Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

Finally finished reading the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. This was a very strange book. It was written in the 15th century, supposedly by a friar named Francesco Colonna. It concerns the tale of Poliphilo - a young lover desperately obsessed with a blond haired girl named Polia. The book is very dreamlike and Poliphilo’s adventure takes him to strange lands where he meets various nymphs and gods, and views strange exotic gardens and wondrous architecture.

The version I read was the modern translation by the writer Joscelyn Godwin. The reproduction is excellent and comes complete with the 174 woodcuts that have fascinated people for the last five hundred years. In fact, the Hypnerotomachia is probably more widely known for these beautiful woodcuts than it is for its text. It’s now more an object of wonder than a literary sensation really. Personally, I really enjoyed reading it, although the endless descriptions of architecture were a bit of a struggle at times. In summary, a really unique work - the illustrations alone making it well worth owning. Thoroughly recommended.

Below is a scanned in snapshot from the book (my apologises for the quality).

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