De Christiane Fidei et Romanorum Pontificum Persecutionibus.

(Colophon:) Basel, Nicolaus Kesler, 1509.

Folio, ff. [6], 156, [2]; small wormholes throughout (not affecting legibility), waterstaining to lower corner of final few leaves, but else a very good copy, crisp and clean; bound in early eighteenth-century Danish calf, probably by Johann Boppenhausen, boards speckled and tooled in gilt and blind to a panelled design, gilt fleurons to corners, spine elaborately gilt in compartments with crowned double monogram of Christian VI at head, two gilt brown morocco lettering-pieces, lower four compartments gilt with Danish royal arms, marbled edges and endpapers; royal stamp to front pastedown, pencil note ‘Dupl bibl R’ to front free endpaper; nineteenth-century and later bibliographical notes to verso of front endpaper; nineteenth-century and later bibliographical notes to verso of front endpaper.


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A beautiful copy of the second edition of Simonetta’s principal work, from the library of Christian VI (1699–1746), King of Denmark and Norway, and containing an early yet intriguing reference to the New World.

De Christiane Fidei, first printed in Milan in 1492 and here edited by the 32-year-old Hieronymus Emser (later to become Luther’s great antagonist), gives a history of Christian persecutions, and of the popes under whom these occurred, down to Innocent VII, ‘very scholarly for the time and sometimes presents judicious criticisms’ (Hoefer, Nouv. Biogr. Gén, our trans.). It is dedicated to King Charles VIII of France, and was published by Vérard in a French translation by Octavien de Saint-Gelais in the first years of the sixteenth century. Simonetta, the scion of a noble family, was born in Apulia, c. 1430, and was still alive in 1492 when he was abbot of the Cistercian Abbey of St. Stephen’s at Corno, in the diocese of Lodi. The long poem in his honour by Giovanni Vicenzo Biffi, a Neo-Latin poet celebrated in his time, which occupies the last one and a half pages of the volume, escaped the notice of R. Negri (DBI, 10).

The real interest of the book is Simonetta’s correspondence, a collection of 179 letters interspersed seemingly haphazardly throughout the text. The letters are addressed to a wide circle of Simonetta’s contemporaries, some to members of his family and close acquaintances, others to some of the greatest names of the Renaissance including Lorenzo de Medici, Ludovico Sforza, and Pico della Mirandola. They range over a host of topics: classical history, mythology, geography, medicine, physics, and astronomy. On f. 155 we learn of a meteorite which fell in northern Italy in 1491. On f. 101 is a reference to the West Indies (Simonetta’s correspondent has evidently been reading Columbus’s letter): “Insulas in mari Hispano cultu: & divitiis inclytas: recentissime compertas ab urbe epistola missa legisse … scribis”.

This last reference is somewhat intriguing. Alden cites it from this edition, in European Americana, vol. I, 509/10, but overlooks the fact that it also occurs in the first edition, printed Milan, [not before 11] January 1492. According to Cappelli, Cronologia, 11–22, the Milanese year was reckoned in the modern style from the mid-fifteenth century onwards, though still from Christmas late in the century, according to BMC VI xxiv n. 1.
It is possible that Zarotus, the printer of the first edition, simply forgot to turn over the year when leaving 1492 in the colophon, but even so there should be no trace of a ‘Columbus letter’ before March 1493 at the earliest. A puzzle, to which we do not know the explanation.

Adams (Cambridge) S1184; European Americana 509/10; Proctor 14078.

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