BOSIO, Giacomo.

BOSIO, Giacomo. Li privilegii della sacra religione di S. Gio. Gierosolimitano

Rome, Giacomo Tornieri, 1589


FIRST EDITION. 4to, pp. 96 (xxiv). Roman letter, arms of Hugue Loubenx de Verdalle (Grand Master of the Order of Malta, 1531-1595) to t-p, woodcut floriated and figured initials, headpieces with strapwork and satyrs. Upper inner corner of t-p a bit soiled, foot of lower blank margin removed, minor marginal blemishes to a few ll., one gathering lightly yellowed, small hole to lower blank margin of last fol. A good copy in C18 calf, arms of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706 – 1758) and his wife Elizabeth Spencer (1713-1761) gilt to covers, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, faded gilt decoration in compartments. C20 label “Ex Libris C. Lacy Hulbert-Powell”, C20 bookplate “Horace Woollaston Monckton” with ms. “20.2.84” and C19 bookplate of the Sunderland Library, Blenheim Palace to front paste-down, C20 paper with ms. bibliographical notes pasted to fly.

First edition of this important work concerning the privileges and investiture ceremony of the Knights of Malta, written by the first historian of the Order. This copy is from the great Sunderland Library: formed by Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland (1675-1722), this was one of the finest private collections in Europe. The binding bears the arms of Charles’ second son, the 3rd Duke of Marlborough, who inherited the library and moved it to Blenheim Palace in 1749.

The Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John was founded in the 11th century at Jerusalem, with the task of providing care for the sick and poor pilgrims to the Holy Land. After the fall of Jerusalem to the Arabs, the knights settled in Rhodes and then in Malta, devoting themselves to protecting the Mediterranean shores from the Ottomans and to fighting piracy. ‘Li privilegii’ contains the Latin text of a series of papal bulls and letters granting the Knights of the Order privileges and exemptions from all secular and religious authorities. The most important is ‘Circumspecta Romani Pontificis’, promulgated by Pope Pius IV in 1560: this decree stated that the knights were free from any ecclesiastical jurisdiction, including the Holy See Government, and free from local and national taxes; the bull also granted the Grand Master plenary power over the members and possessions of the Order. The second part of the book, in Italian vernacular, is perhaps the most entertaining. Step by step, Bosio describes the investiture ceremony procedure in the flowing form of a dialogue between the aspirant knight and the person bestowing the title upon him. The ceremony involved tapping the flat side of a sword on the candidate’s shoulder three times and giving him the knight’s robes.

Giacomo Bosio (1544-1627) was born to a Milanese family, many of whose members were Knights Hospitallers. In 1587, he was appointed representative of the Order in Rome, and later was sent on an official mission to the court of France. Back to Rome, he was involved in a murder case – after his reputation was restored, he devoted himself to writing. Bosio is the author of an important history of the Order (‘Dell’istoria della sacra religione’, 1594). In 1589, ‘Li privilegii’ was also published in conjunction with Bosio’s “Gli statuti della sacra religione di S. Giovanni Gierosolimitano” (on the statutes of the Knights of Malta), and the two are sometimes found bound and catalogued together.

The Hulbert-Powells, a distinguished old Catholic family, are collateral descendants of Cardinal Pole, the last Archbishop of Canterbury, and also of Robin Hood.

USTC 839828; Adams J285. Not in BM STC It. C16, Brunet or Graesse. Bibliotheca Sunderlandiana Sale Catalogue, no. 1829. USTC and Wordlcat record only three copies of this edition in the US (United States Military Academy, Morris Law library (Yale), New York Public).
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