Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

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The Strife of Love in a Dream  

Poliphilo kneels before Queen Eleuterylida
Author Francesco Colonna
Original title 'Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, ubi
humana omnia non nisi so-
mnium esse ostendit, at-
que obiter plurima
scitu sanequam
digna com-
Translator Joscelyn Godwin
Illustrator Benedetto Bordon (?)
Country Italy
Language Italian / Latin
Genre(s) Romance, allegorical fantasy
Publisher Aldus Manutius
Publication date 1499
Published in
Media type Print (hardcover)

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (in English Poliphilo's Strife of Love in a Dream, from Greek hypnos, ‘sleep’, eros, ‘love’, and mache, ‘fight’) is a romance by Francesco Colonna and a famous example of early printing. First published in Venice, 1499, in an elegant page layout, with refined woodcut illustrations in an Early Renaissance style, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili presents a mysterious arcane allegory in which Poliphilo pursues his love Polia through a dreamlike landscape, and is at last reconciled with her by the Fountain of Venus.


[edit] History

The book was printed by Aldus Manutius in Venice in December 1499. The book is anonymous, but an acrostic formed by the first, elaborately decorated letter in each chapter in the original Italian reads POLIAM FRATER FRANCISCVS COLVMNA PERAMAVIT, "Brother Francesco Colonna dearly loved Polia." However, the book has also been attributed to Leon Battista Alberti by several scholars, and earlier, to Lorenzo de Medici. The latest contribution in this respect was the attribution to Aldus Manutius, and arguably, a Francesco Colonna, a wealthy Roman Governor. The author of the illustrations is even less certain, but contemporary opinion gives the work to Benedetto Bordon.

The subject matter lies within the tradition of the genre of Romance within the conventions of courtly love, which still provided engaging thematic matter for Quattrocento aristocrats.

The text of the book is written in a bizarre Latinate Italian, full of words coined based on Latin and Greek roots without explanation. The book, however, also includes words from the Italian language, as well as illustrations including Arabic and Hebrew words; Colonna also invented new languages when the ones available to him were inaccurate. (It also contains some uses of Egyptian hieroglyphs, but they are not authentic.) Its story, which is set in 1467, consists of precious and elaborate descriptions of scenes involving the title character, Poliphilo ("Lover of Many Things", from Greek Polú "Many" + Philos "Beloved"), as he wanders a sort of bucolic-classical dreamland in search of his love Polia ("Many Things"). The author's style is elaborately descriptive and unsparing in its use of superlatives.

The book has long been sought after as one of the most beautiful incunabula ever printed. The typography is famous for its quality and clarity, in a roman typeface cut by Francesco Griffo, which Aldus had first used in February 1495 for De Aetna of Pietro Bembo, for which reason the typeface was named Bembo when it was revived in 1929 by Stanley Morison.

The book is illustrated with 168 exquisite woodcuts showing the scenery, architectural settings, and some of the characters Poliphilo encounters in his dreams. The illustrations are perhaps the best part of the book; delicate and evocative, they depict scenes from Poliphilo's adventures, or the architectural features over which the text rhapsodizes, in a simultaneously stark and ornate line art style which perfectly integrates with the type. These images are also interesting because they shed light on what people in the Renaissance fancied about the alleged æsthetic qualities of Greek and Roman antiquities.

The psychologist Carl Jung admired the book, believing the dream images presaged his theory of archetypes. The style of the woodcut illustrations had a great influence on late-19th century English illustrators, such as Aubrey Beardsley, Walter Crane and Robert Anning Bell.

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili was partially translated into English in a London edition of 1592 by "R. D.", believed to be Robert Dallington, who gave it the title by which it is best known in English, The Strife of Love in a Dream. A facsimile of this edition can be seen online at the Internet Archive.

The first complete English version was published by Thames & Hudson in 1999, five hundred years after the original. Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the Strife of Love in a Dream was translated by musicologist Joscelyn Godwin and typeset in Monotype Corporation's typeface "Poliphilus", a re-creation of Griffo's original. A smaller format paperback edition was published in February 2005. However, probably due to the difficulty of the original, the translation is recreated in standard, modern language, rather than following the original's pattern of coining and borrowing words.

For the first time, eight different monuments described in the Hypnerotomachia have been brought to life through architectural reconstructions, by using computer generated mediums. After 10 years of research and development, this resource of more than 50 original artist reconstructions was finally published in December 2006. The author, Esteban A. Cruz, presents this work with the objective of illustrating the aesthetic and antiquarian qualities of Poliphilus' visions. This was accomplished by using graphical and architectural forms of critical analysis, and by overcoming the challenges of correctly interpreting the encyclopaedic amount of archeological and philological references.

[edit] Plot summary

Poliphilo from a page of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

The book begins with Poliphilo, who has spent a restless night because his beloved, Polia (literally "Many Things"), shunned him. Poliphilo is transported into a wild forest, where he gets lost, encounters dragons, wolves and maidens and a large variety of architecture, escapes, and falls asleep once more. He then awakens in a second dream, dreamed within the first. In the dream, he is taken by some nymphs to meet their queen, and there he is asked to declare his love for Polia, which he does. He is then directed by two nymphs to three gates. He chooses the third, and there he discovers his beloved. They are taken by some more nymphs to a temple to be engaged. Along the way they come across five triumphal processions celebrating the union of the lovers. Then they are taken to the island of Cythera by barge, with Cupid as the boatswain; there they see another triumphal procession celebrating their union. The narrative is uninterrupted, and a second voice takes over, as Polia describes his erotomachia from her own point of view.

Polia kisses Poliphilo back to life

Poliphilo resumes his narrative after one-fifth of the book. Polia rejects Poliphilo, but Cupid appears to her in a vision and compels her to return and kiss Poliphilo, who has fallen into a deathlike swoon at her feet, back to life. Venus blesses their love, and the lovers are united at last. As Poliphilo is about to take Polia into his arms, Polia vanishes into thin air and Poliphilo wakes up.

[edit] Characters in Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

  • Poliphilus
  • Polia

[edit] Gallery

[edit] Allusions/references from other works

[edit] Gargantua and Pantagruel

It is also briefly mentioned in The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34) by François Rabelais:

"Far otherwise did heretofore the sages of Egypt, when they wrote by letters, which they called hieroglyphics, which none understood who were not skilled in the virtue, property, and nature of the things represented by them. Of which Orus Apollon hath in Greek composed two books, and Polyphilus, in his Dream of Love, set down more.."
–Book. 1, Ch. 9.

[edit] Polyphilo : or The Dark Forest Revisited - An Erotic Epiphany of Architecture

Polyphilo : or The Dark Forest Revisited - An Erotic Epiphany of Architecture is a modern re-writing of Polyphilo's tale by Alberto Pérez-Gómez. The non-fictional preface to this book by this eminent architectural historian is an excellent introduction to the Hypnerotomachia.

[edit] The Club Dumas

The 1545 edition of the Hypnerotomachia is mentioned in the third chapter of the novel The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

[edit] Gypnerotomahiya (animation)

In 1992, director Andrey Svislotskiy of Russia's Pilot Animation Studio made an 8-minute animated short film based on the novel (titled "Гипнэротомахия" in Russian). [1]

[edit] Love and Sleep

The title and many themes of John Crowley's 1994 novel, Love and Sleep, were derived from the Hypnerotomachia. Significantly, Love and Sleep was written prior to the renewed popularity of the Hypnerotomachia resulting from the 500th anniversary of its publication.

[edit] The Rule of Four

In 2004, Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason wrote a novel titled The Rule of Four about two Princeton University students who try to decode the mysteries of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. In the novel, an alternative theory of authorship is advanced, in which the author is a patrician Roman by the name of Francesco Colonna, rather than the Venetian monk. As a companion and commentary to the novel Joscelyn Godwin wrote The Real Rule of Four: The Unauthorized Guide to The New York Times Bestseller (2004, ISBN 1-932857-08-7) in which he investigates the history of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and its use in the novel.

[edit] The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

Umberto Eco's 2004 novel The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana features an amnesiac protagonist, a bibliophile and dealer in rare books nicknamed Yambo, whose doctoral thesis was written on the Hypnerotomachia.

[edit] The Ninth Gate

In 1999 Roman Polanski made a film based on Arturo Pérez-Reverte's "The Club Dumas" starring Johnny Depp. The film is about a conjuring the devil through the use of a book. During a scene where Depp is trying to scam some antique books from a collector's family, he mentions that the family "might want to hold on to" their copy of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili amongst other super rare books.

[edit] Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science

The text makes frequent references to classical geography and mythology, mostly by way of comparison.

[edit] References

  • Thames & Hudson (1999). Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the Strife of Love in a Dream. ISBN 0-500-01942-8, a modern English translation.
  • Blunt, Anthony, "The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili in Seventeenth Century France", Journal of Warburg and Courtauld, October 1937
  • Fiertz-David, Linda. The Dream of Poliphilo: The Soul in Love, Spring Publications, Dallas, 1987 (Bollingen Lectures).
  • Gombrich, E.H., Symbolic Images, Phaidon, Oxford, 1975, "Hypnertomachiana".
  • Lefaivre, Liane. Leon Battista Alberti's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili : Re-cognizing the architectural body in the early Italian Renaissance. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.]: MIT Press 1997. ISBN 0-262-12204-9.
  • Pérez-Gómez, Alberto. Polyphilo or The Dark Forest Revisited: An Erotic Epiphany of Architecture. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 1992. ISBN 0-262-16129-X, Introduction by Alberto Pérez-Gómez.
  • Schmeiser, Leonhard. Das Werk des Druckers. Untersuchungen zum Buch Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Maria Enzersdorf: Edition Roesner 2003. ISBN 3-902300-10-8, Austrian philosopher argues for Aldus Manutius' authorship.
  • Tufte, Edward. Chapter in Beautiful Evidence
  • Cruz, Esteban Alejandro, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: Re-discovering Antiquity Through the Dreams of Poliphilus Victoria: Trafford Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-4120-5324-2. Artist reconstructions of the architecture and landscapes described by Poliphilus during his amorous quest through Antiquity.

[edit] External links

The original 1499 edition:

  • The 1592 English edition:
  • The French editions: site Architectura, Centre d'études Supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours: :*[2]
  • Background and interpretation:
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