Roger Gaskell Rare Books

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HANDEL WAS A SUBSCRIBER.

FIORAVANTI?

Teatro fisicosmografico : ovvero trattato di cosmografia, ove fisicamente si spiega il sistema del mondo, e come in esso si formano i principali fenomeni. Da F. A. di C

London: per J. Bettenham, 1724
8vo: A6 (–A3.4) B–K8 L4 (blank A1), 164 leaves, pp. [8] 154 [2]. First leaf blank, A3 list of subscribers, table of contents on last leaf. Device on title and woodcut headpiece and initial on B1 and 20 engraved diagrams printed in the text. Bound without the dedication leaves A3.4.
Folding engraved plate at p. 54.
Condition: 157 x 100mm. Last page dustsoiled.
Binding: Contemporary calf, gilt flower ornaments in spine compartments between raised bands. Head and tail of spine and corners rubbed.
Provenance: Contemporary printed shelf label ‘Pa’ on pastedown and a few early MS corrections.
First (only) edition.
Bibliography: ESTC T217480; Riccardi I, 2, col 510.
£1,600

A neatly printed and illustrated astronomical primer promising an easy method of comprehending the most up-to-date science of Galileo, Descartes and Newton. This was early in the eighteenth-century boom in popular science publishing in English, preceded by works by John Harris, Ditton and Whiston and followed by those of Benjamin Martin and James Ferguson and others.
The address to the reader concludes with what Riccardi calls a silly pun on what could be the author’s name: reading the book will be like going into a pleasant garden: ‘come in un amano giardino, ch’offre fiori-avanti’. However this Fioravanti is otherwise unknown. Riccardi describes the copy in the Biblioteca Palatina di Modena, like this copy without the dedication to Pietro Giuseppe Migliorucci. I have not identified this Migliorucci but assume that the dedication was suppressed in these copies for some reason.
The subscribers’ list contains 103 names, both Italian and English, including one ‘G. Hendel’, identified as the composer by Burrows et al. who note that the list ‘includes many names of people who have known connections with Handel. The extent of Handel’s interest in the topic of the book is unknown.’ (George Frideric Handel Collected Documents I, 702). Handel had settled in London in 1712 and be came a British Subject in 1727.
Bettenham’s foray into publishing for the Italian community, and for others hoping to improve their Italian while picking up some science, was presumably a failure as this is the only one of his publications in Italian and it was not reprinted; and he largely steered clear of the sciences. The use of engraved text-illustrations would have made the book expensive.
ESTC locates copies at Birmingham University, BL, Chetham’s Manchester, Bodleian; Houghton, Michigan; University of Sydney.
Keywords:     astronomy