Dizionario Biografico degli Italiano VIII pp. 165-167 Italiano


BENALI, BERNARDINO. — No document furnishes us the date of the birth of B., which however can be fixed indirectly to around the year 1458. His family was wealthy, and already the grandfather (named in a legal document as "spectanctissimus vir dominus Guidotus de Benaliis") possessed a house in Bergamo, that he passed as an inheritance to the father (Petziolus de Benaliis) of B., where he was born and passed his childhood, and where the family still lived in 1493. He married, it is not known in which year, an Elisabetta Bianzago, by whom he does not seem to have had descendants.

Some bibliographers assert that B. left Bergamo and went in 1475 to Cagli, where —together with Roberto da Fano — he introduced the printing press with an edition of the poem of Maffeo Vegio  De morte Astyanactis and published also two other pamphlets in 1476. If from this it is deduced that in 1475 he must have already attained his majority (i.e. more than 25 years old) to be able to have been in  business under his own name: consequently he could not be been born after 1449-50. But in a legal action at Bergamo dated 7 Jan. 1483 the public notary  attests that B. "excessisse aetatem annorum viginti quinque". It appears clearly that the other party wanted to be certain of the invalidity of the action for the minority of B.; but if he had been born in the 1449-50, in 1483 he would have been 33 or 34 years old and the caution of the other party would have been excessive, as a contract between two natives of Bergamo stipulated that they had to be known persons. Instead if B. were been born in the 1457-58, in 1483 he would have been just 25, and the attestation of the public notary could legitimately have been demanded. But is it possible that he could go to Cagli at age 17 and go into  business? And could he have left the territory of the Serenissima — he of the ancient Bergamo family — in order to go to one small city of Ancona, to be associated — he of substantial means, as he will demonstrate at Venice — with a most modest wandering printer, to, above all, learn very little of the art of the press? Moreover from 1476 to 1483 we lack any information about Benali. In one supplica from him addressed to the Venetian Senate dated 30 Jan. 1529 he asserts that he lived already in Venice from the age of 15: which would mean that he went to Venice a little before 1480. A  gap will always remain in his biography between 1476 and 1480. In considering other documents that are more useful to clarify the issue, it seems opportune to distinguish the two persons: Bernardino from Bergamo — that was at Cagli in 1475, and whose later history is unknown — and B., whose whereabouts before 1480 are unknown. Instead it is certain that in 1483 he was binding books at Venice: "in Marzaria, tien per insegna sancto Girolamo", a sign that he used also as one of his typographical marks. He had a house in the Campo Sant’Angelo and in the 1493 the press was located "in ora divi Pantaleonis".

The length of his typographical­editorial activity has been variously fixed by bibliographers: according to F. Novati it runs from 1480 to 1517; according to T. De Marinis it reaches 1532 with an interruption from 1500 to 1514, with the production of 80 editions during the XVth century and of thirteen editions during the successive one; but F. Ascarelli observes correctly that dated editions by B. from 1507 and 1511 are known. In truth his first edition, produced at Venice, is of 23 Aug. 1483, but it is probable that before this he printed at least one undated other; the last noted is in 1543: G. Savonarola, Trattato dell’amor di Gesù (London, British Museum). In first part of the XVIth century his production slowed down, but it was not interrupted completely. As far as the number of 15th century editions produced, alone or with associates, it is certainly now more than a hundred, and it will be better able to be specified when the General index of the incunables possessed from the Libraries of Italy is complete; for now, in the three volumes so far published (A-L) and in the IVth in preparation (M-R) and further in handwritten cards (S-Z), the census of editions  by B. is 80, but the census (S-Z) is not completed; adding to these other editions those of which an exemplar does not exist in Italy (but are noted through reports and catalogues of great libraries), certainly exceeds 100. Much the most difficult task is to fix the extent of the 16th century production: they do not exist empty arranged to us, repertori, specific searches; but the British Museum alone possesses exemplars of eighteen editions of B. published between 1507 and 1543 (or with associates); to these adding the others (more than twenty) of which information is to be had, reaches a group of perhaps forty.

The first dated edition of B. is of 23 Aug. 1483: the Supplementum chronicarum of the native of Bergamo Jacopo Filippo Foresti, of which copies were made in the 17th century.

In the contract for the printing of the book it was specified that it would be printed "using letters of the form shown by me": which  demonstrates that B. in the 1483 had already set up a workshop; but it is not improbable that at this date he had already printed some books: perhaps that Vita et transito di san Girolamo with which he intended to inaugurate his own activity.

In the second half of 1483 B. associated himself with George Arrivabene da Mantova and P. dei Paganini from Brescia — booksellers and editors of Venice — to print a Missale Romanum, which saw the light the 4 Dec. 1483. The 13 Aug. 1484 he produced alone another Missale Romanum of which copies do not exist in Italy. But from this kind of edition he abstained in following years, only returning to it in 1514 with a Breviarium Camaldulense and a Breviarium Romanum, and in 1523 with another Breviarium Romanum. In his long activity he published works of jurism, works of medicine, classic and contemporary authors: between these but little in gross. Some editions do not carry the name of B., others lack the date.

The reputation of B. as an excellent printer is assured from the illustrated editions that he produced during the XVth century. To indicate the more important: the Dante of 1491; the Miracles of the Madonna (2 May 1491); the Monte delle orazioni (undated); the Meditations of the life of Christ (1491); the Aesop with the translation of Accio Zucco (1492-93); the Giardino di orazione of Nicolò da Osimo (dated 1494); and the Ovidius in the original text (1493-94).

If he was most famous as a publisher, less known — if known at all — is his activity as producer of single printings or series (literally album) of "illustrated history", outside of Venice, having opened, in the first decade of the 1500's, one sales-outlet at Padova, entrusted to the direction of his relative Bernardino Bianzago. Some privileges remain to us of this series of printings: Sommersione di Faraone, Susanna, Sacrificio di Abramo, ecc. (9 Feb. 1515); Due fogli reali per Final Judicio cum li cori angelici et ordeni de beati et infinito numero de damnati et demoni; item el Triumpho de la Vergene Maria... item la processional visione del Salvator Nostro con fogli otto reali cum bellissimi ornamenti, opere di notabile spesa mai più stampate nonché cogitate...(6 May 1516). As silent helpers in the this branch of his work were the sisters Angela and Laura Bianzago, grandchildren of his wife's family ("neptes Helisabet uxoris meae"), as he remembers in the testament of 1517. The branch at Padova, however, had to be closed towards 1517 because from this year to 1526 the Bianzago's lived in Venice, in the house of the Benali.

After 1500 the publishing activity of B. slows down sensibly; it is probable that in those years he was interested more in printing technique than in producing books. The demands for privileges — at least those that remain to us (but the documents are lacunose) — are few; the notes in his editions are modest and routine. In 1519 he asks, and obtains, a decennial privilege for a reprint of the Vocabularium of Fra.  Ambrogio da Calepio (Calepinus) which he alleges he acquired at great expense from the friars of St. Augustin of the Observance of Bergamo. In the preceding year he published a Vocabularium Nebrissense on behalf of the florentine bookseller Domenico del Neri. In 1526, apart from a reprint of the Calepino, he published a beautiful Herbario illustrato.

Il 4 genn. 1529 — narra il Sanuto nei suoi Diarii — un incendio distrusse gran parte del monastero di S. Stefano, ove si trovavano magazzini affittati a librai; il fuoco mal contrastato perché il monastero era « isolato », a cagione della peste che vi si era manifestata, distrusse tutto: il più danneggiato risultò il grande esportatore di libri Giovanni Bartolomeo, e anche il B. perse tutti i suoi volumi che erano immagazzinati in un locale del monastero. Con supplica del 30 genn. 1529 egli chiese al Senato il rinnovo dei privilegi per la ristampa delle opere perdute, ma senza specificare di quali libri si trattasse: naturalmente la supplica così genericamente presentata non fu accolta; la rinnovò limitandola alla ristampa del Calepino e ad altre due opere legali, e fu accolta il 22 apr. 1529.

On 4th Jan. 1529 — as Sanuto narrates in his Diarii — fire destroyed a great part of the monastery of St. Stefano, where thei warehouses of the booksellers were located; the fire was particularly unfortunate because the monastery had been "isolated", because of an outbreak of plague, and destroyed everything: the most damage was suffered by the great exporter of books Giovanni Bartolomeo, and B. also lost all his  volumes which had been stored on the monastery premises. In a supplica of 30 Jan. 1529 he appeals to the Senate for renewal of privileges for the reprint of the lost works, but without specifying the books in question: naturally the generic supplica was therefore not granted; the renewal was limited to the reprint of the Calepino and others two legal works, and was issued 22 Apr. 1529.

Dal 1528 al 1543 le sue edizioni sono tutte sottoscritte « B. Benali e compagni », ma nulla si è potuto appurare sull’identità di questi soci. L’ultima opera, a suo nome pubblicata nel 1543, è il Trattato dell’amor di Gesù del Savonarola. La data di morte del B. non sarà probabilmente da porsi molto lontano da quest’ultima edizione.

From 1528 to 1543 his editions are all subscribed by "B. Benali and companions", but it has not been possible to ascertain the identity of these associates. The last work in his name published in 1543, is the Trattato dell’amor di Gesù of Savonarola. B. probably died soon after this last edition.

SOURCES AND BIBL.: Bergamo, Arch. Not., Atti not. Comizolo de Adelaxis, cc. 151, 713; Arch. di Stato di Venezia, Senato Terra, Reg. 26, c. 15; Ibid., Provveditori della Sanità, reg. 2, c. 183; Ibid., Notariato Consiglio dei X, 17 ag. 1492, 15 febbr. 1494, 17 nov. 1499, 1° febbr. 1500; Ibid., Notariato di Collegio: 6 febbr. 1514, 9 febbr. 1515, 6 giugno 1516, 27 ag. 1524; Ibid., Senato: 22 dic. 1519, 22 apr. 1529; Venezia, Arch. Not., Giovanni Antonio da Treviso, 17 Sett. 1517; M. Sanuto, Diarii..., XXXV, Venezia 1892, p. 388; XLIX, ibid. 1896, pp. 326, 396; R. Fulin, Documenti per servire alla storia della stampa venez., in Arch. veneto, XXIII (1882), p. 86; B. Cec­chetti, Le pitture delle stampe di B. Benalio, ibid., XXXVII (1887), pp. 538 s.; P. Kristeller, Die italien Buchdrucker und Verlegerzeichen bis 1525, Strassburg 1893, p. 70 (nn. 185, 186, 187); G. Fumagalli, Lexikon tipographicum Italiae, Firenze 1905, pp. 33, 296, 466, 482; F. Novati, Donne tipografe del '500, in Il libro e la stampa, I (1907), p. 41; Essling (Le Prince d’), Le livre à figures vénitien..., Paris 1908, I, passim; IV, passim; L. Palandi, La stampa e gli stampatori di Bergamo, in Riv. di Bergamo, III (1924), pp. 1622 s.; V. Rossi, Un incendio a Venezia, in Il libro e la stampa, IV (1910), pp. 51 s.; V. Scholderer, Catalogue of books printed in the XV century now in the British Museum, London 1929, V, pp. XXXI, XLVIII, 368 s., 373 S., 525 s.; T. De Marinis, B. B., in Encicl. Ital., VI, Roma 1930, p. 593;E. Pastorello, Bibl. storico-analitica dell’arte della stampa a Venezia, Venezia 1933, passim; F. Ascarelli, La tipogr. cinquecentina in italia, Firenze 1953, p. 166.

A. CIONI


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