The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, a wonderful work of classic Italian Literature, was originally published in Italy in 1746 and translated into English for the first time in 1864. The writer of the original text is anonymous, though many scholars now think that it was based upon a Latin manuscript written by Ugolino Brunforte (c. 1262 – c. 1348). Saint Francis (1181-1226) lived over a hundred years prior to this manuscript, and Little Flowers, while the most popular account of his life, is not a primary source for biography. Instead, Little Flowers is a set of stories filled with anecdotes, miracles and good works, based upon the legends which accumulated about Saint Francis and his disciples. Saint Francis, the founder of the Franciscan Order, was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood, but was declared a saint by Pope Gregory IX in 1228. He remains one of the most revered religious figures in history. The current pope, Pope Francis, chose his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.
This edition is from the very early period of The Limited Editions Club, published in 1930, is the 17th book of the club. The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi is, appropriately, an all Italian affair. As George Macy said, it is “Italian text, illustrated by an Italian artist, printed in an Italian type on Italian paper, bound in an Italian cloth and printed in Italy.” The book is beautiful, in a very old school kind of way. It simply looks the part, medieval in appearance, with gravitas and a feel of reverence, yet still approachable with no airs about it. The artist, Paolo Molnar, provides nearly 100 woodcuts for this edition. The Monthly Letter that accompanies this work states:
We feel the artist has caught all of the mocking, reverential and fantastic qualities of the tales themselves…The pictures themselves are full of medieval crudities which definitely tie them to the text. And they are quaint and amusing and delighting.
When you see below, I think you will agree. This book was the first published for the LEC by Hans (Giovanni) Mardersteig in the Officina Bodoni at Verona, Italy, in what was to be a long and fruitful relationship. The type, Pastonchi, named after a poet that was famous in Italy, is the first use of such in an English book. It is thick, almost bulky, but seems a good match for the overall design; especially with the creamy toned paper from the mills of P. Miliani, which has a rugged surface that nicely handles the type. The binding, blue and brown woven cloth with floral design patterns, was made by the Societa Anonyma Fortuny, of Venice. It nicely reflects the spirit of the work and caps off a nice design. This edition is sometimes hard to find in fine condition, especially without some fading or sunning to the spine. It will usually cost at least $100, though more often $200 and up for a fine copy.
About the Edition
- Illustrated by Paolo Molnar
- Printed by Hans Mardersteig in the Officina Bodoni at Verona, Italy
- Type is Pastonchi (named after an Italian poet)
- Initial letters are especially made for this book by Paolo Molnar
- Paper especially made for this book by the mills of P. Miliani in Fabriano
- Bound in blue and brown cloth woven for this edition by the Societa Anonyma Fortuny, of Venice
- Tops of the books are varnished with a brown shade and polished
- The title is stamped in gold on a blue label upon the backbone
- Large octavo, 8″ x 11 1/2″, 288 pages
- Limited to 1500 copies, signed by Paolo Molnar
Pictures of the Edition
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