaining along outer edge of Signature X of book two through the end. Some scattered browning throughout and occasional marginal light dampstaining. Three previous owner's bookplates on front endpapers. Overall a very good copy.
The First part is much more rare than the second part. Other than this copy and the Berland copy of 2001, no other copy has appeared at auction since 1971 and that was again the Berland copy. The British Library has two copies of the first part, however both are defective.
"The first part of these Frutes was published more than a dozen years before the [second[. Both volumes contain discourses in Italian and English which afford much interesting information concerning social customs of the day. The Giardino di Ricreatione, which is 'linked' to the present contains six thousand proverbs which also are of equal interest of social history and philosophy." (Pforzheimer, 377).
John Florio, born in London in 1553 is a renowned English author and language teacher. His family moved to Switzerland where he was raised and learned Italian. He moved back to England and "In 1578 he published his first manual for teaching Italian, aptly called Florio his Firste Fruites, ... The Firste Fruites contains forty-four chapters of graded phrases, dialogues, proverbs, and borrowed prose extracts, arranged in Italian and English in two columns, and followed by an Italian grammar and by rules to help Italians learn English. Despite Florio's apologetic declaration in the preface that it was not his profession to write a language textbook, the volume makes interesting reading in its lively glimpses of contemporary London life and for the variety of topics that it treats." (ODNB) He later became a professor of Italian at Oxford, and "In 1591 Florio compiled a second dialogue manual, entitled Florios Second Frutes, together with a collection of 6000 Italian proverbs, the Gardine of Recreation, the largest proverb list to be published in the sixteenth century. This bilingual manual, dedicated to Nicholas Saunder of Ewell of the well-known Surrey family, was aimed, as before, at the educated upper classes among whom Florio moved, but now the earlier moralizing tone of the Firste Fruites was replaced by a more joyous celebration of life. The Second Frutes contained a wealth of popular phrases and proverbs set into dialogues depicting everyday genteel activities, such as playing tennis or chess or attending a banquet, presented in a way that would enable the student of Italian speedily to develop colloquial and graceful conversation skills, and at the same time learn of the more refined manners and customs of the Italians." (ODNB)
Florio is one of a few individuals that Shakespeare authorship theorists have surmised was in fact Shakespeare himself. This theory came to be during the Italian Fascist era when nationalism was at a high, because they felt a British born writer could not have such in-depth knowledge of Italian culture and geography. This concept ignores both the fact that Florio was not Italian born nor presumed to ever have spent any time in Italy, as well as the fact that Shakespeare made many mistakes regarding Italian geography including " that Milan and Padua were not by the sea, as The Tempest and The Taming of the Shrew would have it." (ODNB). This and other inconsistencies aside led to many books and papers to be written on the subject including John Florio, The Man who was Shakespeare by Lamberto Tassinari.
Regardless of the various opinions of the true identity of Shakespeare, there can be no doubt that he was most certainly influenced by Florio and that Florio's writing were used as Shakespeare source books. It is even thought that the two men were friends. " Shakespeare gives evidence of familiarity with Florio's work: in Love's Labour's Lost he has Holofernes the schoolmaster utter the precise proverb from Florio's Firste Fruites ‘Venetia, Venetia, chi non ti vede non ti pretia’, indicating that he had read Florio's language manuals; he included in The Tempest (act II, scene i) a passage from Florio's translation of Montaigne; and, given Florio's skill as a word-gatherer and word-expositor, Shakespeare no doubt consulted the vast store of Italian and English vocabulary contained in his Worlde of Wordes." (ODNB).
ESTC S102354. ESTC S105629. Pforzheimer 377 (Second Frutes only). (Item #1737)
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