Cartari’s Handbook of the Gods—First Edition to include New World Dieties

Over 200 woodcut illustrations

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Mexican god from Codex Rios juxtaposed with Egyptian gods and hieroglyphs

68. CARTARI, Vicenzo & Lorenzo Pignoria. Le vere e nove imagini de gli dei delli antichi de Vicenzo Cartari Reggiano. Ridotte da capo a piedi in questa nouissima impressione alle loro reali, & non piu per l’adietro osseruate simiglianze.Cauate da’Marmi, Bronzi, Medaglie, Gioie & altre memorie antiche:con esquisito studio, & particolare diligenza da Lorenzo Pignoria Padovano. Aggionteui le Annotationi del medesimo sopra tutta l’opera, & vn Discorso intorno le Dietà dell’Indie Orientali, & Occidentali, con le loro Figure tratte da gl’originali, che si conseruano nelle Gallerie de’ Principi, & ne’ Musei delle persone priuate. Con le Allegorie sopra le Imagini dei Cesare Malfatti Padouano, migliorate, & accresciute nouamente. Et vn Catalogo del medesimo di cento famosi Dei della gentilitá. Il tutto ridotta a somma perfettione, come si può facilmente vedere nella prefatione al Lettore. Padua: Appresso Pietro Paolo Tozzi, nella stampa del Pasquati, 1615.[32], 1-576, [4], i-lxiii [1, blank] pp., wood-engraved allegorical vignette on title, numerous wood-engraved text illustrations, most within typographical borders (ancient gods, including New World), 2 folded wood-engraved plates (idol; astrological), engraved head- and tail-pieces, initial letters. Total: 144 full-page engravings of gods and heroes of Graeco-Roman mythology, 46 large text illustrations, and 30 full-page engravings of the gods of China, India, Middle America, and Egypt by Filippo Ferroverde. 4to (20.5 x 15 cm), original Italian burgundy and ivory patterned paper over pasteboards with original dark green calf gilt-lettered spine label. Fragile binding slightly rubbed, upper hinge starting. Title page with several ink stains, light water stain in lower margin, pp. 543/544 torn slightly into text, and a few other minor flaws. Overall a very good copy with strong impressions of the engravings and in original binding. Contemporary ink signature of Joannes Milanus written twice on title page.

     First edition with the New World material. The first edition of this invaluable sixteenth-century mythographic handbook was printed by Francesco Marcolini in 1556 at Venice without illustrations (see BRITISH MUSEUM. Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in Italy…from 1465-1600, p. 152). The work has been described as the “first encyclopedia of Classical iconography” (Etta Arntzen & Robert Rainwater, Guide to the Literature of Art History, Chicago, 1980). Subsequent editions were illustrated, first by Bolognini Zaltieri in 1571, then with these completely new images by Filippo Ferroverde for this 1615 edition. Bibliotheca Mejicana 325. Brunet I, cols. 1600-1601n (noting the 1615 edition, edits by Pignoria, and the new and added plates). Bruni & Evans, Italian Seventeenth-Century Books 2111. Glass, “A Survey of Native Middle American Pictorial Manuscripts” in No. 270 (Codex Ríos), pp. 186-187, Handbook of Middle American Indians, Vol. 14, Part 3: “Details from four pages were published in Cartari (1615). These were obtained by the editor, Pignoria, from Octavio Malipiero and had formerly been owned by Armulio, the Vatican librarian.” Mario Praz, Studies in Seventeenth Century Imagery (Rome, 1964),p. 298 (noting that the work is an iconology rather than an emblem book). Sabin 11104.

     This work became the most widely read book on ancient, classical, and pagan mythology. Considerable discussion is devoted to names of divinities from various sources, including Mexico, and what the words signify about their powers and roles. The first Aztec deity illustrated is Homoyoca or Ometeotl, shown with maize or corn, holding a plume of quetzal feathers in one hand and wearing a feathered headdress. “The highest level of the Aztec pantheon was occupied by Ometeotl [Ometecutli-Omeciuat l] who combined both male and female and dominated the genesis of things. Brotherston identifies an image from Codex Rios [Ríos f. 1v, ‘Genesis’] as the Lord of our Flesh, Tonacatecutli [Ometecutli], who with his partner, Tonacatciuatl [Omecihuatl], is associated with the beginning of time and the beginning of the year. The image from the Codex Ríos (also known as Vaticanus A) also includes the crown” ( Another Mexican deity illustrated is Tzitzimitl, a dichotomic female figure that could be a powerful and dangerous demon or the protectress of the feminine and progenitress of mankind.

     Cartari’s handbook of deities is a key work in the history of symbolism in the Renaissance and the classic manual for artists depicting attributes of the deities in the seventeenth century. See Jean Seznec, The Survival of the Pagan Gods: The Mythological Tradition and its Place in Renaissance Humanism and Art (Princeton University Press, 1972), for a full discussion of the importance of this text, who comments on the plethora of deities presented in the present edition: “It should be added that later, early in the seventeenth century, the editors of Cartari were to publish as an appendix to the Images, a discourse on the gods of Mexico and Japan. With this, Olympus, overrun from all sides, became sheer pandemonium” (p. 241).

     Cartari (ca. 1531-after 1569) noted humanist and mythographer, was one of three noted authors on the subject of mythology, the others being Lilio Gregorio Giraldi (1479-1552) and Natale Conti (born ca. 1520). Cartari drew heavily from their work, improving and progressing the work beyond its muddled medieval mishmash. This present edition of 1615 was edited by Lorenzo Pignoria (1571-1631), a Paduan intellectual, priest, antiquarian, and precocious archaeologist. For more on Pignoria, see Gianna Pomata et al, Historia: Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2005), pp. 187-195. To this 1615 edition, Pignoria appended a short discourse on the gods of the East and West Indies. Michael T. Ryan, “Assimilating New Worlds in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” pp. 24-28 in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 23, No. 4, October 1981):

Pignoria also included engravings of these new deities: hideous, deformed creatures who would seem to have nothing in common with the stately pantheon of antiquity. Not so. Pignoria had no problem in spinning out a range of similitude between ancient and modern heathen gods. He was even able to show—at least to his own satisfaction—that the gods of Mexico derived from the gods of Egypt. Such propositions could find wide acceptance in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

     Seznec remarks: “Lorenzo Pignola...lays great stress on the new illustrations by Filippo Ferroverde, which, he insists, are far ahead of those of Zaltieri [who illustrated previous editions]... The plates executed for the Cartari work by the engraver Ferroverde under the direction of Pignola, represented...a certain progress toward archeological correctness” (pp. 252 & 317). In addition to the expected written sources, the artifacts used for research included architecture, archaeological relics, sculpture, potsherds, coins, incised stone tablets, marbles, medals, bronzes, gems, crystals, jewelry, plants, and a great many other materials. The iconography in this work exerted a great influence on the representation of mythological scenes in the Renaissance and Baroque era, and subsequent art and drama, even to contemporary times—including, for instance, William S. Burroughs’ short experimental film, Towers Open Fire and “The Mayan Caper.” See Bryan Ellsworth Hamann, “How Maya Hieroglyphs Got Their Name: Egypt, Mexico, and China in Western Grammatology since the Fifteenth Century,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 152, No. 1, March 2008, p. 2.

     For more on the fascinating scholars and the great and controversial libraries of ancient knowledge that nurtured the author and editor of this and similar humanistic works, See Susan Russell, “Pirro Ligorio, Cassiano Dal Pozzo and the Republic of Letters,” Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. 75 (2007), pp. 239-274. See also R.L. McGrath, pp. 215-226, “The ‘Old’ and the ‘New’ Illustrations for Cartari’s Imagini de dei degli antichi: A Study of ‘Paper Archaeology’ in the Italian Renaissance,” Gazette des Beaux-arts 59 (1962), pp. 215-226, with comparisons of the illustrations of the early editions and this revised and expanded 1615 edition.

     The book is an excellent specimen of the art and craft of printing in seventeenth-century Italy. Printer Pietro Paolo Tozzi (active between the early years of the 1600s and 1627), is known for his emblem and illustrated books. Paduan designer and engraver illustrator Filippo Ferroverde (Bénézit III, p. 732) is best known for the illustrations in this work and those he created for Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia.


Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,225.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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