ILLUSTRATED HOLY SHROUD
Iesu Christi Crucifixi Stigmata Sacrae Sindoni.
Venice, apud Barezzo Barezzi, 1606.
FIRST EDITION thus. Folio. pp. (xxxii) 294 (xxxviii). Roman letter, some Italic, double column. Engraved architectural t-p in red and black, Christ flanked by images of the Holy Shroud above, angels holding Holy Shroud at sides, arms of Pope Paul V beneath; 17 superb full-page engravings of the instruments of the Passion and Christ’s stigmata; ½-page woodcut printer’s device on Register; decorated initials and ornaments. T-p mounted, dusty with few small tears to outer margin, some thumbing to first few ll., faint water stain at upper gutter, occasional light yellowing, old repair to lower margin of K2-V4, worm hole to same on V5-X2. A good, clean copy in early C19 half vellum over marbled boards, title inked to spine, extremities rubbed.
Good copy of the scarce first Latin edition of this superbly illustrated early modern bestseller. First published in Italian in 1598, it achieved immediate success, with two further Italian editions and translations into Latin (1606), German (1607) and French (1609). After teaching law at Bologna, Alfonso Paleotti (1531-1610) took holy orders in Rome, inspired by the mysticism of the visionary Francesco Parenti da Bolsena who followed him to Bologna in 1597, when Paleotti became Archbishop. ‘Stigmata’ was inspired by a visit to the Holy Shroud in Turin—the cloth on which Christ’s body left an impression of his figure, the blood and ointment on his wounds—in the company of Carlo Borromeo. The first Italian edition was censored by the Inquisition and republished with revisions in 1599. The Latin translation was undertaken by Daniele Mallonio (d.1604), friar and professor of theology at Bologna. ‘Stigmata’ is a comprehensive meditation manual structured as a treatise on the history and theology of the Holy Shroud. It begins with its arrival to Turin and proceeds with a 21-chapter forensic analysis of Christ’s flagellation (the methods and location), crucifixion (the kind of wood used), crown of thorns and tortures (the trajectory of the wounding spear), and the subsequent ‘horrendous wounds’ which appeared on his body. Thanks to the vivid, quasi-anatomical plates, each wound is dissected with gory and scholarly precision, leading readers to reflect on Christ’s human suffering and on the theology, nature and power of relics. In particular, a superb engraving, explaining techniques for crucifixion, is devoted to that of the Martyrs of Japan, 26 Catholics executed in Nagasaki in 1597. He tackled especially discrepancies between the Gospel and physiological reality—e.g., Christ’s hands could only have remained intact having been pierced by nails in between the joints and nerves, strong enough support his weight, as experimented on dead bodies. Paleotti’s extreme, Baroque visualisation of Christ’s suffering inspired popular preachers like the English poet John Donne and painters like the Spanish Francisco Pacheco. A remarkably intense, handsomely illustrated symbol of Counter-Reformation iconography.
No copies recorded in the UK.
BL STC C17 It., p. 642; Mortimer, Harvard It., 351 (1598 ed.). Not in Brunet, Cordier, Japonica, or Cicognara.