Book that forms a work of art

At the very end of the 15th century, in Venice in December 1499, there emerged from the presses of that city’s most famous printer, Aldus Manutius, what is traditionally described as the most beautiful illustrated printed book of the Italian Renaissance.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Ian McKay

A spread from the copy of Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili… sold at Christie’s for £130,000.

In Francesco Colonna’s allegorical romance, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili… type, illustration, design and fine printing were combined to produce the book beautiful.

The book itself is a work of art, but the woodcuts themselves are attributed by some to the Paduan miniaturist Benedetto Bordon, or Bordone.

The spread shown above is taken from a copy in an early 20th century binding of red morocco gilt that sold for £130,000 at Christie’s (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) on December 12.

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A few other examples of this famous work have made more and in 2010 a copy that was once part of the great French bibliophile Jean Grolier’s library was bid to more than twice that sum, £280,000, in the King Street rooms.

Part of the wonderful Arcana collection, and in a restored and rebacked calf binding made by Gomar Estienne in the 1550s for Grolier, it was an ex- John Rylands Library copy that in 1988 had sold for £170,000 at Sotheby’s.