New Library acquisition: Il primo libro dell'opere toscane di M. Laura Battiferra degli Ammannati

Author: Tracy Bergstrom

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has recently acquired the following item:

Il primo libro dell'opere toscane di M. Laura Battiferra degli Ammannati. Florence: Appresso i Giunti, MDLX.

Battiferri Tavola Small

We recognize Laura Battiferri today as an exceptionally erudite and cosmopolitan figure. Born in 1523 in Urbino, her father Giovan'Antonio Battiferri was a humanist, educated in Latin and Greek, who enjoyed the patronage of Cardinal Giulio de' Medici (later Pope Clement VII). Married initially to court organist Vittorio Sereni, Battiferri was widowed at the age of 26. She then relocated to Rome, perhaps to the Battiferri residence in the Borgo, whose elaborate exterior decorations by Vincenzo da San Gimignano are recorded within Vasari’s Lives of the Artists. Battiferri remarried sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati in 1550 in a marriage that provided both partners a rich intellectual circle of artists and scholars.  

This anthology of 187 poems is Laura Battiferri’s first publication, printed in Florence in 1560 by the Giunti press. The volume begins with a dedicatory letter to Eleonora da Toledo and culminates with a sonnet to her husband Cosimo de' Medici on the occasion of his recent conquest of Siena. In between, the Petrarchan sonnets range in theme from Battiferri’s longing for Rome to admiration for her spouse. The volume includes 41 sonnets composed by her male correspondents including Benedetto Varchi, Annibale Caro, Benvenuto Cellini, and Agnolo Bronzino. The portrait of Laura Battiferri by Bronzino now in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, in which she is shown holding a manuscript of Petrarch’s sonnets, likely may be dated to 1560/61 in conjunction with the publication of this work.

This copy is bound with Battiferri’s second book of poetry, lacking its title page. Published in 1564, also in Florence by the Giunti, this latter work is titled I sette salmi penitentiali.