From Pietro Chiari’s La Viniziana di spirito: O sia Le avventure d’una Viniziana ben nata, scritte da lei medesima, e ridotte in altrettante massime le più giovevoli a formare una donna di spirito , pubblicate dall’abate Pietro Chiari Bresciano, Poeta di S.A.R. il Sig. Duca di Modana [sic], Venezia e Parma: nella Stamperia di Filippo Carmignani, published in 1762 [thanks God google books has the first edition].
Entertainment. Chiari’s novels had to be sollazzevoli, piacevoli. Through pleasure, he would convey “philosophical” ideas to his readers. Italian literary establishment never forgave him for this choice.
Hedonism was not allowed. Chiari’s language was bad, not “balanced” at all. His stories lacked of structure, unity, even logic. Usually he would tell strange stories about strange women who did not accept their social role, who dressed up as men and often behave as men. Even more “dangerous”, most of Chiari’s readers were women, or (as someone complained) servants or young people. Of course, this was a common concern in eighteenth-century Europe, see – just to pick up one – Licensing entertainment: the elevation of novel reading in Britain, 1684-1750 by William B. Warner. In Britain (and in France later), the market won the war against the literary establishment. Writers had to write what readers wanted to read, as the sacred supply and demand rule says (yes, I know, I was linking Wikipedia but then I found a much more funny Investopedia). In Venice had an unlikely end. The market was defeated, no matter what readers wanted. Chiari, who was read and published all around Italy – often through unauthorised editions – was doomed to be forgotten and/or despised until today. Piazza, his literary “pupil”, suffered the same fate. That is one of the reasons why nobody, even in Italy, knows two authors who wrote at least 70 novels in 18th century.
Back to our engraving: what is the best way to start an entertaining book – one of those books people buy and read because they want to have fun? Probably, opening it with a game, for instance, with a visual riddle, a rebus: who I am? In this way, you catch their attention since the very beginning. So, my question is: the function of the engraving at the beginning of Chiari’s book is in any way similar to that of a modern cover book? In both cases, we’re talking about catching attention, and inviting reader to keep on reading.