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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

Francesco Colonna (Italian, ca. 1453–1517)
Aldo Manuzio (Italian, 1449/50–1515)
Design of woodcuts attributed to Benedetto Bordone (Italian, Padua ca. 1455/60–1530 Padua, active mainly Venice from 1488)
Copy of so-called Canevari binding
Published in:
December 1499
Printed book with woodcut illustrations
11 5/8 × 8 11/16 × 1 9/16 in. (29.5 × 22 × 4 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1923
Accession Number:
Not on view
This exquisite book, a complex tale of love and antiquarianism and a prime document of the Renaissance rediscovery of classical antiquity, was produced by the important Venetian publisher Aldus Manutius (ca. 1450–1515). A specialist in the publication of Greek texts, Aldus was also famous for developing new formats, such as the small, handheld book, and new typefaces, such as the italic, the descendants of which are still in use today. The typeface used in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, based on ancient Roman inscriptions, was created by Aldus' type designer Francesco Griffo of Bologna especially for this book, which has long been admired for its harmonious marriage of text and image. The spare and elegant illustrations reveal a careful study of ancient art as well as an interest in the new science of one-point linear perspective. The beauty of these anonymous woodcuts has led scholars, through the years, to associate their design with such famous artists as Andrea Mantegna, Gentile Bellini, or the young Raphael.
Inscription: Inscription in graphite inside front cover [in William Ivins hand?]: "ex coll. Richard Bennett (Manchester, Eng.) pur. 1896 - pur. J.P.M 1906 / copy of Canevarium binding probably by Hagué / perfect except leaf of errata in facim / See J.P. Morgan Bennett cat. / of Early Printed Books v. 2, no. 373"

Marking: Red leather and stamped gilt bookplate of J. P. Morgan inside front cover
Engraved bookplate of Richard Bennett inside back cover
Richard Bennett (British, born 1849), purchased work in 1896; J. Pierpont Morgan, purchased work in 1906; Donor: J. Pierpont Morgan
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," December 4, 1992–April 5, 2013.

Essling.1198; Morgan cat.II.373; Brunet.IV.778; Hain.5501; Proctor.5574
J. Pierpont Morgan, Chiswick Press Catalogue of manuscripts and early printed books from the libraries of William Morris, Richard Bennett, Bertram, fourth earl of Ashburnham, and other sources, now forming portion of the library of J. Pierpont Morgan. 3 vols., 1907, vol. 2 (Italy and Part of France), no. 373 (another copy with a blue binding).

Howard M. Nixon "Bookbindings Acquired by the Department of Printed Books 1952-62." The British Museum Quarterly. vol. 26, no. 1/2, September 1962, p. 16, discusses so-called "Canevari" bindings and the 19th century Belgian binder Hagué who produced imitation Renaissance bindings.

Jean Strouse, The Metropolitan Museum of Art "Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin" J. Pierpont Morgan, Financier and Collector. n.s., 57, no. 3, New York, Winter 2000, fig. no. 2, p. 5, ill.

Mirjam M. Foot, Carmen Blacker, Nicholas Poole-Wilson "Collector, Dealer and Forger: A Fragment of Nineteenth-Century Binding History" in Eloquent Witnesses: Bookbindings and Their History. 2004, pp. 270-81.

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