University of Virginia Library


Returning to our point of departure, the folio Cortegiano of 1528, it is now
clear that in April 1527, when Castiglione wrote to his factor Cristoforo Ti-
rabosco with details of the edition he wished the Aldine press to publish, there
were already many Aldine editions with royal-paper copies, a fact of which he
was doubtless aware. However, as far as our present knowledge goes, with a
single exception they were all octavos. This exception was the monumental folio
edition in five volumes of the works of Galen, a classic of ancient culture which
was still fundamental in the practice of Renaissance medicine. Castiglione's pro-
posal concerned something completely different, the first edition of a new work in
the vernacular, which in the rich history of the Aldine press had few precedents,
the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili of 1499, Bembo's Asolani (1505) and Le vulgari elo-
of Niccolò Liburnio (1521). Nevertheless, in the counter-proposal of the
Aldine press, reported to the author in November 1527 in a letter from Tirabosco
which has only recently come to light, the possibility of including in the print run
copies on royal paper is not specifically excluded, and Castiglione was certainly
expecting them when he wrote to his factor again in April 1528, after the edition
had been published.[39] The strongest evidence that the eleven copies in our survey
printed on different paper are indeed heavily trimmed royal-paper copies comes


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from the paper itself, which exhibits the features which we can now recognize as
characteristic of Venetian royal paper of this period. It has a large anchor water-
mark (74 × 51 mm in one twin; 73 × 48 mm in the other) and intervals of 35 mm
or more between chains, except on either side of the mark, where the intervals
are c.30 mm. The implications are evident: while it would be an exaggeration to
describe the information set forth in this article as the tip of an iceberg, it seems
likely that other instances of Aldine editions with royal-paper copies lie hidden,
awaiting the bibliographer aware of the importance of a thorough bibliographi-
cal analysis of multiple copies.


For Tirabosco's letter of November 1527 see Bertolo, pp. 136–137; Quondam,
pp. 539–540. The counter-proposal of the press involved doubling the print-run to 2000, and
assuming the whole financial burden of the edition (instead of the fifty-fifty arrangement origi-
nally suggested by Castiglione), except for 130 copies, which were to be at the expense of the
author. In Castiglione's letter of April 1528 he wrote that he was expecting 100 copies, including
thirty on royal paper (Quondam, 542–543). Whatever the eventual print run of the Cortegiano,
the counter-proposal of the press is extremely interesting in illustrating what it thought was an
appropriate size for this rather experimental edition.