Di Tito Lucrezio Caro Della Natura Delle Cose Libri Sei Tradotti dal Romano nel suo Materno Idioma Da Alessandro Marchetti.

MARCHETTI Alessandro (1699])



Calligraphic initials, title within simple, single-rule border.

MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER in consistent, even hand (minimally trimmed at foot). Folio (316 x 230mm). [222]ff (3 blank). Contemporary speckled calf (spine expertly restored) [In Roma, con licenza de' Superiori, 

A unique, and handsomely transcribed manuscript copy of the first Italian vernacular translation of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, by mathematician and polymath Alessandro Marchetti (1633-1714).  Composed between 1664 and 1668, Marchetti's translation, Della Natura delle Cose, was only published for the first time in 1717 (Pickard, London) due to ecclesiastical disapproval (though not until after it appeared in print was it formally placed on the Index, in 1718). In the fifty years between writing and publication, and after, it circulated thus, in manuscript form. Though its circulation was wide, and contemporary manuscript copies apparently sundry – among those who possessed a copy were Voltaire and Leibniz - surviving manuscripts are rare. We have found only 21 complete copies worldwide, even fewer of which were produced before the publication of the work in 1717.    

The contents of extant manuscripts vary. This one is unique; we have found no others with both the same title and arrangement of contents. Here, following the title page is the dedication from Marchetti to Cosimo III; Marchetti's 'Protesta...al lettore'; a letter to the translator from poet Girolamo Graziani (April, 1669); and a poem addressed to Marchetti from Pieter Adrian van den Broecke, professor at Pisa and Marchetti's colleague. The ‘Protesta’, Graziani letter and dedication to Cosimo III appear regularly in other manuscript copies, along with other prefatory text; for example, MS Typ. 929 at the Houghton contains laudatory poems by Marchetti’s protegee Maria Selvaggia Borghini, and Basilio Giannelli; Ges. 53 at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Rome contains several dedicatory sonnets to Emperor Charles V. We have found only three other copies containing the effusive verse by Marchetti’s colleague at Pisa, vanden Broecke, that is present here, and only one other described in the title as being ‘tradotti dal Romano nel suo materno idioma’ (ms.A._VII.2 (1601-1700), Bib. Civ. Queriniana, Brescia).

'Praised by critics from Crescimbeni and Tiraboschi until the present day, Marchetti's is still considered the classic Italian translation of Lucretius, unrivalled both in the beauty of its language and the understanding of Lucretius' thought' (Dorris). Lucretius' De rerum natura was an essential component of the Renaissance humanist syllabus, and praised as an artful example of poetry composed in Latin hexameters. Yet its focus on the Epicurean philosophy of atomism and materialism, perceived to be antithetical to Church teachings, made attempts to translate it into the vernacular - thus allowing its circulation beyond solely scholarly circles, where, presumably, in the eyes of religious authorities, it was 'contained' - controversial. There was a buzz of anticipation and excitement in learned communities about Marchetti’s translation, even decades after its initial composition. His acquaintance, the physician, naturalist and member of the Accademia del Cimento, Francesco Redi, wrote to Giuseppe Lanzone as late at 1694 that ‘E’ vero che il sig. Alessandro Marchetti, professore di filosofia a Pisa, ha fatto una traduzione di Lucrezio, ma non e’ ancora stata pubblicata e’ ancora manoscritta; ci vorrebbe un’edizione a caratteri d’oro!’ (Letter of 18th Apr. 1694, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, Ashb.1107).

In order to get the work published Marchetti appealed to both Leopoldo de' Medici, patron of the scientific Accademia del Cimento who had originally encouraged the translation of Lucretius; and the new Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III, to whom this work is dedicated, to support its publication. Leopoldo, having been made a cardinal, refused his support; Cosimo III required the approval of Rome before consenting to print it, which ultimately proved an insurmountable condition.  In his own 'Protesta del Traduttore', Marchetti is keen to distance himself from the philosophical content of the poem – ‘Sappi però ch’io talmente abborisco co’ gl’empi suoi Dogmi intorno all’anima umana…Io mi preggi veramente d'esser filosofo; ma piu mi glorij d'esser Cristiano' - 'You should know that I so abhor [Lucretius’] thesis about the human soul…I am proud to be a philosopher; but glory in being Christian'. Similarly, the author of the prefatory letter to Marchetti, poet Girolamo Graziani, focuses particularly on the translation of the work as a feat of scholarship, rather than its content.

Outside Italy, we have found records of only seven, complete manuscript copies of Marchetti's work, and none with this exact title or date: two at Harvard's Houghton Library (MS Typ 929, and MS Ital 90, dated 1669 and 1675 respectively); two at the Smithsonian, dated 1700-14 (MSS 000829 B quarto) and 1717-1800 (MSS 000828 B); one at the University of Chicago (Codex MS 418, dated 1700); one at Yale (Gen MSS vol 103, 1669-1717; their earlier copy, Osborn b58, 1669, is incomplete, lacking the final 129 lines). There is a copy in the Hamilton Collection listed by Helmut Boese in Die Lateinischen Handschriften der Sammlung Hamilton zu Berlin (1966), Ham.418, dated 1689; and an incomplete later copy (1746), at the Schoenberg Institute at UPenn (LJS 179).

Note some words not transcribed; see Book III, 'ne da legno [spillare] tiepido sangue'; 'molto piu facilmente [o nella testa]/vivere...'. 

PMM, 87. Gordon, 381 (for first printed edition). Schweiger I, 581. Gamba, 1971. Brunet III, 1222. G.E. Dorris, Paolo Rolli and the Italian Circle in London (Mouton & Co, 1967), pp.184-5.

Stock Code: 232806

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