Epithalamion for Bianca Maria Sforza

Houghton Library Blog 2016-05-06

Houghton Library recently acquired a rare copy of one of the first independently printed wedding orations.  Ad Serenissimum Maximilianum inuictissimu[m] Romanoru[m] rege[m]: in auspicatissimis eius & Augustæ Blanche mariæ nuptiis: Epithalamion. [Milan, Leonardus Pachel after 8 April 1494]. (ISTC im00401800) was written by Giasone del Maino (1435-1519) and delivered in praise of the couple at Innsbruck in celebration of the marriage in March 1494 of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) and Bianca Maria Sforza (1472-1510).

Cynically arranged by her uncle, Ludovico Sforza, then Regent and later ruler of Milan, the union hinged on the exchange of the bride’s huge dowry for the Emperor’s raising of Milan to an imperial duchy. Treated as chattel since birth and twice married by proxy before she reached the age of fourteen, Bianca never gained Maximilian’s affections, never bore him an heir (after several miscarriages and stillbirths) and even served as physical security for his debts. There is no copy known of this edition in the United States.

inc_5996Ambrogio_de_Predis_Bianca_Maria_Sforza Inc 5996 | Bianca Maria Sforza, ca. 1493. Ambrogio de Predis. Source: Google Art Project

William P. Stoneman, Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts, contributed this post.