Michelangelo's Poems - A landmark of gay literature

Rime di Michelagnolo Buonarroti. Raccolta da Michelagnolo suo Nipote.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti

Florence, 1623


Rare first edition of Michelangelo's poems - gathered from manuscripts at Rome and Florence, and published posthumously by his grandnephew.  


4to. Printer’s device on title page - woodcut head and tail pieces, initials, and ornaments throughout. Contemporary flexible sewn-paper binding, resewn with later endpapers, remnants of university markings(?) on lower spine and front board, discreet Roman bookseller stamp inside rear cover. Generally fresh pages with some sporadic browning, last few leaves with moisture marks mainly on the margins, and modest restoration on the upper margin of the last leaf – an attractive, Very Good copy in a rare binding.  


Only a handful of copies have appeared on the market in the last 40 years - particularly hard to find in contemporary binding such as this. A landmark of gay literature.  


The book was published to provide a definitive version of Michelangelo's poetic writings, uniting them in a single volume. Michelangelo's great passion for poetry always remained a private matter, occasionally shared only in the circle of his most intimate friends.(Bado)


‘When the queer art historian John Addington Symonds was granted access to the Buonarroti family archives in Florence in 1863, he discovered a note written in the margin of the manuscript poems by Michelangelo's grandnephew(called Michelangelo the Younger) saying that the poems must not be published in their original form because they expressed "amor . . . virile,” literally "masculine love.” Symonds thus was able to make public the fact that when Michelangelo the Younger prepared his great-uncle's poetry for posthumous publication in 1623 he had changed all of the masculine pronouns in the love poems to feminine pronouns, thus ensuring that any sentiments in the poems that could not be interpreted as being merely platonic would at least be interpreted as being what he considered normal.’(Rictor Norton)  


“Although Michelangelo wrote in a variety of verse forms and literary modes, the sonnets that address appealing male beloveds are, at their best, his most intriguing contribution to the literary history of same-sex desire. The poet's lack of formal education and training in classical languages did not impede his ability to write verse that surpassed that of many of his more learned contemporaries. Innovative, obscure, elliptical, at times metrically and ideologically unorthodox…Indeed, not until Shakespeare would another sonneteer represent same-sex desire with such sensuous complexity, emotional resonance, and linguistic artfulness.”(Wagner)

Michelangelo's Poems - A landmark of gay literature