London: Printed for W. Bowyer, 1727. Early English Edition. With English and Italian text in parallel columns. Bound in contemporary full cambridge-style paneled calf, rebacked to style. With frontis portrait of the author engraved by Vertue after a portrait by Raphael. First published in 1528 by Aldus in Venice, the book went through a number of early printings. An excellent, clean copy internally.
“On a chilly evening in early March 1507, high in the Appenine Mountains of northern Italy, a group of cultivated gentlemen and ladies sit around the fire in the audience chamber of the Duchess of Urbino discussing the qualities of the perfect courtier. Such is the setting of one of the most celebrated books of the Italian Renaissance…an international best-seller for a century after its first publication in 1528” (Albury). The Book of the Courtier is an allegory about the ethical responsibility of courtiers to guide and positively influence their prince, placing social responsibility upon the court for its leader’s actions. Rulers and their courtiers must be educated in order to properly perform their functions; without judiciousness and wisdom, the system breaks down. Upon its translation to English, The Book of the Courtier became an important source for Shakespeare, who referenced Castiglione in multiple plays including the Henriad, tragedies such as Hamlet, and comedies such as Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It.
PMM 59 (for the 1st edition) Near Fine (Item #4745)