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Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: The Strife of Love in a Dream Hardcover – October, 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Hardcover, October, 1999
$79.82 $30.00

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From Library Journal

Published in 1499, this standard of the Renaissance is here translated for the first time into English. The text apparently is difficult, and earlier efforts to produce an English-language text were abandoned. Essentially a romance, this tells the story of protagonist Poliphilo's quest for the love of Polia. More for hard-core academic collections, especially at this price.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.


During December of 1499 in Venice, Aldus Manutius finished printing Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: The Strife of Love in a Dream, a brilliantly designed folio filled with elaborate engraved plates that may have bankrupted its publisher and has nearly bankrupted collectors ever since. ...It is hard to think of any book quite so sensuous. It intoxicated European writers for two centuries, although few were so foolish as to try imitation, for Colonna invented his own language, an Italian so crammed with words borrowed from recondite Latin sources that it bewildered even his learned countrymen. At last, Joscelyn Godwin, a professor of music at Colgate University known widely for studies of ancient mystical religions, provides the first clear English version. No translation, if it is to be useful, could reproduce the effect of the original, but Godwin gives a hint, rendering a small passage literally and hilariously. -- The New York Times Book Review, D.J.R. Bruckner, 26 December 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 474 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson (October 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500019428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500019429
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 8.5 x 12.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,822,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Bromka on December 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dr Joscelyn Godwin, musicologist author of that most excellent book on the music of the spheres "Harmonies of Heaven and Earth" claimed that Hypnerotomachia was one of the most significant and highly prized books of the Renaissance, so I simply had to experience this for myself.
I've been plugging away at it now for almost 9 months, and nothing yet has happened. And evidently, that's the way it should be. This is a dream book. An insomniac's delight. It moves as slowly through its obsessive descriptions of the monuments, carved architectural ornaments, jewelled clothing, and occassional naked limbs of Parnassus as fruit ripening in perpetual springtime. It's a trick: A cure for lost love and reconciliation with the unattainable. And if you're having trouble remembering your own dreams, Hypnerotomachia might just help you develop the an inner language of words, symbols, and images to bridge waking and sleeping realities.
The publisher Thames & Hudson has done an exemplary job fabricating a beautiful presentation volume, reproducing all of the engravings and typogography of the original. This is truly a book of substance: a 486 page artifact of sturdy paper weighing in at 6 lbs!
(A small warning: even though Dr Godwin gives such thorough and helpful background information at the beginning, as well as charts and appendices for translation of the Latin and Greek phrases and Goddess names, do yourself the favor of avoiding p xiii, wherein the ending is blithly given away).
How to rate this book? It's not for everyone. Masons might like it. Lutenists maybe. And night owls. I'm glad I bought mine.
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Format: Hardcover
Francesco Colonna's legendary "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili" is a book that captures the spirit of its time and place in a way few others do. Here, in the magical dream of the hero Poliphilus, we see classical antiquity through the eyes of the Italian renaissance, and it is not the view most students of the classics get today through Aristotle or Cicero - think instead of the Corpus Hermeticum, Neoplatonists like Plotinus, or of later Latin writers like Apuleius. It is not only in its text but in its format, its typesetting, and its illustrations, that the original edition of 1499 exemplified its age. That edition is esteemed by bibliophiles and students of typography as one of history's great landmarks in the art of book making.
The publishers of this edition have tried to reproduce, as much as is possible, the feeling of the original, while at the same time producing it on a commercially feasible scale. This leads, inevitably, to some compromises. The typesetting is very well done by modern digital techniques, the presswork is standard offset lithography and the paper a stiff dead white wove offset grade. Consequently the tactile character of the book is quite unlike original fifteenth- and sixteenth-century books. A private-press printer like Mardersteig's Officina Bodoni, or even a high-grade commercial book printer like the Stinehour Press, could have done a handsomer and more authentic job, but the book's price, already high, would then have been stratospheric. This said, the size and appearance of the pages are about as close in their resemblance to the original as is feasible using the techniques employed. A cream laid paper, more closely resembling the original, could just as easily and as economically have been used, and it is a pity that it was not.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is fascinating. It attempts not only to translate Colonna's mixed Latin/Italian texts, but also to reproduce the look and feel of the original 1499 Aldine edition. Of course, all the woodcuts are there, and the typeface and layout also attempt to reproduce the original, which has long been famed as one of the most beautiful books ever printed.

The architectural and other illustrations are strange, but they are perhaps the most intriguing thing about the book. Some are reminiscent of Beardsley; others bring to mind Baudelaire's vision of a city made entirely of marble and metal, from which all plants have been banished as asymmetrical.

It will take quite a while to get through this. The peculiar mixed-language flavour of Colonna's prose is hard to reproduce in translation. The work is a long list of vaguely erotic dream-processions of gods and bulls and naked Greeks, with extensive descriptions of the architectural settings they appear in. With its unsparing strings of superlatives, it often reads like the florid descriptions of dishes found on the menu of an overreaching restaurant.

In other words, I may not finish this, but it is fun to look at.
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By A Customer on May 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've been hearing about the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili for yearsas some sort of mysterious work that inspired generations of artistsand writers. Original copies fetch enormous sums at auctions, and I'm glad that a complete modern edition has been produced for English speakers. Fortunately, Joscelyn Godwin didn't try to reproduce Francesco Colonna's difficult and idiosyncratic Italian in English, otherwise the book would have been as difficult to read as 'Ulysses' and needed another volume just for footnotes.
Modern readers have little patience with description, and that's the sort writing that makes up the bulk of the HP. There's a story of love that keeps the protaganist moving from scene to scene, but the descriptions and woodcuts are the life of the book. It could serve as a pattern book for artists, sculpters, woodcarvers, and furniture makers. The illustrations are beautifully done although esoteric and strange to the modern eye. The graceful prose makes this enormous book easy to read.
The binding and printing are top-form. The cover is full-cloth, and the reproductions of the woodcuts are clear. The paper is an easy-on-the-eyes cream color. The book is physically large and requires a slant-top reading table if one wants to read it for more than a few minutes. The size and quality of the HP reminds me that books once were valued objects rather than the cheap and disposable items they now mostly are...
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