Polyanthea opus suavissimis floribus exornatum . . .
Publisher Information: Savona: Francesco Silva, 1503.
Nani Mirabelli, Domenico (ca. 1455 – after 1528). Polyanthea opus suavissimis floribus exornatum . . . Folio. , CCCXXXIX, ff. Title-page and dedication printed in red. Hand-colored woodcut on first leaf of text showing the author surrounded by important religious and secular figures; decorative initials, the first printed in red and hand-illuminated; rubrication and flourishes through leaf LXXX. Savona: Francesco Silva, 1503. 297 x 207 mm. 19th century full vellum gilt, all edges gilt, front cover a bit warped. Occasional faint dampstains, but a very good copy.
First Edition of this enormously popular encyclopedic work, one of the first general reference works produced for the printed-book market. “The conception of the reference work compiled from a neutral stance, for the common good, to cater to a wide range of interests, and by multiple contributors working collaboratively at one time and over time was honed in early modern Latin reference works like the Polyanthea” (Blair, Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age , p. 172). The work’s compiler, Domenico Nani Mirabelli, was a rector of schools, archpriest of the cathedral in Savona, and also served as papal secretary.
The Polyanthea contains selections from the writings of over 150 authors from Aristotle to Dante, arranged in alphabetical order and covering subjects in the fields of classical antiquity, medieval history, natural history and medicine. In the preface to the work Nani Mirabelli
"boasted that he had selected the best of literature, appropriate for the moral edification of young and old and of both sexes, and desired it to “be useful to as many people as possible” . . . He listed 163 authors excerpted and acknowledged that some of these had mocked the Holy Scriptures and taken positions contrary to the Catholic truth. But thanks to his careful selection, Nani promised safe passage through the shoals of pagan literature—both the raciness of Ovid or Horace and the obscurity of Aristotle—for the moral edification of Christians . . . At the same time as he played up the religious themes, Nani identified his principal audience as young people studying rhetoric. For them especially, Nani was proud to offer definitions and descriptions; Latin translations of all Greek expressions; sentences of philosophers, historians, and poets in Latin and Greek; and a tabular outline of the larger topics. The early Polyanthea served in part as a dictionary of hard words, offering in addition to the major articles, many very short ones, with just a definition, a Greek etymology, and one or even no quotation as an example" (Blair, pp. 177-178).
The Polyanthea went through at least 41 editions between 1503 and 1681, nearly all of which were revised and expanded by their successive editors. Like other popular reference works of the early modern period, the Florilegia tended to suffer hard usage and copies of the first edition, especially in good condition, are now scarce. Blair was able to locate 20 copies of the first edition cited in online library catalogues; most of these copies are in Italy. OCLC records 10 copies, three of which (Newberry Library, Harvard and U. Chicago) are in the United States. Collinson, Encyclopedias: Their History Throughout the Ages (1964).Book Id: 42765