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LESSIO, Leonardo


De antichristo et eius praecursoribus disputatio apologetica gemina: qua refutatur praefatio monatoria, falso, ut creditur, adscripta magnae Britanniae Regi.

Antwerp, ex officina Plantiniana, 1611.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. (xxiv), 297 (xxi). Roman letter, with some Italic, small woodcut Jesuit emblem on title page, Plantin’s ‘labore et constantia’ device on verso of last, historiated woodcut initials, ‘Bibliot. Bossianae Alexandrinae’ stamped on lower blank margin of title page (c. 1700), early manuscript Italian bibliographical note on fly, pretty uniform browning, (poor quality paper). A good copy in contemporary vellum over boards, title gilt on spine, all edges blue.

First edition of this controversial work, a refutation of the preface to the Oath of Allegiance of James I of England, printed in 1609 under the title ‘Apologia pro iuramento fidelitatis’ in which it is claimed that the Pope is the antichrist. After the gunpowder plot, Parliament passed an act that required citizens to take an Oath of Allegiance, thereby denying the Pope’s authority over the King. It was a thinly disguised attempt to divide Catholics in their allegiance to the Church and to the royal house. It was known that there were differences of opinion on the subject of the Pope deposing power, and the Oath of Allegiance was drafted to capitalize on the fall-out from these divergences.

The De antichristo refutes the accusation of the Anglicans that the Pope is the antichrist by assigning the label to Calvinists and Lutherans, in an astute religious-political twist. Lessio was a Flemish Jesuit who taught philosophy at the Jesuit college in Douai, one of the principal training grounds for priests in the English mission, hence his association with English Catholics. He wrote a few works relating to dogma, in particular asceticism and controversialism, many of which were translated into English and published at St. Omer. He is most famous for his ‘De Justitia et Jure’ of 1605.

BM STC C17 Low Countries. p 338. Milward, Jacobean 449. Not in Allison and Rogers.