National Library of Naples acquires a rare autograph sonnet by Tasso rediscovered

The National Library of Naples has acquired a rare autograph sonnet by Torquato Tasso, 'Onor di tomba e di dorati marmi,' kept in a precious case: it had resurfaced on the market in June.

The National Library of Naples has acquired an important autograph sonnet by Torquato Tasso (Sorrento, 1544 - Rome, 1595) that has recently been rediscovered: preserved inside a precious red morocco slipcase, the autograph by the great 16th-century poet, a rarity that has reappeared on the market in recent months, will now enrich and enhance the already significant Tasso collection in the Neapolitan library. Torquato Tasso’s autograph sonnet, the traces of which had been lost, came to light again in the spring and had been offered at auction by the Finarte house last June (with an estimate of 40-60,000 euros), but was then sold for purchase to the National Library of Naples after a lengthy negotiation.

The manuscript, addressed "To Mr. Don Vincenzo Caracciolo," makes it possible to identify with certainty the recipient of the composition. The sonnet is accompanied by a triptych of three autograph letters from Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, with prints, addressed to Tasso and Leonora d’Este, the noblewoman, with whom the poet is said to have been in love: this is a myth handed down by nineteenth-century tradition, which attributed Leonora d’Este an almost certainly unjustified romantic role.

The sonnet is number 1491 of the Rime, tràdito by several witnesses, but unknown in this autograph version. It was originally sent by Tasso along with another sonnet that never reached its addressee, however, as he states in letter 1287 of November 12, 1590 [New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, ms. MA 462 33=T]: “[...] I have been defrauded of two other sonnets written to V.S. Of the first, sent to you from Fiorenza by the way of sig.or Fabritio Caraffa, I have lost the copy; of the other I preserve it, and will try to copy it back [...].” In these letters Tasso invoked the help of his Neapolitan friends, the usual pleas for relief to the Neapolitan nobility, having already been assured of a provision of 600 scudi a year just from the Caracciolo family. Relief that had never reached him.

“With the Neapolitan milieu-nobles and men of letters-he weaved over the years a dense web of correspondence relations that intensified upon his arrival in the city,” reads the Catalogue of Tasso’s manuscripts and editions published in 1966 by the National Library of Naples. “Here ’requested by’ relatives and friends and by many gentlemen who wished each of them to keep him appo se, he, not being able to satisfy everyone, and not wanting to lack any, determined to lodge with the fathers of the monastery of Monte Oliveto, by whom he had been by the work of the abbot Don Nicolo degli Oddi long awaited, and fuvvi there with supreme honor and loving-kindness received. In the image of the Naples described by Julius Caesar Capaccio in the pages of the dialogue in six days between a ’forastiero’ and a ’cittadino’, the monastery of Monteoliveto assumes a position of strong prominence, amplified through the memory of the stay of the important personages who 10 had elected it as a privileged dwelling. [...] And, in the monastery, he is at the center of an elite of intellectuals and nobles who periodically visit it, attracted by the fame of the poet of Jerusalem. He also got to know, on this occasion, Vincenzo and Pier Antonio Caracciolo; he renewed his friendship with Ascanio Pignatelli, his colleague in Padua in the Accademia degli Eterei; moreover, he took care to maintain relations with the Prince of Stigliano 19, the Duke of Nocera, the Marquis of Gerace and other notables of the city.”

The various letters, scholar Emilio Russo pointed out in his 2016 essay on the Tasso epistolary, are some of the “many tesserae of Tasso’s relationship with the Neapolitan world”, where Vincenzo Caracciolo is celebrated by Tasso with his household in a couple of sonnets from1588(Rime, 1408 and 1412), and then assumed as one of the poles of protection in the autumn of 1590, after Tasso’s return from Florence to Rome, and in the hypothesis of a new passage to Naples (see for example the Letters, 1279 and 1288,addressed to Francesco Polverino, and 1282, addressed to Caracciolo himself; see also Rime, 1491-1492).

The red morocco volume, which includes the autograph sonnet, the Este letters and a portrait of Torquato Tasso designed by Pietro Ermini and engraved by Raffaello Morghen, is decidedly curious. The album was certainly assembled in the British area in the early twentieth century by a collector who was a devotee of Tasso and passionate about the affairs of the house of Este; then featured in a sale by antiquarian William Schab in the 1950s. In 1955, news came out of the purchase of the volume in London at Sotheby’s auction house by an Italian bookseller, later identified as Gaspare Casella of Naples; the announcement was immediately circulated in Italy by an Ansa agency and taken up by Il Giornale d’Italia della Domenica in a piece signed Orazio Carratelli: “Assured to Culture -In conjunction with the sonnet of Tasso two personal letters of the Este family.” Subsequent steps are unknown, but it is evident that collecting passion has allowed this precious Tasso witness to be preserved to the present day.

"This is an acquisition on the antiquarian market of particular importance," explains Maria Iannotti, director of the National Library of Naples. "Torquato Tasso’s rediscovered autograph, Onor di tomba e di dorati marmi, is sonnet No. 1491 of the Rime, dated 1590, which has been handed down by several witnesses but is unknown in the present autograph version. Addressed to Vincenzo Caracciolo, it was originally sent by Tasso together with another sonnet , but the lyrics never reached the addressee, as can be seen from a letter dated November 12, 1590 where Tasso states that he was ’defrauded’ of the two lyrics . The sonnet purchased by the Library is precisely the one that was supposed to accompany the missive of September 28, 1590. The National Library has always maintained strong ties with Tasso to whom in 1996 , on the occasion of the fourth centenary of his death, it dedicated an extensive documentary and bibliographical exhibition of autographs and the relevant printed editions we possess. We would like to thank the General Directorate for Libraries and Copyright of the Ministry of Culture, whose intervention made it possible to acquire the Tessian Sonnet offered for sale by the Finarte Auctions House in Rome and who wished to allocate it to our Library. It is only right to point out the competence and professionalism of the Finarte Auctions House in Rome, in particular Dr. Fabio Massimo Bertolo, who assisted us by allowing the negotiation to succeed."

The National Library of Naples is already the repository of an important nucleus of Tasso manuscripts: among them the extremely valuable manuscript ex Vind Lat 72 Philologi. Poet Tasso Gerusalem[me] Conquered, written entirely in Naples where the poet lived from 1588 to 1594. Autograph letters include the last antiquarian purchase of 2020 (ms 13 B38), namely the letter dated April 14, 1585, “Da le mie stanze di Ferrara,” written for his friend and future cardinal Scipione Gonzaga, in which he polemicized toward the Accademia della Crusca’s negative judgment of the lexicon and style of his Goffredo, the first draft of Gerusalemme liberata. The collection of the National Library of Naples is completed with notable printed editions of Torquato Tasso’s works. Lastly, A Napoli is the title of the sonnet composed for the Neapolitan city and dedicated to Abbot Polverino, which came to the Library in 1888 with the donation to the State of the Lucchesi Palli Library at the behest of Count Febo Edoardo Lucchesi Palli of the Princes of Campofranco and of which it is a part.

National Library of Naples acquires a rare autograph sonnet by Tasso rediscovered
National Library of Naples acquires a rare autograph sonnet by Tasso rediscovered

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