Naples: Stamperia Real, 1794. Item #452
2 volumes in one. Large 4to. 30 x 220 mm., (11 ¾ x 8 ½ inches). , 238pp; , 258pp. Illustrated with engraved portrait of the author and 18 engraved plates, some bound out of order, and plate ix is incorrectly number xi. Contemporary vellum, title in gilt on spine; simple repairs to head and tail of spine, some light foxing throughout, minor browning to the outer edges of the text block.
First edition of the first Italian book devoted to the art of swimming. It is dedicated to the Englishman Sir John Edward Acton who was made Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and beautifully printed at the Stamperia Reale with the patronage of Ferdinand IV. De Bernardi method encouraged people to learn the art of swimming and advocated for a universal program so individuals can master the arts in both still and turbulent waters. His goal was to teach the physical movements that are natural to man’s anatomy as well as methods for free breathing and floating that were a necessary part of the exercise. He was also an advocate for municipal swimming pool and offers architectural plans for pool construction.
De Bernardi was an ordained priest from Puglia and educated in both philosophy and mathematics. He applied his understanding of mathematics to the problems of buoyancy and proved that the human body could only float with the addition of physical activity. Thus his manual on the art of swimming This appears to be his only publication.
This is a rare and beautifully printed book. The Stamperia Reale was established in 1748 and functioned as the government printing office until 1860. Like its counterpart the Imprimerie Royale in Paris, the Stamperia Reale was responsible for printing the finest books published in its domain during the 18th century and used the best quality paper and exquisite typefaces for producing its printed texts. The printing of De Bernardi’s book is no exception. Another important aspect of this book are the illustrations. The book opens with a stunning portrait of the author, designed by Francesco Antonio Lapegna and engraved by Nicola Fiorillo, The remaining eighteen plates, designed by Lepegna and Vincenzo Ferraresi are in the neo-classical style and all but two, emphasize the male human body in motion, demonstrating the strokes and techniques of swimming, diving, and floating. The final two plates show are scenic images, one showing a tranquil river with swimmers having fun and the other a view of a stormy sea with a shipwreck, showing survivors struggling to get to shore. Other engravers contributing to this volume include Giovanni Azzerboni, Domenico Casanova, Niccolo Cesarano, Nicola Fiorillo, Aniello Lamberti and Guglielmo Morghen.
OCLC lists copies in Leipzig and Edinburgh only. NUC cites a copy at New York Public only and Harvard lists a copy in its database. Riccardi Biblioteca Mathematica, Italiana, I.118; Poggendorf, Biographisch-literarisches handwörterbuch, I.154.
Govi, I Classici che Hanno Fatto L’Italia, no.273. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 33 at trecani.it/biografico.