Francesco Colonna, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Venice: Aldo Manuzio, 1499)

Illustrations from the Library's copy of one of the most sought after and attractively illustrated incunabula, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. The work, which is usually, although by no means uncontroversially, attributed to Francesco Colonna, takes the form of a dreamlike quest undertaken by the protagonist, Poliphilo, for his love Polia. He begins by entering a desolate forest (first image), but along the way comes across numerous nymphs, dreamlike landscapes and fantastic buildings, often modelled on classical lines. After he rediscovers Polia they encounter several triumphal processions celebrating their love, one of which forms the subject matter of the woodcuts in the second and third images below. This strange and arcane book had a significant impact on Renaissance classicism in the arts, architecture and garden design, as well as providing an early outing for the Bembo typeface cut by Francesco Griffo for its publisher, Aldo Manuzio.

Bequest of John Newcome.