REBUTTAL OF SAVONAROLA BY A FORMER ACOLYTE

Discorso … contra la dottrina, et le profetie di Fra Girolamo Savonarola.

Venice, Giolito, 1548.

8vo, ff. [viii], 100; printed in Roman and italic types; with woodcut printer’s device and numerous initials throughout; one or two instances of faint marginal dampstaining, but a very good copy in contemporary limp vellum.

£2500

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First edition, very rare (‘raro e ricercato’, Bongi), of a condemnation of Savonarola’s theology, doctrine and prophecies by a former Savonarola acolyte, ‘one of the most fiery Catholic polemicists of his times’ (ibid., our translation), who four years earlier had published a confutation of Luther’s theology. The first part examines the attractiveness, plausibility and success of Savonarola’s preaching. Bishop Polito, a member of the same order as the Ferrarese friar, relives the times of his own past sympathies for Savonarola, and offers, with all the benefits of an insider’s outlook, an analysis of the reasons for Savonarola’s rise and popularity. Yet he finds Savonarola’s depiction of a corrupt Church (‘almost embodying the Antichrist, as the Lutherans say’, p. 8v.) grossly misrepresentative, and feels that heresy infiltrates Savonarola’s doctrines much as leprosy affects without remedy a body which might yet appear to have intact parts.

The second, more ponderous part is an examination of the hidden heretical qualities of Savonarola’s preaching. Bongi says that Polito’s refutation displeased many members of his order who cherished Savonarola’s memory and example, and that it in turn provoked refutations, such as Tommaso Neri’s Apologia of 1564.

Throughout the book, the author’s arguments and narrative are printed in italic types, in contrast with the roman type used to reproduce ample excerpts from Savonarola’s own works, systematically referenced in the shoulder notes.

Bongi I, p. 209-210; COPAC finds 3 copies in the UK (BL, Manchester, Oxford).

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