[Buonarroti, Filippo]: Osservazioni sopra alcuni frammenti di vasi antichi di vetro ornati di figure trovati ne' cimiteri di Roma. (Observations on some fragments of antique glass vases decorated with figures, found in Roman cemeteries.)
Firenze (Florence), Grandducal Press, Jacopo Guiducci & Santi Franchi, 1716. Folio (28 x 19 cms). [viii] + xxviii + 324 pp. + 31 engraved plates at end (nos. 3 & 25 printed from 2 plates each) + 4 engraved plates in text (3 folding). Large printer’s device on title, page 1 with engraved head-piece, woodcut illustations in text.
Contemporary vellum, leather label to spine. Binding entirely sound with strong hinges, but lightly soiled and stained with small corner loss to spine label, a wormole at gutter of front fly-leaf and half-title, two folding plates slightly torn at gutter, only slightly affecting image but with no loss whatsoever. An attractive copy. De-accessioned from Stockholm university, with one small unobtrusive stamp near top edge of front pastedown.
Provenance: German Rationalist theologian and philologist Johann August Ernesti (1707-1781) with undated ownership inscription to foot of title.
First edition of the earliest monograph on Roman and paleo-christian gold glass, the gold-glass roundels cemented to the walls of the catacombs to serve as grave-markers, of which hundreds have survived. A selection of these are reproduced on the 31 numbered plates. The textual illustrations are facsimiles of tomb inscriptions. A separate dissertation on ancient ivory diptychs entitled ”Osservazioni sopra dittici antichi d’avorio” (on pp. 229-83) is devoted to figurative 6th century ivory folding note-books, known as consular diptychs, and are illustrated on the additional 4 engraved plates.
The author, Filippo Buonarroti (1661-1733) was a great-grand nephew of Michelangelo and an official at the court of Cosimo III Grand Duke of Tuscany, who devoted his leisure time to antiquarian researches.
”Gold glass or gold sandwich glass is a luxury form of glass where a decorative design in gold leaf is fused between two layers of glass. First found in Hellenistic Greece, it is especially characteristic of the Roman glass of the Late Empire in the 3rd and 4th century AD, where the gold decorated roundels of cups and other vessels were often cut out of the piece they had originally decorated and cemented to the walls of the catacombs of Rome as grave markers for the small recesses where bodies were buried. About 500 pieces of gold glass used in this way have been recovered. [...] The first significant publication on them was by Filippo Buonarroti in 1716, Osservazioni sopra alcuni frammenti di vasi antichi di vetro ornate di figure trovati nei cimiteri di Roma ("Observations on some fragments of antique glass vases decorated with figures, found in the cemeteries of Rome"), in which he made the extraordinary, almost proto-Romantic assertion that the aesthetic crudity of early Christian art, often remarked by connoisseurs of Roman arts, had served to intensify the piety of the worshipper, an early expression of feeling for primitive art” (Wikipedia).