BACCANTI, Alberto.

Maometto, legislatore degli Arabi e fondatore dell'Impero musulmano.


Casalmaggiore: Fratelli Bizzarri, 1791 Stock Code: 102633
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First and only edition of this epic poem in Italian recounting the life of Muhammad in 12 cantos of ottava rima, each canto illustrated with a full-page engraved plate, in addition to two frontispiece portraits of the author and of Muhammad astride a rampant horse, all after original paintings by Paolo Araldi. Originally from Casalmaggiore, Araldi (d. 1811) studied at the Academy of Parma, where he taught Giuseppe Diotti (1779-1816), before returning to his native city. Alberto Baccanti (1718-1805), also from Casalmaggiore, studied theology at Cremona before travelling to Rome in 1741, under the auspices of the Gonzagas to work in the Vatican as a papal secretary. He returned to Casalmaggiore in 1755. Tipaldo lists an additional 10 printed and 11 manuscript works written by Baccanti, chiefly poems, orations, and exequies in verse.

The plates depict Muhammad in the stages of his prophecy: ascending with the archangel Gabriel to heaven (laylat al-mi'raj), preaching to his first followers in Mecca, leading his armies to battle and uniting the disparate tribes under his leadership. Baccanti explains in his foreword that he sought to characterise the Prophet as a statesman and general of "rare talents" who, regardless of the truth of the religion he founded, succeeded in creating a unified Arabian caliphate that laid the foundation for the rise of the Ottoman Empire: a contrast to other European works portraying him as "an odious impostor and a man of most dissolute morals".

"Scholars of the Enlightenment particularly struggled with dual impulses towards Muhammad's depiction, aspiring both to a more historically-based, objective image of the Prophet, yet also perpetuating the public appetite for romantic, exotic details" (Shalem, ed., Constructing the Image of Muhammad in Europe, p. 3); Baccanti's work charmingly perpetrates the usual picturesque anachronisms, presenting Muhammad in contemporary Turkish dress and preaching in Ottoman interiors, and leading his troops against a conspicuously European fortress. Extremely uncommon: seven copies traced in libraries worldwide (none in the United Kingdom).

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2 volumes in one, quarto (235 x 172 mm). Contemporary half sheep vellum, marbled sides, twin morocco labels lettered in gilt and manuscript shelf-mark label to spine, edges speckled blue.


2 engraved portrait frontispieces and 12 similar numbered plates by Paolo Araldi, vignettes to title pages.


Complete with the half-titles and imprimatur leaf. Boards slightly rubbed with light wear along fore edges, labels a touch chipped to minimal loss of lettering, very sporadic faint soiling chiefly to margins, isolated portions of minor dampstaining to head of gutter. An excellent copy.


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