Lettere sui primi Libri a Stampa


Mauro Boni (1746-1817), Lettere sui primi libri a stampa di alcune città e terre del l’Italia superiore: parte sinora sconosciuti, parte nuovamente illustrate (Venezia: Nella stamperia di Carlo Palese, 1794). Three books, each has a special title page. Bookplate of the Library of the College of New Jersey (previous name of Princeton University Library), “Presented by J.S. Morgan Esq.” Original accession number 95452 stamped on p. III. Graphic Arts collection GAX Z155. Gift of Junius Spencer Morgan, 1867-1932


This early bibliography of incunables in Genoa, Pavia, and Brescia is attributed to Mauro Boni (title in English: Letters on the First Printed Books in Some Cities and Lands of the Upper Italy, Hitherto Unknown). Two of the three title pages are decorated with engravings by the Venetian artist Francesco Novelli (1767-1836). Novelli acquired a reputation as a copyist of Rembrandt etchings, a reputation which led some historians to value his work only for its draftsmanship and technical skill.

The Oxford Dictionary of Art gives him only a small paragraph: “Francesco Novelli was the son and pupil of Pietro Antonio Novelli III. He went on to work at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice before going to Rome. Novelli merits special mention for the copies he made of Rembrandt’s etchings, with such remarkable skill that his reproductions have sometimes been confused with the originals. He also produced engravings of Mantegna’s drawings, and was a member of several academies.”