Axiomata christiana ex divinis scripturis & sanctis patribus.

Coimbra, João da Barreira and João Alvares, 1550.

4to, ff. [vi], 196, [6]; woodcut armorial woodcut to title with Portuguese Royal arms of King João III, woodcut armillary sphere on verso, woodcut initials; occasional light browning, barely noticeable gnawing along the fore-edges in a few quires, but a very good copy on thick paper, bound in seventeenth-century stiff vellum, edges stained blue, remains of paper library shelfmarks on spine; ownership inscription of Giovanni Antonio Delfini (see below) on title, and of Giacomo Soranzo, dated 1724, on the front free endpaper.


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First edition of Gaspar do Casal’s major work of theology, which informed his participation in the Council of Trent, from the library of another participant in the Council.

The Augustinian Casal (1510–1584) Professor of Theology at Coimbra, had been appointed as Royal preacher and preceptor and confessor to the heir by King John III. He distinguished himself for his fine philosophical mind, and was appointed to attend the Council of Trent in the second and third sessions, 1552 and 1561, as bishop and theologian of the King of Portugal. There he expounded especially on the doctrine of the Eucharist and the Real Presence in the Mass.

This copy eloquently speaks of the atmosphere of dialogue and reciprocal influence among exponents of Catholic orthodoxy at Trent. It bears the ownership inscription of Giovanni Antonio Delfini (1506–1561), another prominent friar (Vicar General), professor at Bologna and Inquisitor, who had been invited to the Council in 1545 by Paul III. There ‘he attended the opening of the first session, and then participated as a consultant in the preparation of the decrees of the fourth, fifth and sixth sessions, dedicated in particular to the Holy Scripture, definition of the nature of original sin and justification. In Trento [he] spoke on 26 June 1546 on justification and on 27 January 1547 on the Sacraments, reaffirming the thesis of justification through grace, and earning the attention and esteem of all the Council fathers. This is demonstrated, for example, by the fact that, at the close of the first part of the council, in Bologna on 15 May 1548 the pontifical legates granted him a certificate of praise for the work carried out in favour of the cause of the Church. From 1550 to 1558 [he] was regent in the convent of S. Francesco in Bologna, and in this role he always appears present at the congregations of the convent for the period in question. In 1551 he returned to Trento, on the occasion of the reopening of the second part of the council, and on 23 December he spoke on the mass, focusing in particular on the value of the Eucharist’ (DBI).

The gift of this book may well have been a token of the encounter between the two theologians. Delfini’s views, though more pugnaciously anti-Lutheran than Casal’s (see his Opus eximium of 1552), were rooted in the same outlook as the one prospected in the Axiomata.

The book’s illustrious line of ownership continued when it became part of the library of Giacomo Soranzo (1686–1761), the renowned Venetian bibliophile and statist.

Anselmo no. 267; USTC 343277; Wilkinson, Iberian Books 2824.

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