8vo (198 x 130 mm). Collation: A-L8 M12 (sheets M5.8 and M6.7 bound in reverse order). 197,  pp. Etched title within decorative border (A2), six etched plates, seven etched and engraved headpiece vignettes, woodcut tailpieces. Errata leaf at end, final blank preserved. Occasional minor foxing at outer margins, else fine. Contemporary French mottled calf, spine gold-tooled, edges stained red (later ms. title label on spine, extremities abraded, small gouge to front cover).***
First Edition of a long poem in six cantos on the fire that destroyed parts of the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua in March 1749, by a Paduan priest, teacher, composer and painter. The poem is illustrated with six dramatic etchings by an unidentified artist, depicting the fire as well as its supposedly diabolical origins. Rota was an amateur composer and painter, and may himself have designed the etchings.
The fire, on March 29, 1749, destroyed one of the campaniles and damaged four of the eight cupolas. The flames were so intense that the church bells melted, and a number of works of art perished, including the astral clock and all but four of the ninety intarsia choir stalls by Lorenzo Canozzi.
In the first canto of this semi-didactic poem, which is dedicated to the Bishop of Padua, Carlo Rezzonico, the author surveys the origins and cityscape of his native city. He outlines the major events of its history and refers to prominent Padovan families, supplying a few footnotes, and interjecting occasional autobiographical comments (such as his gratitude to the Seminary, to which he owes everything, and his regrets at wasting his school years there in boredom and [adolescent] misery). The second Canto is devoted to the Basilica itself, which is compared to other grand temples, of Zion, Rome, Venice and Bologna. Detailed poetic descriptions are offered of the facade, architectural disposition of the interior, and dozens of works of art, including Canozzi’s choir. Canto 3 brings in the supernatural, relating a great Satanic convocation in Hell, during which the fire was plotted. It includes a dialogue between Satan and his principal agents, Moloch, Belial, Baal, Beelzebub and Lucifer. In Canto 4 the plot thickens, as Satan’s wife, disguised as a human female, admits the prince of Darkness into the Basilica... The fire itself, its cessation thanks to priestly prayers, and the miraculous salvation of the Sacred Tomb of St, Anthony, are described in Cantos 5 and 6.
The spirited etchings show an unidentified historical episode, in which an army approaches Padua, with St. Anthony (?) pleading to God above; the Basilica with St. Anthony in the heavens; the devils’ conference in an infernal grotto; the female devil leading flocks of flying demons into the church engulfed in smoke, among fleeing faithful; crowds surrounding priests praying in front of the burning church, on the roof of which fireflighters are battling the flames; and Satan being chased away by a spear-wielding angel and St. Anthony, while male and female citizens below watch the battle in awe as they kneel and stand among ruins, the Basilica in the background shown with one half-destroyed tower.
Although dated 1749, the edition was not published until after September 1, 1750, date of the Approbation. It was reprinted in 1753. Rota also published two short pamphlets on the fire in 1749.
OCLC records two copies in America (Columbia and St. Bonaventura U.); the Canadian Centre for Architecture holds a copy of the 1753 edition. Not in Cicognara or Schlosser Magnino. ICCU LO1E 25786 and TO0E125475. Item #2913