Love, Intimacy & Women’s Sexuality

Tullia d'Aragona (c. 1510–1556)

Dialogo della signora Tullia d'Aragona della infinità di amore.

Venice: Gabriel Giolito de Farrari, 1547


Octavo: 15.25 x 9.5 cm. 79, [1] leaves A-V4 (final leaf blank, present)


Bound in modern speckled calf, spine gilt. A very good copy, title very slightly dusty, a little bleeding of the dye used on the edges of the textblock entering the blank margins of some leaves. Giolito’s device on the title page and final page. The text is printed in attractive Italic. There are three historiated initials in the text.

This is the rare first edition of “Dialogue on the Infinity of Love” (1547), Tullia d’Aragona’s philosophy of the complexity of love in all its aspects: sexual, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual. In her “Dialogue”, Aragona “gives a moral foundation to sexuality and implicitly offers a philosophical base for a positive evaluation of womanhood.”(Russell) An accomplished poet and philosophical thinker, Tullia d’Aragona was also one of the most famous courtesans of her age. This edition of her “Dialogo” is the only edition printed in her lifetime. The book opens with an epistle addressed to Aragona by Girolamo Muzio, the poet’s former lover and devoted friend.

“The ‘Dialogue on the Infinity of love’ describes a conversation between Aragona and Benedetto Varchi that supposedly took place in her dwelling and asks, in which sense one can speak of eternity of love. Aragona maintains that love is infinite, potentially if not actually, because the yearnings of those in love are endless and cannot be quieted by any ephemeral satisfaction. Her thesis implies, and elaborates on, the distinction, which was familiar in this period, between vulgar love, which can be easily appeased once the object of sexual desire is reached, and honest love, which cannot be placated, for it longs always for that union of body and soul that is destined to elude gratification…

“Aragona does not separate a sensual and a spiritual love. Her ‘amore onesto’ has both a sensual and a spiritual component. Sensual love is not evil in itself, she argues, and should not be condemned because ‘for those things that come from nature, human beings can neither be praised nor blamed.’ Natural passion is beyond reproach; it becomes contemptible only when unrestrained and over-powering. Aragona does not condemn sensual love as the drive of brute animals, nor does she attribute ontological properties to spiritual love, as contemporary Platonists do. In her theory, there is nothing of the Platonic sublimation of love, of the emotional and intellectual experience that forsakes human attachments for a meditation on the inner self or in order to become love for God. Her ‘amore onesto’ is a yearning for the mutual pleasuring of the body and soul, which brings into play both the senses and the mental faculties. If attained, it leads to mutual respect and brings about a spiritual harmony between lovers. Aragona’s is, in fact, an integrated view of the human personality. At the same time, she gives a moral foundation to sexuality and implicitly offers a philosophical base for a positive evaluation of womanhood.”(Rinaldina Russell, “Tullia D’Aragona”, in Italian Women Writers: A Bio-bibliographical Source Book)

Adams A-1501; Salvatore Bongi, “Annali di Gabriel Giolito de Ferrari da Trino di Monferrato stampatore in Venezia.” (Roma: 1890-95) p. 199