Duquesne Acquires Rare Work Alumnus Donates First Edition of Spenser's'the Faerie Queene,' Which Is Now Part of an Exhibition of Books at Gumberg Library

By Pitz, Marylynne | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), April 16, 2016 | Go to article overview

Duquesne Acquires Rare Work Alumnus Donates First Edition of Spenser's'the Faerie Queene,' Which Is Now Part of an Exhibition of Books at Gumberg Library


Pitz, Marylynne, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


To win an English monarch's favor, Edmund Spenser dedicated his epic poem, "The Faerie Queene," to Elizabeth I and read some of it to her in 1589. (Reading poetry aloud was hip B.C. - before cable.)

Good Queen Bess, a virgin who reigned for 44 years during a golden age of English literature, rewarded Spenser with an annual pension of 50 pounds, which surely kept him cozy at Kilcolman Castle, his 3,000-acre home in Ireland.

Last year, Duquesne University alumnus Robert M. Giannetti rewarded his alma mater and donated 2,000 books, including a rare first edition of "The Faerie Queene," which he studied with Foster Provost, his late dissertation adviser. Mr. Provost encouraged Mr. Giannetti to finish his doctorate in Renaissance literature.

Bound in goatskin and filled with vivid woodblock illustrations, the rare book has been on display this week at Duquesne University's Gumberg Library, part of an exhibition called "Of Enduring Value: Rare Books at Duquesne University."

One of the most influential poems in the English language, this edition of "The Faerie Queene" was printed in 1611, the same year the King James version of the Bible first appeared. "The Faerie Queene" was Spenser's attempt to instruct Elizabethan-age readers in six virtues: holiness, temperance, chastity, friendship, justice and courtesy. Due to a lack of standardized dictionaries, Elizabethan writers spelled the same word differently. That's why some editions spell "Queen" as "Queene."

Mr. Giannetti, who enrolled at Duquesne 53 years ago, lives in Lewiston, N.Y. with his wife, Rita. Last year, the retired foundation executive closed a bookstore he ran there called Bob's Olde Books. During a visit to Manhattan bookstores in 1997, he said he paid "thousands" for this particular edition of the classic narrative poem. …

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