Venetia (Venice): Felice Valgrisi, 1603. Later edition. Hardcover. Quarto (10 1/4 x 7 1/2"). , 654, pp. Contemporary full vellum, crudely rebacked, retaining the original boards. Handwritten paper titles on spine. Engraved title.
Generally regarded as the finest expression of the literary tendencies and spiritual attitudes of the Italian Renaissance, Ludovico Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso" is a continuation of Matteo Maria Boiardo's unfinished romance "Orlando Innamorato" ("Orlando in Love," published posthumously in 1495).
The action takes place during the war between Charlemagne's Christian paladins and the Saracen army that has invaded Europe and is attempting to overthrow the Christian empire. The poem mixes realism and fantasy, humor and tragedy. The stage is the entire world, plus a trip to the moon. The large cast of characters features Christians and Saracens, soldiers and sorcerers, and fantastic creatures including a gigantic sea monster called the orc and a flying horse called the hippogriff.
Many themes are interwoven, but the most important are the paladin Orlando's unrequited love for the pagan princess Angelica, which drives him mad; the love between the female Christian warrior Bradamante and the Saracen Ruggiero, who are supposed to be the ancestors of Ariosto's patrons, the d'Este family of Ferrara; and the war between Christian and Infidel.
The poem is divided into forty-six cantos, each containing a variable number of eight-line stanzas in ottava rima. Ariosto's work is 38,736 lines long in total, making it one of the longest poems in European literature.
This 1603 edition is magnificently illustrated throughout with 51 full-page wood engravings within decorative borders (46 in the "Orlando Furioso," and 5 additional in the appended "Cinque Canti"), using the blocks from the first Valgrisi quarto edition of 1556.
Some abrasion to vellum at head and tail of spine, and along fore-edge of back cover. Modern endpapers. Fly leaf detached but present. Minor foxing to title page, with a tiny hole along outer margin (not affecting lettering). Minor and sporadic foxing throughout. Clear water staining along outer margin of pages, occasionaly affecting text and bottom right corner of images. Text in Italian. Binding in overall fair, interior in good to very good condition. f to vg. Item #43055