The Poems of Vittoria Colonna - The Best Edition

Colonna, Vittoria (1492-1547)

Le rime spirituali della illustrissima signora Vittoria Colonna Marchesana di Pescara. Alle quali di nuouo sono stati aggiunti, oltre quelli non pur dell’altrui stampe, ma ancho della nostra medesima, piu di trenta, ò trentatre Sonetti, no mai piu altroue stampati; un capitolo; et in non pochi luoghi ricorrette, et piu chiaramente distinte

Venice: Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1548


Quarto: 20 x 15 cm. 120 pp. Collation: A-P4.

BEST EDITION of Colonna's Rime, the second issued by Valgrisi (1st was issued in 1546), which includes a dedication by Apollonio Campano to Isabella Villamarino Sanseverino, Princess of Salerno (d. 1559) and 213 poems.

Printer's device on the title page, woodcut initials. Later flexible vellum, original colored edges faded. A good, wide-margined copy.

The first edition of Colonna's Rime had been printed in Parma by Viotto in 1538 and presented 145 poems of which 9 by other authors. The first Valgrisi edition (the first in 4to format and the first with the title Rime spirituali) had appeared in 1546 and included 180 poems. The important later edition edited by Rinaldo Corso in 1558 has only 158 poems.

The poetic production of Vittoria Colonna comprises two main characters: one profane, which consists of Petrarchan poems celebrating the love for her husband, the Marquis of Pescara Francesco D'Avalos, whom she married in 1509 and who died in battle in 1525; and one sacred, in which the personal pain for the loss of her husband is transfigured and becomes more and more universal up to a point in which it coincides with the pain of Christ on the cross. If in the first editions of the Rime (all printed between 1538 and 1539) the spiritual character occupies only a small part of the collection, it gradually increases over the years reaching its summit in the 1548 Valgrisi edition, as reflected by the title Rime spirituali.

“Although Colonna literary activity spanned over twenty years, her lyrics are clearly marked by a uniform maturity of style. She achieved a higly successfull balance between, on the one hand, “correct” poetic language (in which she imitated Petrarch rigorously) and content (unblemished devotion to the memory of her husband); and on the other hand a perfect harmony between stylistic tension (always in search of a “high” linguistic register both in vocabulary and syntax) and an exploration of feelings (from the mourning of her husband to divine love and the contemplation of Christ), which excludes any trace of light-heartedness or lover's playfulness” (L. Panizza & S. Wood, eds., A History of Women's Writing in Italy, Cambridge, 2000, p. 38).

Vittoria Colonna was the most famous Italian poetess of his day. It was the only artist, with the only exception of Michelangelo (on whom she had a great human and literary influence), to receive in her time the attribute of “Divine”. Her court soon became a circle of reformed ideas. Despite the highly intimate nature of her poetry, in it are clearly visible the religious ideas of reformed thinkers such as Juan de Valdes, Bernardino Ochino, and Reginald Pole (cf. F.A. Bassanese, Vittoria Colonna, in: “Italian Women Writers: A Bio-bibliographical Sourcebook”, Westport CT, 1994, pp. 85-94).

M. Bandini Buti, Poetesse e scrittrici, Rome, 1941, I, pp. 164-171; Gamba, no. 1325 (“più copiosa e meno scorretta”); Edit 16, CNCE12833; A. Erdmann, My Gracious Silence, Lucerne, 1999, p. 211.