12mo (137 x 70 mm). 50, , “733” [recte 683] pp. 2 parts, separately titled. Engraved frontispiece of a library viewed through a columned doorway topped by the arms of the dedicatee Giovanni Niccolò Cavanna, engraved by Giovanni Mattia Striglioni after Domenico Piola, text woodcut of a monument with hieroglyphics (p. 71), woodcut initials and tailpiece. fine. 18th-century English(?) green calf, sides with leafy gilt frame, spine in 5 compartments, the second with red morocco gilt lettering-piece, the rest gold-tooled (scrape to front cover, extremities rubbed). Provenance: contemporary ownership inscription on title, partly effaced; neat annotations in a small English 18th-century hand on front flyleaves, citing references to the book; remains of removed bookplate on front pastedown. ***
First edition of the first catalogue of the first public library of Liguria, comprising the letters A-C only; no more was published. Although its organizational principles are eccentric, the detailed entries make this catalogue one of the earliest and most thorough bibliographies of Italian literature.
Established in 1648 in Ventimiglia, the Biblioteca Aprosiana was named after its founder, an erudite and temperamental Augustinian monk whose (adopted) name (his given name was Ludovico) is disguised in the title in an anagram. Thanks to his wide network of correspondents among Italian and European intellectuals, Aprosio managed to enlarge the already significant core of his own library by attracting gifts from collectors and scholars throughout Italy. Perhaps this focus inspired his peculiar decision to organize the catalogue by donors (fautori), in alphabetical order of their first names (luckily there is an index, by last name of authors). The catalogue, which occupies pp. 262-645, extends from the donor Agostino Calcagni to Curzio Picotti. While acknowledging the accuracy of the entries, Asor-Rosa in the DBI criticized Aprosio’s “extremely rich and meticulous academic erudition” for being “pedantic and unsystematic, suffocating, disproportionate, and mostly an end in itself” (rare book cataloguers beware!).
The first section of the catalogue, which was edited by Lorenzo Legati, and financed by the dedicatee Giovanni Niccolò Cavanna, is the main source of biographical information about Aprosio. The brief Part 2 (pp. 667-682) contains a series of epigrams to Cavanna by Pier-Francesco Minozzi. In 1734 Johann Christoph Wolf published a considerably shortened Latin translation of the text.
By the end of Aprosio’s lifetime, the library counted between 8000 and 12000 volumes. It was largely dispersed in 1798, with the Napoleonic suppression of the religious orders; portions were acquired by powerful local families, and others went to various libraries in Genoa.
The fetching library scene of the frontispiece shows a librarian on a ladder handing down a large volume to a reader; in front is a desk with a globe; in the foreground an onlooker contemplates the scene, and above an angel with a trumpet announces the Aprosiana.
I locate only 2 North American holdings (Thomas Fisher and Grolier Club). Besterman, World Bibliography of Bibliographies 3213; Melzi, Dizionario di opere anonime e pseudonime di scrittori italiani 1: 69; Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography, its history and development 67; Pollard & Ehrman, Distribution of Books by Catalogue pp. 262-263; Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani 1: 650-653. Item #4274