FROM THE ALTAR TO THE GALLOWS

Vita, costumi, e morte di Michele Calvo, appellato de Castro, estratta dall’originale processo formato nella Regia Curia di Pavia. 

[Pavia, 1763.] 

8vo, pp. 83, [1 (blank)], with copper-engraved folding frontispiece showing Calvo in chains; wormholes to frontispiece with old repairs verso, minor worming to first three leaves, light foxing throughout; overall a very good copy in later vellum over boards, spine labelled in ink, green silk place-marker; mild spotting to spine; armorial bookplate of Thomas Gaisford to upper pastedown.

£950

Approximately:
US $1059€1080

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Vita, costumi, e morte di Michele Calvo, appellato de Castro, estratta dall’originale processo formato nella Regia Curia di Pavia. 

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First and only edition of this scarce account of the life and death of Michele Calvo, a student of theology who turned to a life of crime, executed for practicing as a priest using falsified documents as well as theft and multiple escapes from prison. 

The original extracts from his final court hearing in Pavia (pp. 75-76) and a detailed engraving of Calvo in chains, combined with an impassioned introduction in which he is accused of lacking ‘even an ounce of contrition in his heart’ (p. 16, trans.), render this a riveting story in which nearly every page is indeed filled with ‘fraud, sacrilege, and other detestable abominations’ (p. 3).  The son of a doctor, the Mallorca-born Calvo studied theology and continued his religious training in Peru, which was abruptly terminated by his falling out with the Bishop of Cuzco.  Unable to obtain a dimissory letter enabling him to be ordained in another diocese, he forged his own documents.  When he was discovered to be conducting Mass and hearing confession as a layman under falsified papers, he fled to Spain and subsequently Italy, continuing to operate in various dioceses for decades and evading arrest under a false name.  He was eventually captured and brought to Pavia in a procession accompanied by the city council and executed for heresy, hypocrisy, and theft. 

Provenance: from the library of the renowned Oxford classicist Thomas Gaisford (1779–1855), Regius Professor of Greek from 1811, curator of the Bodleian Library, and Dean of Christ Church from 1831. 

No copies found in UK libraries and only two copies recorded on OCLC in the US (Harvard and Illinois). 

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