Monthly Archives: October 2018

Clare Hills-Nova

28 October 2018

The Faithful Shepherd and me: a personal Odyssey

The Taylor Institution Library’s editions of Il Pastor fido, by G.B. Guarini (1538-1612)
 Part I

Battista Guarini, Il pastor fido, scene from Act 1 (engraving, c. 1602; See Berthold Wiese, Erasmo Pèrcopo: Geschichte der Italienischen Litteratur, Leipzig und Wien 1910 [Wikimedia Commons])

We go back quite a long way, the Faithful Shepherd and me. He was born some time during the 1580s and has been reborn speaking many different languages other than his native Italian: French, English, Spanish, Dutch, German, Neapolitan, Cretan (and Greek), Polish, Swedish, and Portuguese, and even Croatian, Latin, and, in a parody, the dialect of Bergamo; but latterly he has had to content himself mainly with his native tongue. This is the story of our acquaintance, published in two parts, with Part II appearing later in the year.

I was appointed to the staff of the Taylor Institution Library in 1971 and it must have been very early on that the Librarian, Giles Barber, suggested that I build upon the Library’s collection of editions of Giovanni Battista Guarini’s famous Il Pastor fido, a pastoral tragi-comedy set in Arcadia, first published in Venice in 1589. In An annotated checklist of editions of the works of Battista Guarini, first published online by the Library in 2010 and, in a slightly revised version, in 20141, I wrote at length, in the introduction, of the history of the Taylorian’s Guarini collection.

In summary, its origin lies in the 33 editions amassed by Robert Finch (1783-1830), a Balliol man, who bequeathed his library and other artefacts to the University.2 Damned, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, as a ‘pretentious ass’ and a ‘supposititious officer of dragoons’,3 it was impossible, said an earlier biographer, ‘to hold him in very high respect as a connoisseur of literature or of art’ and yet his library was ‘good enough to supply to Oxford University several thousand volumes which it did not own’.4 The 33 Guarinis ended up in the Taylorian and this nucleus was added to notably by the Library’s second Librarian, Dr Heinrich Krebs (in post 1871-1921) during the 1870s.

Indeed, it was Dr Krebs who acquired for the Library a copy of the first edition of the Pastor fido (dated 1590 but in fact December 1589) and by 1882 he was able to talk of the gathering together (originally on the upper shelves of the Taylorian’s Main Reading Room gallery) of ‘not less than 126 different editions and versions in various languages of this celebrated pastoral’.5

Il pastor fido (Venice: Gio. Battista Bonfadino, MDXC. [1590])

(He managed to include among all those Guarinis – and it is still there – La fida pastora, Sir Richard Fanshawe’s Latin translation of John Fletcher’s The faithful shepherdess (1658), an early example, maybe, of gender inclusivity!) My checklist, which attempts to list editions of all Guarini’s works apart from the more minor anthologized extracts, has, I hope, been of use (it has certainly been quoted by booksellers and even by the occasional librarian and academic). Although it could be used as a springboard for a more serious attempt at compiling a full-scale bibliography of Guarini’s works, much remains to be done. There are a great many editions listed that I have not seen, even in online digitized form, and, while I have built up a large collection of photocopies or downloads of title pages and illustrations, I am very conscious of the magnitude of the task. It is likely that a full listing and description of all Guarini editions would need to be a large-scale collaborative undertaking, probably best done online, but I personally shall have to content myself with a possible third version of my checklist in, I hope, the not too distant future.

My hope that more might be done by way of attaching images to the entries in the list (I was thinking simply of images of title pages) has been implemented in a way I did not initially envisage by the appearance of Laura Riccò’s masterful 2-volume work on illustrations of the pastoral genre, the second volume of which is devoted entirely to the illustrations, a considerable number of them taken from editions of Guarini.6 Professor Riccò graciously tweaks a few of the entries in my list and generously introduces me to a few editions that I did not know about. She quite legitimately replaces the Anglo-French bias of my listings by giving, wherever possible, locations in the penisola and speaks very kindly of the checklist as a ‘fondamentale soccorso’ and a ‘massiccia ricognizione’, seeing me perhaps as a scout reconnoitring a somewhat difficult and even unknown territory, no attempt having been made since that of Vittorio Rossi in his 1886 monograph on Guarini to list editions of Il Pastor fido.7 Relying heavily on earlier bibliographers, some of them not entirely reliable, Rossi listed about 180 editions, of which he had personally seen only just over 80. My own list brings the figure up to about 430, with a further 40 or so published since 1886.  If, as Professor Riccò suggests, my list ‘stupisce anche gli studiosi più avvertiti con la documentazione del successo davvero immenso del Pastor fido’, it is surely time for a proper descriptive bibliography of Guarini to be undertaken ‒ but not by me. It is nice to think that it might even be possible to construct a fully integrated database which would bring together texts, drawings, woodcuts, engravings, frescoes, paintings, porcelain and other examples of the fine arts, such as the fan in the Royal Collection depicting the game of Blind Man’s Buff from Act III of the play.8

Like all collectors, I have had my disappointments. Back in the day, before the advent of online bookselling databases like AbeBooks and Maremagnum, a lot would depend on the speed with which the post office could deliver booksellers’ catalogues to the Library. In Birmingham, the Professor of Italian, Humphrey Whitfield, a no mean Guarini scholar himself, was on the lookout for editions to add to the University Library’s collection and he could easily snap up a delicious morsel, even from a Blackwell’s catalogue, before the Taylorian had time to pick up the phone. (As I record in the introduction to my checklist, it was Humphrey who goaded me into producing the first preliminary draft of the list at the end of 1994, just a short time before his death in the February of the following year.) In December 1975, Birmingham beat us to a 1596 Venice edition of the Pastor fido. (I still have the card on which is pasted the entry from the catalogue with my annotation: ‘Too late!!’.) It is still the only copy of this edition in the UK. Sometimes we would have to pass over a desirable edition owing to its exorbitant price or because, although it had an interesting provenance, we already had a copy of the particular edition. So it was that we let an early edition of Sir Richard Fanshawe’s translation of the Pastor fido, which contained an autograph poem from the translator to a friend, Thomas Brooke, ‘before an extended voyage’, wing its way  across the Atlantic to a collector in Marblehead, Ohio. (I still rather regret this but I have a photographic copy of the poem which he very generously let me have.)

Il pastor fido ([S.l.]: [s.n.], [1727?])

We also passed up the opportunity of acquiring an undated but late eighteenth-century edition of the Italian text which happened to have belonged to the poet Shelley, which naturally helped to push up the price astronomically. (The Taylorian already had a copy, as did the Bodleian.)

However, the Friends of the Bodleian were able to buy for that library a 1639 edition of the Pastor fido which had belonged to the poet Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681) and which had been a present from her husband, the regicide John Hutchinson (1615–1664).9 And there was one infuriating occasion when, although successfully ordered, the book simply disappeared. This was a copy of the Pastor fido published in Ronciglione by Pompilio Totti in 1632 and it would have made a valuable addition to our collection. But for the most part we were able to obtain what we felt we could afford, with the result that, from 1971 to my retirement in 2004, the Library acquired some 80 editions of Guarini’s works, mainly of the Pastor fido, and, since 2004, it has continued to add to the collection from time to time. The Taylorian’s collection can thus, I think it can be said without fear of contradiction, be deemed the most comprehensive in the world and some of the Italian editions are not even recorded by the Catalogo del Servizio Bibliografico Nazionale, which maintains the Italian national catalogue.

Below: Some other Pastor fido editions held by the Taylorian. (See Part II, coming later this year.)

David Thomas
Assistant Librarian, Taylor Institution Library, 1971-2004


1 David H. Thomas, An annotated checklist of editions of the works of Battista Guarini. Oxford: Taylor Institution Library, 2014

2 Finch’s books are listed in George Parker, A catalogue of the books in the Finch Collection, Oxford. Oxford: E. Pickard Hall and J.H. Stacy, 1874

3 Alan Bell, ‘Robert Finch (1783-1830)’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004) (Published online 23 September 2004 [accessible within the University network only])

4 Elizabeth Nitchie, The Reverend Colonel Finch. New York: Columbia University Press, 1940

5 Heinrich Krebs, ‘The earliest French version of Guarini’s “Pastor fido”’, The Academy XXI (Jan.-June 1882; n.s. 507, 21 Jan. 1882), 46

6 Laura Riccò, L’arcadia “in mano”: illustrazioni editorali della favola pastorale (1583-1678). 2 vols. Roma: Bulzoni Editore, 2012

7 Vittorio Rossi, Battista Guarini ed il Pastor fido: studio biografico-critico con documenti inediti. Torino: Ermanno Loescher, 1886

8 Jane Roberts, Prudence Sutcliffe, Susan Mayor, Unfolding pictures: fans in the Royal Collection (London: Royal Collection Publications, 2005), pp. 42-43

9 See David Norbrook, ‘Lucy Hutchinson and Il pastor fido’, Bodleian Library Record 25/2 (October 2012), 269-273

Editions mentioned in the text

Battista Guarini. Il pastor fido, tragicomedia pastorale. Venetia: Gio. Battista Bonfadino, MDXC [1590]

Battista Guarini. Il pastor fido, tragicomedia pastorale. Venetia: Francesco de’ Franceschi Senese, 1596

Battista Guarini. Il pastor fido … Con le Rime. Ronciglione: Pompilio Totti, 1632

Battista Guarini. Il pastor fido: tragicomedia pastorale. Trevigi: Girolamo Righettini, MDCXXXIX [1639]

John Fletcher. La fida pastora: comœdia pastoralis. London: G. Bedell & T.Collins, 1658