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Attributed to Francesco Colonna (1432-33-c. 1527)

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili 1499

RCIN 1057947

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Attributed to Francesco Colonna (1432-3-c. 1527).

The allegorical romance 'Hypnerotomachia Poliphili' (loosely ‘Poliphilus’s struggle for love in a dream’) is one of the jewels of Renaissance printing, with an elegant Roman font and high-quality woodcuts in the style of Mantegna. The close integration of text and image was highly unusual for the period - this was the only illustrated book published by Aldus Manutius of Venice, the great scholar-printer of 15th-century Italy. The extremely fine woodcuts and creative approach to the layout of type enhance the aesthetic qualities of the page: this has been called the most beautiful woodcut book ever published. Contemporary audiences were less appreciative of it than modern bibliophiles, chiefly because it was so difficult to read. Written in a bizarre mixture of Italian, Latin and Greek, with considerable amounts of archaic usage and plain invention, native Italians complained of its difficulty, and there was no market for it outside Italy. This may explain why so many copies survive today.
Despite its difficulty, the landscape conjured by Poliphilus was used by Renaissance gardeners as inspiration in their designs. Classical elements such as obelisks and pergolas, illustrated by the fine woodcuts, came to be seen in formal gardens throughout Europe.

This book is an incunable, or book printed between 1450 and 1500.