De SS. Martyrum Cruciatibus.

Rome, Ex Typographia Congregationis Oratorij apud S. Mariam in Vallicella, 1594.


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. pp. (xvi) 264 (xxxii). Roman letter, with Italic. Woodcut ornaments to t-p, last of preliminaries and last leaf; 25 full-page woodcut scenes of martyrdom after Antonio Tempesta; decorated initials and tailpieces. T-p a little dusty, intermittent slight browning or light dampstaining, tiny ink burn to fore-edge of a few gatherings. A very good copy in early vellum, lacking ties, ancient reback, new eps, minor loss to spine. Early ex-libris ‘del luogo dei Capuccini di C[astel] S[an] Gio[vanni] di Piac[enz]a’.

A very good copy of the FIRST EDITION of the Latin translation of this extremely influential, blood-curling history of martyrdom. Born and raised in Rome, Antonio Gallonio (1566-1605) was a member of the Congregation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri, which inspired his interest in the early history of the Church. This is the first edition of the Latin translation of his ‘Trattato de gli instrumenti di martirio’ (Rome, 1591), dedicated to Clement VIII—an illustrated, historically accurate encyclopaedia of ancient instruments of martyrdom based on a thorough study of the Acts of the Martyrs and authors like Cicero and Valerius Maximus. Gallonio painstakingly examined the instruments and techniques of torture used against the ‘glorious soldiers of Christ’. Each torment is dissected in all its nuances—e.g., crucifixion by nails or poles, with ropes used to keep martyrs hanging from a cross by one limb or over a burning fire, or after being smeared with apple juice to let their flesh be devoured by bees and flies. Conceived as visual aids for readers, with captions identifying specific torments, the vivid and chilling illustrations were cut after the originals by Antonio Tempesta. Surrounded by placid Renaissance landscapes with architecture, tempietti and classical columns, the tormented martyrs allowed the artists to display their mastery in the depiction of human bodies contorted with pain. The violent scenes, expunged of all gore like contemporary medical illustrations, are also reminiscent of ethnographic representations of tortures inflicted by ‘savages’ of the New World onto colonisers and missionaries. A masterpiece of Counter-Reformation ecclesiastical iconography.

USTC 831606; BM STC It., p. 288; Brunet II, 1468. Not in Mortimer, Harvard C16 It. or Sander.


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