De birreto rubeo dando Cardinalibus regularibus responsa

Rome, apud Georgium Ferrarium, 1592.


FIRST EDITION 4to pp (viii) 90 (xxii). Roman letter, title in red and black with woodcut vignette of Saints Peter and Paul, woodcut initials and headpieces, four woodcut portraits of cardinals wearing the scarlet biretta with their arms, appropriately coloured in red, early underlining and marginal pen marks. T.p. foxed (a few small holds on blank), age browning to a few ll, light marginal foxing, small oil splash to blank fore edge of a final ll. Still an attractive copy in C17 vellum over boards, Autograph of J. T. Coleridge, Torrington Square, 1830′ on fly.

First and only early edition of this curious work of the Bolognese jurist Antonius Scappus, advocate of the Roman curia, dedicated to Pope Gregory XIV. It consists of nine questions and extensive answers, concerning the order and regulations relating to the wearing of the red biretta by cardinals of the Roman Church, giving copious references to Canon Law and historical sources. It appears to be a compilation of works on the somewhat esoteric subject as Responsi 1 – 2 and 4 -7 are described as of uncertain authorship, 3 is by Georgius Diedus, 8 by the fellow advocate Nicholas Angelius and 9 by Scappus himself. The work concludes with an extensive index. The biretta has been justly described as the second least practical form of male headgear, after the academic square or mortar board (which probably share a common ancestor) but it has been worn by clerics from cardinals downwards (generally black other than for cardinals – red, and bishops – violet) since late medieval times and its use is prescribed in detail in the liturgical rubrics both at mass and for other solemn ecclesiastical functions. Its form is subject to similar detailed regulations e.g. the absence of tassels. It is thought to be the originals of the black cap which, until relatively recently, English judges donned at the moment of pronouncing the death sentence. The red biretta however has always been the exclusive preserve of the College of Cardinals. Sir John Taylor Coleridge (1790-1876) was a grandson of Rev. John Coleridge, father of the great poet. He led a distinguished legal and judicial career with a considerable knowledge of ecclesiastical law. He was also a distinguished classicist and author (Life of Keble 1869, contributor to Stanley’s life of Arnold) and friend of Wordsworth, Arnold, Pusey, and Newman.

BM STC It. p. 617. Adams S 609 (1 copy only, lacking the woodcuts).


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