The most copious 16th century Italian treatise on the theory of colours

Telesio, Antonio. Libellus de coloribus. Ubi multa leguntur praeter aliorum opinionem.

(Venice, Bernardino Vitali, June 1528).

Small 4to. 15 unnumbered ff. (lacking final blank). With several woodcut initials (including one depicting a pelican). Attractive 19th century red calf with giltstamped cover title and border.


Rare first edition of this most copious 16th century Italian treatise on the theory of colours. Divided into 13 chapters, the work lists no less than 115 different names of colours. "Questo raro e singolare opusculo indica sul suo principio Toggetto con cui tu scritto, ed e forse l'opera più erudita che abbiasi, presa sotto l'aspetto seguente" (Cicognara). Cicognara described a 14-leaf edition without place or printer - very likely an incomplete copy of this present edition, which ends on f. 13 and is concluded by two leaves of poems.

Telesio (1482-1533), a native of Cosenza in Calabria, taught at Rome. Escapting the "Sacco di Roma", he fled to Venice, where he gained the chair of Latin at the Consiglio dei Dieci bekam. It was during these years that he composed his treatise on colours, the earliest of its kind ever to see print. Goethe quotes it in full in his own treatise on colours (Weimarana, pt. IV, pp. 174-193), following the 1545 Latin Basel edition; this is the longest quote in all of Goethe's works.

Telesio's nephew Bernardino, who had followed his uncle from Cosenza to Rome and Venice, would go on to publish his own treatise on colours in 1570.

Unappealing traces of moisture to the first five leaves. Spine somewhat sunned and rubbed.

Edit 16, CNCE 37986. Cicognara 216. Adams and BM-STC Italian list later eds. only.

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