1st Edition

The Allegory of Love in the Early Renaissance Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and its European Context

By James Calum O’Neill Copyright 2023
    292 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Described as ‘the most beautiful book ever printed’ previous research has focused on the printing history of the Hypnerotomachia and its copious literary sources. This monograph critically engages with the narrative of the Hypnerotomachia and with Poliphilo as a character within this narrative, placing it within its European literary context. Using narratological analysis, it examines the journey of Poliphilo and the series of symbolic, allegorical, and metaphorical experiences narrated by him that are indicative of his metamorphosing interiority. It analyses the relationship between Poliphilo and his external surroundings in sequences of the narrative pertaining to thresholds; the symbolic architectural, topographical, and garden forms and spaces; and Poliphilo’s transforming interior passions including his love of antiquarianism, language, and Polia, the latter of which leads to his elegiac description of lovesickness, besides examinations of numerosophical symbolism in number, form, and proportion of the architectural descriptions and how they relate to the narrative.

    List of Figures

    List of Tables





    1. Thresholds of Transformation

    2. Self-transformation and Architecture

    3. Poliphilo, Connoisseurship and Self-transformation

    4. Travel Writing and Topographical Interiority

    5. Walking and Self-transformation in the Gardens of Eleuterylida and Telosia

    6. Love and Self-transformation in Book I

    7. Lovesickness, Honestum, and Initiation in Book II





    James Calum O’Neill is a literary and art historian specialising in Italian medieval and Renaissance literature, fine art and architecture. His PhD was conducted at Durham University on ‘Self-Transformation in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili’ which is now published by Routledge under the title The Allegory of Love in the Early Renaissance: Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and its European Context. Currently, O'Neill's research focuses on botanical, architectural, antiquarian and narratological analysis in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili as a locus for the convergence of philosophic, elegiac, antiquarian and medical traditions, pertaining to both medieval and humanist cultures, with a focus on northern Italian and Venetian society during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.