Regal Aldines from the British Library

With a collection to rival the Rylands, the British Library houses some exceptional Aldines printed on parchment. On Wednesday 11th June we were able to go down to London and assist Anne Tomlak and Stephen Parkin in collecting data from twenty-six Aldines produced between 1496 and 1548, the largest proportion of which dated from the early years of Aldus’ own output in 1501-1502. Of particular note given the Spencer collection at Manchester was another lovely 1501 Petrarch Le cose volgari decorated especially for Earl Spencer by his wife Lavinia with a gem engraved by Nathaniel Marchant and which the couple subsequently gifted to fellow bibliophile Thomas Grenville in 1796.IMG_1606
Two other parchment volumes, a 1502 Catullus and a 1533 Petrarch were previously part of the library of Joseph Smith (c.1682-1770), British Consul at Venice, art connoisseur and avid collector of books and drawings. We’ll be sure to make a visit to the Palazzo Smith Mangilli Valmarana in addition to the pilgrimage to Aldus’ own residence when we visit Venice next week.IMG_1686
Last, but my no means least was a beautifully decorated 1501 Virgil bearing the ownership inscription of Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga (1505-1563) establishing a direct connection between the very first consumers of the Aldine press and the current project. Marvellous.IMG_1611
We look forward to analysing the results and checking both the specie type and parchment quality against the other Aldines already examined. Given the number that proudly boasted ‘carta pecora’ on the storage boxes, odds are the goats will strike again. Thanks again to staff at the BL for coming on board with the project.

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