{The Early Modern mythographic tradition part 2}

“Conti’s book was almost a mythological library by itself”

Allen, Mysteriously Meant 1970

429J Conti, Natalis

Natalis Comitis Mythologiae sive explicationis fabvlarvm libri decem : In Quibus Omnia Prope Naturalis Et Moralis Philosophiae dogmata in Veterum Fabulis contenta fuisse perspicuè demonstratur ; Opus cuiusvis Facultatis studiosis perutile ac propé necessarium. Accessit G. Linocerii Mvsarvm Mythologia, & Anonymi Observationum in totam de Dijs Gentium narrationem Libellvs. Adiectae sunt insuper novissimae huic, post Germanicam & Gallicam, Editioni elegantissimae Deorum imagines, & eruditissimae Mythologiae M. Antonij Tritonij Vtinensis. Omnia summo studio, & exquisito labore denuòemendata.

Patavii [Padua] : Ex typographia Pauli Frambotti, 1637

Quarto: (225 x 155 mm) [A]4, b12, c6, Aa-Zz Aa-Tt8, Vv2 (B4v misprinted on B6v and vice versa) ;  a folded plate (attached between c6 and A1) illustrates the zodiacal signs, depicting the celestial order as well as 106 woodcuts in the text. Second Illustrated Edition 9Fifth overall): Omnia summo studio, & exquisito labore denuo emendata. ( with great zeal and exquisit emendations) The pagination starts anew after p. 614, although signatures run continuously through the repagination. This copy is bound in original full parchment binding. Title handwritten vertically on the spine.

In Addition to Conti’s work there are additional writings:

  1. Notae ad mythologicos hosce libros Friderici Sylbvrghii. (Sylburg) -p.557-558
  2. Viuariensis mythologiae musarum libellus / Geofredi Linocerii p.559-578 –
  3. Notae. Ad mythologiam musarum F.S.(Sylburg) p.579-583 — . Veteres philosophorum ethnicorum de dijs sententiae Gregorio Giraldi-– p.584-587– .
  4. In mythologiam N. Comitis observationum libellus anonymvs lectori — -p.588-614.
  5. Mythologia — / M. Antonii Tritonii Vtinensis.  1-55

The first edition of this work was published in Venzia in 1568, several editions followed confirming the great success of the book, but only starting from the fourth edition of 1616, was the work was published with illustrations that we also find in this fifth. edition. – Brunet II, 185 (“ouvrage qui eut beaucoup de succès dans son temps”). – Graesse II, 236 (cheeky: “Aujourd’hui cet ouvrage est oublié avec raison”).

Conti believed that mythological fables contained the truths of science and philosophy, and that the sages had chosen this form to facilitate their dissemination. This point of view privileges and focus upon the Moral and Ethical events in the lives in the Ancient Gods and from these how they exemplify the manner in which Humans are to behave. For this reason, he classified the myths according to their content. In the 19th century, Conti was considered the forerunner of the Symbolist school in the field of the history of religions (Jung, Eliade, Cassirer belong to this hermeneutical current that considers myth as an essential intuition of the world).

Of FRIEDRICH SYLBURG (1536-1596) The Enc. Britanica biography follows.: German classical scholar, son of a farmer, was born at Wetter near Marburg. He studied at Marburg, Jena, Geneva, and, lastly, Paris, where his teacher was Henry Estienne (Stephanus), to whose great Greek Thesaurus Sylburg afterwards made important contributions. Returning to Germany, he held educational posts at Neuhaus near Worms and at Lich near Giessen, where he edited a useful edition of the Instilutiones in graecam linguam (1580) of Nicolaus Clenardus (Cleynaerts, 1495-1542) In 1583 he resigned his post at Lich and moved to Frankfort-on-the-Main to act as corrector and editor of Greek texts for the enterprising publisher Johann Wechel. To his Frankfort period belong the editions of Pausanias, Herodotus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus (one of his best pieces of work and highly praised by Niebuhr), Aristotle, the Greek and Latin sources for the history of the Roman emperors and the Ilepi cvvr&Zeus of Apollonius Dyscolus. In 1591 he removed to Heidelberg, where he became librarian to the elector palatine. The Wechel series was continued by Hieronymus Commelinus of Heidelberg, for whom Sylburg edited Clement of Alexander, Justin Martyr, the Etymologicum magnum, the Scriptores de re rustica, the Greek gnomic poets, Xenophon, Nonnus and other works. All Sylburg’s editions show great critical power and indefatigable industry. He died on the 17th of February 1596, a victim of over- work.

See F. Koldewey, in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie; K. W. Justi, in Strieder’s Hessische Gelehrten-Geschichte, xviii. (Marburg, 1819); C. Bursian, Geschichle der classischen Philologie in Deutschland (1883); J. E. Sandys, Hist. of Class. Schol., ii. (1908), p. 270.


This edition also contains De Venatione, a text dedicated to hunting, and the Mythology of the Muses by the French naturalist Geoffroy Linocier.

¶some pages by Gregorio Giraldo with the judgments of old philosophers about the gods¶ and an anonymous book of observations on the mythological work of the author and finally a work by Antonio Tritone.

Natale CONTI He was probably born in Milan in 1520, where his family, of Roman origin, had moved. Child, he was then brought by his parents to Venice. The only sure testimony about the place of his birth is an observation by Conti himself. In his Historiae (l. IX, 1581, c. 182), after praising the courtesy of the Milanese, he adds: neque illud dico, quod our eo migrarint Roma antiquitus, unde propter bella postea Venetias, cum essem parvulus profugerunt, sed quia res docet ita esse. In his works, Conti constantly defines himself as Venetus, and this is what Foscarini considers him (p. 303), without denying on the other hand his birth in Milan by chance, following the Picinellis (p. 325). According to the most recent biographer, Cranz (p. 31), Conti, from a Venetian family, would have been born and died in Milan. In the second half of the sixteenth century, he collected the extensive mythological and legendary material collected during his research in a large encyclopedia, dedicated to the French king Charles IX, published in Venice in 1568 under the title Mythologiae sive explicationes fabularum libri X. Lo Schoell (p. 27) and Guillon (p. 121) cite a first edition. of 1551, Tiraboschi (p. 843) one of 1561-64: if there really were, these editions can presumably be considered drafts of the Venetian one of 1568. It is a mythological repertoire, compiled on Latin and Greek sources, as consulted directly , such as second-hand, which Conti, according to what he wrote at the end of the work, was induced to publish, against his will, by Renaldo Ferreri and Valerio Faenzi. As already observed above, Conti’s assumption of Mythology was to demonstrate that almost all the principles of natural and moral philosophy are contained in ancient fables.

Brunet II, 185. BM. STC. Italian XVII Cent. I 256.[f82]: Bruni,; p. 110, no. 1584; M. FOSCARINI, On Venetian literature 1854. see Jean Seznec’s “Survival of the Pagan Gods” (1953)



343J  Vincenso Cartari.  1531–1569

Seconda novissima editione delle Imagini de gli dei delli antichi di Vicenzo Cartari …Ridotte da capo a piedi alle loro reali, & non più per l’adietro osseruate simiglianze. cauate da’marmi, bronzi, medaglie, gioie, & altre memorie antiche; con esquisito studio, & particolare dligenza da Lorenzo Pignoria … Aggionteui le annotationi del medismo sopra tutta l’opera, & vn discorso intorno le deità dell’Indie orientali, & occidentali, con le loro figure tratte da gl’originali, che si conseruano nelle Galleri de’principi, & ne’musei delle persone priuate. Con le allegorie sopra le imagini di Cesare Malfatti … Et vn catalogo di cento più famosi dei della gentilità. Con l’aggiunta d’vn’altro catalogo de gl’autori antichi, & moderni, che hanno trattato questa materia, ordinato & raccolto dal medesimo Pignoria che ha accresciute le annotationi & aggiunte molte imagini.

In Padova, Nella stamparia di Pietro Paolo Tozzi. 1626           $4,500


Quarto, 9 1/4 x 6 1/2 in 224×162 mm.  Signatures:   ‡8 ≠≠1,a6, ‡‡4 [∏2 FOLDOUTS] A-Z8 ,AA-OO8  (38 pages, 589 pages illustrations, two  folded plates) This copy is bound in later boards , It is one of the cleanest copies I have Had or seen with large margins and good impressions.SECOND EDITION :

This is the First Edition in which the antiquarian and egyptologist who was also  interested in the sciences, and a friend of Galileo. Lorenzo Pignoria added  his appendix Seconda Parte delle Imagini de gli Dei Indiani displays detailed illustrations of some archeological remains portraying Mexican, Egyptian, Indian and Japanese gods, seeking ‘a sort of unique visual language in pre-Christian religions.  It is bound in ….

As many of you already know I am greatly influenced by the book : Mysteriously Meant: The Rediscovery of Pagan Symbolism and Allegorical Interpretation in the Renaissance

Published January 1, 1970 by Professor Don Cameron Allen (who died in 1972).
Unknown 2

‘the objects discovered in the soil of antiquity were as hungry for allegorical exposition as the texts, and there were antiquarians who could extract as much  wisdom from the reverse of a coin … as the best literary interpreters’ (p. 247).

Dreaming by night under the open Skie,                                                     And waking cri’d, This is the Gate of Heav’n                                                                                                                                           Each Stair mysteriously was meant, nor stood                                                                                        There alwayes, but drawn up to Heav’n somtimes                                                                     Viewless, and underneath a bright Sea flow’d

(book 3 .514-518)

The Current edition of Cartari in my inventory is… PRINTED In Padova, Nella stamparia di Pietro Paolo Tozzi. 1626

IMG_4226 2

It has  two double-page woodcuts and 227 full-page and in-text woodcuts of the ancient gods by Cesare Malfatti.  first published in Venice in 1556, (without wood cuts and there after each edition added  more woodcuts of the ancient gods) This edition the “Seconda novissima”.   This is the First Edition in which the antiquarian and egyptologist who was also  interested in the sciences, and a friend of Galileo. Lorenzo Pignoria added  his appendix Seconda Parte delle Imagini de gli Dei Indiani


This is a very nicely illustrated book on the the images of God throughout the world. These woodcuts by Filippo Ferroverde were made for the 1615 edition to replace and correct and introduce new imagesthe earlier engravings of Zalteare.   The captioned images of the pagan gods are in the Italian vernacular.  The systematic integration of text and image constituted an original approach to the classical myths, and the use of the vernacular made the text accessible to learned and unlearned alike. Designed for Painters and sculptors and poets alike.  Cartari’s iconographical, symbolic interpretation of the images of the pagan gods as they were represented in antiquity and discussed by Renaissance antiquarians proved to be an enormously popular approach to pagan myth.  Cartari’s Alegorical readings as well as the woodcut images were popular and influential, early modern literature abounds with about atributations and direct quotes as well as Cartari’s sources quoted directly, rather than catarrh, Robert Burton in the Anatomy of Melancholy  does this quite often.  Burton writes:


” These images I say were all out as gross as the shapes in which they did represent them:  Jupiter with a ram’s head, Mercury a dog’s, Pan like a Goat, Hecate with three heads, one with a beard, another without; see more in Carterius and Verdurius of their monstrous forms and ugly pictures”

These Images were well known to  artists,  from the sixteenth century to certainly nineteenth century.   Some of them include: Shakespeare, Pierre de Ronsard, Lope de Vega,  John Marston, George Chapman, Milton, Ben Jonson, Shelly, Rossetti, Blake.

¶  Perhaps as Interesting are the hundreds of source Which Catari refers to or quotes.  Eusebius’s Praeparatio evangelica, Saint Augustine, Aristotle, Boethius, Pausanias, Macrobius, Plutacrh, Petrarch, Seneca, “Sudias” , Boccaccio’s Genealogie deorum gentilium, and many many more! 

The 1615 edition has annotations of  philologist Lorenzo Pignoria who added extra text and notes.  In 1626 the present copy includes the The Seconda Parte delle Imagini de gli Dei Indiani, is a second volume containing a short series of images of Mexican and Japanese deities. I  find the second section quite remarkable!


His source for the American gods was the Mexican Codex Vaticanus 3738. It was  created between 1570 and 1589, either in the highland of Mexico or it may have already existed in Italy, similarly as in the case of the Paris Codex Telleriano Remensis; a copy of a joint original draft which Robert H. Barlow named the “Codex Huitzilopochtli”. While the Codex Telleriano Remensis clearly is written by several writers, the Codex Vaticanus 3738 contains only one style, however divided into cosmological, mythological and ethnographical sections. The hypothetically collected manuscript served as a draft for the final work and it is this fact without a doubt which accounts for the great value of this manuscript.  The seemingly well-known author, Dominikaner Pedro de los Rios (who the Codex Rios is named after) is responsible for the Italian text from the original 101 folio written on European paper.


 ¶  In his prologue, Pignoria follows the argument that paganism alias idolatry (whether Greco-Roman or contemporary) is a foreshadowing of Christianity, because these false religions derived from the Christian truth. He was not a believer in polygenesis: 350 years before Thor Heyerdahl, he maintained that the Egyptians had the seafaring skills to reach Mexico: after all, many accounts of America were thought mere fables until Columbus went there and proved them true.

IMG_4259IMG_4260IMG_4262IMG_4263IMG_4264IMG_4234IMG_4243IMG_4241IMG_4244IMG_4250IMG_4252IMG_4249IMG_4254IMG_4257IMG_4258IMG_4259IMG_4260IMG_4262IMG_4263IMG_4264With the “Images of the gods of the ancients”, Cartari created the first, very successful Italian mythographic manual in the vernacular, widespread and translated throughout modern Europe.

343J harp

Above all, however, it introduces the millennial heritage of classic fables and exegeses, of Egyptian, Middle Eastern, Saxon openings, to a new interpretation. The divinities and their processions of minor creatures, legendary anecdotes and identifying attributes follow one another according to an iconic and selective cut. In triumphs imbued with refined neo-Platonic Petrarchism and emblematic Renaissance picta poesis, only the figurative and distinctive aspects of the mythical characters parade: so that all things related to ancient figures are “fully told”, “with the images of almost all the gods, and the reasons why they were so painted ». Thus, the “Imagini” meet the favor of educated readers and elegant courtiers, painters and potters, poets and craftsmen. They prepare a sort of “user manual” ready with the poet’s ink or the artist’s brush, an evocative collection of “figurative booklets” taken from both the manner of Paolo Veronese or Giorgio Vasari, as well as the classicism of the Carracci and Nicolas Poussin. Finally, they reveal themselves to be a summa scholar capable of attracting notes and revisions: the Paduan antiquarian Lorenzo Pignoria, in 1626, adds archaeological and comparative appendages, interested in the remote reign of the pharaohs as far as exotic oriental and New World idols are concerned.


         *   *.   *

#1 Vincenzo Cartari, Images of the Gods of the Ancients: The First Italian Mythography, translated and annotated by John Mulryan. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies vol. 396. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2012. 

Praz 36; Cicognara 4686; Graesse II.56; Nagler XXII.15, ; Harvard 156.108; JCB Library catalogue; 2:198; Sabin 11104.;  BM. STC.(Ital.) 152.; ‘Choix 4280. See Also: Mortimer, Italian, 108 note. Caillet 2047 (French trans.) Brunet I,1601. Graesse II,56.Univ. Cat of Art, 287. Arntzen & Rainwater H35.Dekesel 16th, C11.                                                                                     And :

1 )M. FOSCARINI, On Venetian literature 1854.
2) Jean Seznec’s “Survival of the Pagan Gods” (1953))Sonia Maffei, ‘Le imagini de i Dei degli antichi di Vincenzo Cartari: Dalla poesia all’archeologia’ http://dinamico2.unibg.it/cartari/leimaginideiDei.html
3) Marco Urdapilleta Muñoz, ‘El bestiario medieval en las crónicas de Indias (siglos XV y XVI)’, Latino América, Revista de Estudios Latinoamericanos, 58 (2014), 237-70. 5160.235500
4) Miguel A. Rojas Mix, América imaginaria (Barcelona, 1992) LB.31.b.10858
5) Rosa López Torrijos, La mitología en la pintura española del Siglo de Oro (Madrid, 1985). YV.1988.b.1010 María Jesús Lacarra, Juan Manuel Cacho Blecua, Lo imaginario en la conquista de América (Zaragoza, 1990). YA.1997.a.7376
6) Mercedes Aguirre at 11:59:11 in Americas , Collections , Latin America , Medieval history , Mexico , Rare books. BL.
7) Mexican Codex Vaticanus 3738