A COLLECTION OF RELIGIOUS COMMENTARY AND EARLY POLITICAL SATIRE

Relatione dello stato della religione.

Geneva, s.n., 1625.  [with]

Pietra del paragone politico.

Cormopolis [Venice], Giorgio Teler, 1615. [and]

Cardinalium archiepiscoporum episcoporum … sententia.

Paris, Antoine Estienne, 1625.

£2,250

4to., three volumes in one. 1): pp. (4), 192; 2): 32 leaves; 3): FIRST EDITION: pp. 26, (2). Roman and Italic letter; printer’s device on title, some decorated initials and head-pieces in 1) and 3); tiny marginal worm trails, a few leaves aged browned, light damp stain on upper corner on first half, title of 1) a bit soiled. A little age yellowing, a good copy in contemporary vellum, title gilt on morocco label to spine; slightly rubbed and stained, chipped lower corners; seventeenth-century manuscript shelf mark on front pastedown, early manuscript price and collation notes in English on front endpaper.

An interesting collection of controversial treatises on early seventeenth-century religion and politics, two of which bear a false imprint to elude censorship. The opening work is the first and only Italian edition of an influential Stuart treatise on the situation of religion in Europe. An able politician and pioneering investor in North America, Edwin Sandys (1561-1629) completed his studies in Oxford, befriending his tutor Richard Hooker. Later, he travelled in Europe and in Venice wrote this anti-Catholic report with the help of the Venetian scholar Paolo Sarpi.

The Relation was first published in 1605 against the author’s will and then expanded until 1637. This remarkably early Italian translation is variously attributed to the pen of Sarpi or Giovanni Diodati – the famous Calvinist pastor and scholar of the Bible – and was almost certainly printed in Geneva (where a community of Italian immigrants, religionis causa, was settled). According to a recent reattribution, the translator may well have been William Bedell (1571-1642), chaplain to the English ambassador in Venice Sir Henry Wooton and later translator of the Bible into Irish. Although the peculiar printer’s device on title shows a dolphin twisting around an anchor like the famous Aldine device, the Latin motto is incorrectly ‘Festina tarde’ instead of ‘Festina lente’.

The second work is a very early edition of a mordant political parody, printed several times in the course of 1615 and later on in the century under a fictitious printing place such as ‘Cormopoli’ or ‘Cosmopoli’. This covering stratagem was necessary since the book ridiculed, alongside other European rulers, the king of Spain and the German Emperor. Traiano Boccalini (1556-1613) was a famous satirical author, whose most successful and entertaining work was Ragguagli di Parnaso. Pretending to be the official reporter of a divine parliament chaired by Apollo on Mount Parnassus, Boccalini fearlessly mocked the contemporary society and politics. The Pietra del paragone politico, published posthumously, was in fact a continuation of the Ragguagli. On leaf Bivr, one can find a witty account of Thomas More enquiring of Apollo as to the end of all heresies.

The volume ends with a booklet printed by Antoine Estienne, scion of the renowned dynasty of French printers. Written by the Bishop of Chartes, Léonore D’Estampes (1589-1651), it is a defence of the unscrupulous expansionistic policy undertaken by Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII in the Thirty Years’ War, replying promptly to the pamphlet of the Jesuit scholar Jakob Keller entitled Ad Ludovicum XIII Regem admonitio. A counterfeited octavo edition with Estienne’s name and device was published by Robert Young in London also in 1625.

1) BM STC It. 17th, 816; Brunet, V, 123; Graesse, VI, 263; Melzi, Opere anonime e pseudonime, II, 425.
2) BM STC It. 17th, 118; Brunet, I, 1019; Graesse, I, 457; L. Firpo, ‘Le edizioni italiane della Pietra del paragone politico di Traiano Boccalini’, Atti della Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, LXXXVI, 1951-52, n. 17.
3) Not in Gibson, Brunet or Graesse. Renouard, 216:1.

L2110

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