Roasted Pigs in Bologna, Singing Asses in Peru, & Social Satire in 16th c. Cremona

CROCE, Giulio Cesare (1550-1609)

La vera historia della piacevoliss. festa della porchetta, che si fa ogn’anno in Bologna il giorno di S. Bartolomeo. Di Giulio Cesare dalla Croce. Agl’Illustrissimi Signori Confaloniero, et Anziani della città di Bologna.

Bologna: Heirs of Giovanni Rossi, 1599


Octavo: I: 44, (4 blank) pp.

A fine sammelband of three rare Italian works, comprising two 16th c. Italian mock encomia and a series of colorful facezie satirizing all levels of 16th c. Italian society. Woodcut vignette on the title-page showing the annual launch of the roast pig from the balcony of the Palazzo del Podesta in Bologna to the people below. All three bound together in later stiff vellum with the title on the spine. Very good copies of these three extremely rare books. Margins cut short with loss of portion of letters in the outer margin of several leaves, else fine.

In Praise of Pork: The feast of the “porchetta”

I. FIRST EDITION of this poem in 119 ottave that describes the feast of the “porchetta” (roast pork) celebrated every year in Bologna. EXTREMELY RARE. No copies in North America.

Since the late 13th century the festival commemorated a famous episode of the town’s history occurred in 1281. Every year, on August 24, the day of St. Bartholomew, a porchetta, a gift from the papal legate, was thrown to the people from the balcony of the Palazzo del Podesta in Piazza Maggiore. Then followed horse and chariot races, while street musicians and “cantastorie” entertained the illiterate crowd. The feast lasted until 1796, when it was abolished by the French occupation troops. In addition to its literary merits, Croce's poem is valuable for its inclusion of a complete account of the festival. (cf. L’eccellenza e trionfo del porco e altre opere in prosa di Giulio Cesare Croce, M. Rouch, F. Bacchelli & F. Foresti, eds., Bologna, 2006, p. 57).

Giulio Cesare Croce was a self-taught poet and novelist with a unique ability to mediate between oral and written culture, between “learned” and folk traditions. Born into a family of blacksmiths, Croce left his family business in 1575, when he decided to devote himself entirely to storytelling, wandering from market to market and from palace to palace, always poor despite the popular success. He died in Bologna in 1609.

Much of Croce's work remained unpublished, while others were published in inexpensive booklets, hence the scarcity of extant copies. Written either in Italian or in Bolognese dialect, his texts mainly describe the unsavory world of the poor and contain jokes, witticisms, proverbs, tragicomic reports on festivities, and public calamities.

Edit 16, CNCE14420; M. Rouch, Storie di vita popolare nelle canzoni di piazza di G.C. Croce. Fame fatica e mascherate nel ‘500: opere poetiche in italiano di Giulio Cesare Croce, Bologna, 1982, p. 222; P. Bellettini et al., eds., Una città in piazza. Comunicazione e vita quotidiana a Bologna tra Cinque e Seicento, Bologna, 2000, p. 238, no. 185; Le stagioni di un cantambanco. Vita quotidiana a Bologna nelle opere di Giulio Cesare Croce, Bologna, 2009, pp. 328-329, no. 91.


The Royal Ass of Peru

II. BANCHIERI, Adriano (1568-1634)

La nobiltà dell'asino, di Attabalippa dal Perù. Riformata di nuovo da Grifagno de gli Impacci, et accresciuta di molte cose piacevoli, curiose, dfilettevoli, et degne d'ogni asinina lode. Tradotta in Italiano da Rampino Poco in capo.

Ferrara, [Vittorio] Baldini, n.d. [after 1599]

8vo, 87, (1 blank) pp. Printer’s device on the title page.

SECOND EDITION OF THE REVISED TEXT, and the fourth printing overall of the celebrated satire “The Nobility of the Ass of Attabalippa of Peru” by the Italian composer, music theorist, organist and poet Adriano Banchieri. The first edition was printed at Venice by Barezzi in 1592, and was reprinted at Pavia in the same year. The present edition, revised by the author, first appeared at Venice, also in 1599.

Banchieri’s satirical “bestiary” is composed in a mix of prose and verse. The author’s purpose is to demonstrate that, despite the many admirable qualities of the other animals, the ass exceeds them all in nobility and excellence. The ass possesses rare qualities such as humility and courteousness, and lacks the thieving nature, pride, unruliness, and villainy of other animals. Quite naturally, the musician and composer Banchieri praises the musical abilities of the ass, attributing to him the three attributes of the perfect musician: a good voice, a good ear, and good measure.

The nature and habits of each animal is considered in turn, with quotations and observations from natural history writers such as Pliny, Aristotle, Isidore of Seville, and Albertus Magnus, who identify the special characteristics of each species and recount notable interactions between these animals and humans throughout history.

The book shares an obvious affinity with the “Praise of Pork” (with which it is here bound), another example of the emerging genre of mock encomia.

Adriano Banchieri, born in Bologna, was a man of varied talents: composer, music theorist, organist, playwright, and poet. In 1587 he became a monk of the Benedictine order, taking his vows in 1590, and changing his name from Tommaso to Adriano. He was organist in Bologna, Imola and Gubbio. Around him, in Bologna, gathered a group of music lovers who, in 1615, officially became the Accademia dei Floridi (today Accademia Filarmonica). As a musician he was interested in converting the madrigal to dramatic purposes. Banchieri disapproved of the new monody with all its revolutionary harmonic tendencies, about which he expressed himself in his Moderna Practica Musicale (1613). In a series of editions issued from 1605 and reprinted many times until 1638, Banchieri published a series of organ works entitled the Organo suonarino. He died in Bologna in 1634. As a poet and a playwright, he wrote many texts in Italian and Bolognese dialect under the pseudonym of Camillo Scaligeri della Fratta. He also wrote the Novella di Cacaseno, a continuation of Giulio Cesare Croce’s Bertoldo and Bertoldino (cf. O. Mischiati, Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634). Profilo biografico e bibliografia delle opere, in: “Annuario 1965-1970 del Conservatorio di musica ‘G.B. Martini' di Bologna”, Ivi, 1971, pp. 37-201).

(Cf. M.C. Figorilli, Meglio ignorante che dotto. L’elogio paradossale in prosa nel Cinquecento, Naples, 2008, pp. 68-74; and C. Zotti, Le Sourire du moine: Adriano Banchieri da Bologna; Musicien, homme de lettres, pédagogue, équilibriste sur le fil des querelles du Seicento, Nice, 2008)

Buffoonery & Social Satire in 16th c. Cremona

III. Poncino, Della Torre (fl. late 16th cent.)

Le piacevoli et ridicolose facetie di M. Poncino dalla Torre cremonese. Di nuovo ristampate con l’aggiunta d'alcun'altre, che nella prima impressione mancavano.

Venice, Giovanni Battista Bonfadino, 1611

8vo, 71 leaves. Lacking the last blank leaf. Woodcut illustration on the title-page.

SIXTH OR SEVEN EDITION (a reprint of Bonfadino 1609 edition) of this popular collection of comic tales and witticisms first printed in Cremona in 1581 and then in an enlarged edition in 1585.

The tales are all set in Cremona and have the author as the main character. With his humor, eloquence and wit, Poncino is able to turn all situations in his favour and to mock all the people whom he encounters. There is a great deal of mischief and trouble in the 40 facezie that make up the collection, but all of the tales end happily. Poncino targets all members of society, from marginalized groups such as peasants, Jews, and women, to his citizen-peers and those above him in the social order, such as physicians, attorneys and even the mayor. What emerges is a humorous and colorful record of the everyday customs and traditions of the various classes and communities that made up a northern Italian city in the 16th century (cf. Dizionario biografico degli Italiani, XXXII, p. 48).