A FAMOUS ARABIST’S COPY
Dichiaratione più copiosa della dottrina Christiana […] tradotta di lingua italiana in Arabica.
Rome, nella Stamparia della stessa Sacr. Congr., 1627.
FIRST EDITION thus. 8vo. pp. 299 (ix). Arabic letter, little Roman. Intermittent age browning, varying degrees of foxing throughout, small paper flaw to lower outer corner of C1-2, small oil stain to upper outer corner of E5-8 and a bit larger to outer margin of K5-8 and gathering R. A good copy in contemporary vellum, title inked to spine, outer and upper margin of lower cover chewed, few later red annotations to lower cover, spine cracked, ancient paper label at head. Contemporary inscription ‘Concessa ad usu[m] fr[atr]is Bartholomei di Pectorano Ref[erent]is(?)S[anc]ti Bernardini’ inked to lower blank margin of t-p.
A good copy of illustrious provenance of the first edition of this very important Arabic translation of the Catholic Catechism written in 1597 by the Jesuit Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino (1542-1621). Among the most influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, and later canonised, Bellarmino taught theology at the Collegium Romanum. As Inquisitor, he was involved in the trials of Giordano Bruno and Galileo. ‘Catechism’ provided a clear overview in dialogue form of the fundamental tenets of Catholicism (this edition reflecting the official shorter version with a focus on the Commandments and Sacraments), becoming an essential instrument for evangelisation for missionaries overseas. These familiar texts were also much used in teaching unfamiliar and exotic languages to those preparing for missions outside the Christian world. It was translated into 50 languages, including Congolese and Valachian, an activity boosted by the establishment in 1626 of the printing press of the Congregation of the Propaganda Fide, an institution which oversaw missionary activities. Its press owned movable types for major languages written in non-Roman alphabets. Behind these efforts, which highlighted the importance of the local vernacular in missionary activity, was a solid scholarly base of Roman linguists interested in African, Middle Eastern and Oriental studies. The translator of this edition, Giovanni Hesronita (Yuhanna al-Hasruni, fl. early C17), was affiliated with the Roman Collegium of the Maronites, a Syrian and Lebanese Christian church.
This copy belonged to another major Arabist—Bartolomeo de Pectorano (fl. mid-C17), a Franciscan from St Bernardinus in the province of Naples. In the 1640s, he was one of the official papal researchers and translators—together with the polymath Jesuit Athanasius Kircher—of the Lead (or Sacromonte) Books, which had just reached Rome. These were texts discovered in Granada in 1595, allegedly written at the time of Nero and containing an Arabic Gospel (‘Sobre el pergamino’, xxxv). Research into these texts which appeared to reconcile Christianity and Islam were a great challenge to Roman Orientalists (Girard, ‘Teaching and Learning Arabic’, 193). In the early 1680s, after forty years of philological study, the papal authorities rejected them as forgeries (‘Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology’, 491). Bartolomeo, who was initially a defender of the Lead Books, produced ms. transcriptions seeking to imitate the layout and Morisco-style handwriting; one was copied in 1644 and is now British Library, Harley 3507 (Harvey, ‘Muslims in Spain’, 385). A copy of illustrious provenance of this tool of early modern Arabic studies.
Only Harvard copy recorded in the US.
BL STC It. C17, p. 754; Brunet I, 743-44 (other eds). Not in Adams.
P. de Valencia, Sobre el pergamino y láminas de Granada (Bern, 2006); The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology, 1600-1800, ed. U.L. Lehner et al. (Oxford, 2016); L.P. Harvey, Muslims in Spain, 1500 to 1614 (Chicago, 2005); A. Girard, ‘Teaching and Learning Arabic in Early Modern Rome’, in The Teaching and Learning of Arabic in Early Modern Europe, ed. J. Loop et al. (Leiden, 2018), 189-212.