Incunabulum Queriniano G V 15

The editio princeps of Petrarch's Canzoniere, was presumably prepared by Cristoforo Berardi and printed in quarto format in 1470 by Vindelin of Speyer, the most ancient Venetian printing house. There were other, more philologically accurate, editions published in the last decades of the Fiftheenth Century, such as the Valdezocco edition prepared in Padua in 1472, based on Petrarch’s Codex Vatican Latin 3195. Nonetheless, the editio princeps was held in great consideration for a few decades, even after the Aldine print prepared by Pietro Bembo in 1501.

It was appreciated especially for the sophisticated and coherent form of the volume, the harmony of the page, the elegance of the typographical characters (Sandal 2). These formal features suggest that the volume was prepared to be hand-held for reading, rather than arranged on a desk for studying purposes (6). We do not know the exact number of the volumes published (around 100 according to Ennio Sandal); most of the copies were printed in paper and some in parchment. There are 27 copies left of which only 2 in parchment (one from the Marciana Library in Venice and the other from the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York).

Variations were introduced in the paper and parchment copies; this fact suggests the idea of a double emission, one for the paper and the other for the parchment copies (Belloni, Petrarca: mostra di documenti e codici veneziani 49-50). All of this should be of no surprise, as the phenomenon of editorial variants is widespread in fifteenth-century incunabula. As Joseph Dane writes in his The Myth of Print Culture, “In the earliest printed books we have … there is not a single question in bibliographical or literary history that could not be considered a variant” (Dane 9).

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