Turin: Cesar Farine, 1570. Item #01780
"Romeo, Oh, Romeo! Where for Art Bill Shakes Found Us?'
"Here, Dear Juliet, Here."
The Earliest Obtainable Edition in Contemporary Binding
[SHAKESPEARE SOURCE]. BANDELLO, Matteo, and BELLEFOREST, François de, and BOISTEAU, Pierre. XVIII Histoires Tragiques. Extraictes des oeuvres Italiennes de Bandel, & mises en langue Françoise. Les six premieres, par Pierre Boisteau, sur nommé Launay, natif de Bretaigne. Les douze fuiuans, par Franc. de Belle Forest, Comingeois. Turin: Cesar Farine, 1570.
Fourth collected edition (originally published in Lyon, 1560, and Paris 1563 and 1564; all scarce) containing the source material for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Small octavo (4 3/4 x 3 in; 120 x 76 mm). [1,blank], 436, , [1, blank] ff.
Contemporary full vellum. Yapp edges. Inked title to spine. Bookplate of Mandelle Memorial Library (Kalamazoo, Missouri), with its embossed stamp to titlepage. Vellum soiled, as expected. Small half-inch split to upper joint. A wonderful copy of an extremely rare book. Housed in a quarter black morocco clamshell case.
OCLC/KVK record only one copy in libraries worldwide; institutionally rarer than the 1560 (3 cc) and 1563 (2 cc) editions. Only one copy has come to auction within the last thirty-six years, at Christie's-NY, May 22, 2001, lot 288 (with foxing, ink and damp stains); it sold for $9,600 ($8,000 plus 20% premium). No copies of the prior editions have been seen at auction during the same period. There are only two known copies of the 1564 edition, one of which has been rebound. The volume under notice is the earliest available edition in a contemporary binding.
The first edition of Dominican friar Matteo Bandello's stories in the original Italian was published in Lucca, 1554. It contained 186 tales in various styles and genres ranging from the comic, bawdy, tragic, sentimental, and horrific. In 1559, Pierre Boisteau published a freely adapted French translation of six of Bandello's short stories. In the same year François de Belleforest published French translations of twelve more of Bandello's stories. In 1560, an edition from Lyon brought these eighteen stories into a single volume, reprinted by Vincent Norment & Jeanne Bruneau in Paris 1563 and 1564, and by Laurens Chancelier, Paris, 1564. The volume under notice reprints these earlier editions, each an extreme scarcity, the volume here only slightly less so. It was these French translations that won broad European popularity for Bandello's tales.
It was Arthur Brooke's 1562 English rendering into verse of Boisteau's French translation of Bandello's La sfortunata morte di dui infelicissimi amanti (here as L'Histoire de deux amans, dont l'un mourut de vénin, l'autre de tristesse ), under the title The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, that William Shakespeare directly used as the basis for his classic drama. The original Brooke is virtually unobtainable in the marketplace, with only two institutional copies recorded and no auction records since 1975. Yet, as Stuart Gillespie notes, "It is clear that Brooke was working with a story already familiar to the English audience" (Shakespeare's Books, p. 67), and while Shakespeare extensively reworked Brooke's stiff and tortured verse, the basic narrative was already part of his consciousness to re-imagine as his own. The differences between the Brooke and Shakespeare narratives are as distinct as their similarities but they both owe their existence to Bandello.
This volume, then, is much ado about something, something very special, a rare and rich opportunity to possess the original source for arguably the most famous and celebrated tragic drama in the English language by the Western world's most venerated playwright. Romeo and Juliet is believed to date from between 1591 and 1595. It first appeared in print in the quarto edition of 1597.
Cf. Brunet I, 638 (Lyon edition). Cf. Adams B145 (variant imprint). Cf. STC French p. 40 (variant imprint).