16th century illustrated Italian manuscript about the art of war in a fine contemporary binding

[Italian military manuscript]. Libro utillissimo et molto necessario di varii secreti importantissimi per l'essercitio di guerra, come appare nela seguente indice.

Italy, before 1581.

Small folio (210 x 277 mm). Title, (14) ff. of contents, 187 numbered ff. (a total of 202 ff.) with 60 coloured illustrations (mainly full-page, 7 on large folding sheets). Italian manuscript on paper (watermark: a bird on 3 hillocks, Briquet 12,250 [ca. 1566-1583]). 16th century red morocco (possibly German) with gilt-stamped border fillets, cornerpieces and centrepiece (dated "1581" on upper cover), lacking ties. All edges gilt. Stored in modern slipcase.


An unusual and attractive Italian Renaissance manuscript on the art of war, lavishly illustrated in colour and in a sumptuous contemporary binding. The text comprises eight chapters dealing with the duties of the captain, making gunpowder, siege-breaking devices, the deployment through artillery of artificial fire, smoke and poisonous fumes, the use of cannons, ballistics and artillerymen, and the logistics and practice of moving artillery and cavalry.

The title of the first chapter accords with that in an earlier manuscript in the Biblioteca Riccardiana in Florence (Ms 2525), "Il primo capo tratta universalmente dell'uffitio del capitano dell' Arteglieria, con che ordine, modo et diligenza egli habbia à procedure, ad ogni cosa appartinenti alla munitione dell' Artegl[eri]a et all' ufficio suo", dated ca. 1529-30 (cf. Mariano D'Ayala, Bibliografia militare-italiana [1854], p. 159). The third chapter contains illustrations of siege devices similar to those in Franz Helm's "Armamentarium Principale oder Kriegsmunition und Artillerey-Buch" (1625), which was originally written around 1530.

Some paper (and text) loss through oxidation of the ink, restored and silked. Rebacked, retaining part of the old spine, by Joseph William Zaehnsdorf in 1919, according to old pencil note on flyleaf.

Provenance: from the collection of Thomas Fremantle, 3rd Baron Cottesloe (1862-1956), commander of the Territorial Army and president of the Society for Army History Research. On a note pasted to the flyleaf, Cottesloe writes: "This was in the library of Wistow Hall, Leicester, during the lifetime of Sir Henry St John Halford Bt (1828-97) but nothing is known as to how or when it came there" (dated Wistow, September 1945).

Art.-Nr.: BN#51144 Schlagwörter: , , ,