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A History of Wood-Engraving by Woodberry

Quickened by the spirit of the Renaissance


[Illustration: FIG. 17.--The Stork. From the "Ortus Sanitatis." Venice, 1511.]

[Illustration: FIG. 18.--View of Venice. From the "Fasciculus Temporum." Venice, 1484.]

[Illustration: FIG. 19.--The Contest of Apollo and Pan. From Ovid's "Metamorphoses." Venice, 1518 (design, 1497).]

[Illustration: FIG. 20.--Sirens. From the "Ortus Sanitatis." Venice, 1511.]

[Illustration: FIG. 21.--Pygmy and Cranes. From the "Ortus Sanitatis." Venice, 1511.]

[Illustration: FIG. 22.--The Woman and the Thief. From "?sop's Fables." Venice, 1491 (design, 1481).]

[Illustration: FIG. 23.--The Crow and the Peacock. From "?sop's Fables." Venice, 1491 (design, 1481).]

This volume of St. Jerome was, however, only a worthy forerunner of the Dream of Poliphilo, in which Italian wood-engraving, quickened by the spirit of the Renaissance, displayed its most beautiful creations. It was written by a Venetian monk, Francesco Columna, in 1467, and was first printed by Aldus, in 1499. It is a mystical work, composed in Italian, strangely mingled with Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic, and its theme, which is the praise of beauty and of love, is obscured by abstruse knowledge and by much varied learning. It recalls Dante's poem in some ways. The Renaissance Dominican, too, was a lover with a human Beatrice, of whom his dream is the memorial and the glory; like Dante, he seems to symbolize, under the beauty and guardianship of his gracious lady, a body of truth and a theory of life; and, as in Dante's poem Beatrice typified Divine Wisdom and theology, his Polia stood for the new gospel of this world's joy, for the loveliness of universal nature and the perfection of ancient art; in adoring her he worships them, and in celebrating her, as alike his goal and his guide through the mazes of his changing dream, he exalts the virtue and the hope that lay in the Renaissance ideal of life. There is, perhaps, no volume where the exuberant vigor of that age is more clearly shown, or where the objects for which that age was impassioned are more glowingly described. This romantic and fantastic rhapsody mirrors every aspect of nature and art in which the Italians then took delight--peaceful landscape, where rivers flow by flower-starred banks and through bird-haunted woods; noble architecture and exquisite sculpture, the music of soft instruments, the ruins of antiquity, the legends of old mythology, the motions of the dance, the elegance of the banquet, splendor of apparel, courtesy of manners, even the manuscript, with its covers of purple velvet sown with Eastern pearls--everything which was cared for and sought in that time, when the gloom of asceticism lifted and disclosed the wide prospect of the world lying, as it were, in the loveliness of daybreak. Poliphilo wanders through fields and groves bright with this morning beauty, voyages down streams and loiters in gardens that are filled with gladness; he is graciously regaled in the palace, he attends the sacrifice in the temple, where his eyes are charmed by every exquisite ornament of art; he encounters in his progress triumphal processions, as they wind along through the pleasant country, bewildering the fancy with their lavish magnificence as of an Arabian dream; chariots that are wrought out of entire precious stones, carved with bass-reliefs from Grecian fables, and drawn by half-human centaurs or strange animals,--elephants, panthers, unicorns, in trappings of silk and jewels, pass before him, bearing exalted in their midst sculptured figures, Europa and the Bull, Leda and the Swan, Dana? in the shower of gold, and, last and most wonderful, a vase, beautifully engraved and adorned,


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