CATHOLIC CHURCH Taxe cancellariae apostolice et taxe sacre penitentiarie itidem apostolice

Paris, Venundantur Toussaint Denis, 1520


4to. ff. [iv] XLII. [pi] a4 a-k4 l2. Gothic letter. Title with woodcut arms of Pope Leo X and the kingdom of France at head and woodcut printer’s device of St. Denis holding his severed head, autograph and inscription “Octb. 9 1624. De nuo imprima Londinii in perpetu Papa infamiam. Thoms Goade” on title autograph Mathew Lownes? beneath, C17th bibliographical notes on front pastedown, and in pencil in Mendham’s hand below, part of errata lightly crossed through in ink, occasional marginal annotations in a neat C16th hand. Title page fractionally dusty, some minor light water-staining, the odd mark or spot. A very good copy in English speckled calf c1600, covers blind and gilt ruled to a panel design, fleurons to outer corners, large strap-worked lozenge gilt at centres, spine gilt ruled in compartments (small loss at head), joints cracked and worn, all edges sprinkled red.

Extremely rare, important and most interesting work, the first edition printed in France, with exceptional provenance; from the library of the English Calvinist – Arminian clergyman Thomas Goad and, two centuries later, from the extraordinary library of the author and protestant controversialist, Joseph Mendham. The work, concerning the taxes of the Apostolic Chancery, including the sale of penances, goes to the heart of the causes the reformation; the issue of Penance in return for money, along with the issue of indulgences, are considered as the initial cause for the break up of the Catholic world. In the hands of Mendham or Goad this work was indisputable evidence of the iniquity of the Catholic Church, and as such a precious document proving the need for reform and the schism.

Mendham drew together all the editions of this work he could find and listed them in his work, first published in 1825, “The spiritual venality of Rome: Taxe sacre penitentiarie apostolice”. He describes this very copy in that volume as no. XVIII of his list. He states “The title page is headed by the arms of the Medici, Leo X. being then Pope, and those of France. The verso (of the colophon) contains the valuations of different species of money and errata. The whole work which is plainly perfect, contains only the Taxe, Canc. and Penit. The other articles specified at the end of the title do not appear (…) The Roman tax tables, (for such they may very appropriately be called) are certainly a considerable advance and improvement upon the simple indulgence, under which they class; for there, absolution for the grossest crimes – perhaps for all crimes – is expressly set to sale at specified prices – without any allusion or admonition respecting the two first parts of Penance – although, if mentioned, they would probably occasion no impediment. But in the penitentiary part, that which chiefly occupies us, the whole is nothing but bare absolution or dispensation, or licence, etc for Grossi, or floreni, or ducats – Pounds, shillings, or pence. To what times or persons the origin of these small and precious volumes is to be assigned is perhaps impossible to be determined. The least objectionable part, indicating only unprincipled cupidity and rapacity, the chancery Taxes, may with certainty be traced back to Pope John XXII who reigned at the beginning of the fourteenth century, and is celebrated by Papal as well as other historians for his immoderate extortion by the dexterous management of of benefices and by other means, and for the immense wealth which he accumulated and left behind him. The frequent and exclusive reference to the Liber Jo. XXII in Leo Xth’s Taxe Canc. Apost. published 1514, place the fact beyond doubt.”

Mendham gives a lengthy description of the contents of the work in pages 50-56 (before describing the manuscript copies in the British Library.)“The last part, D, is by far the most important, and entitled Taxe sacre penitentiarie apostolice, from fol. xxxvi to the end fol xlii. (…) The reader must here carefully recollect, and attend to the fact, that this portion is no more than an exact reprint of the papal copy of 1514 (…) and then he is told that here we have a regular priced catalogue for absolutions,for, specifically, most of the worst crimes which can be committed, and, by general expression, for all.”

Thomas Goad is referring, in his inscription on the title, to the first English edition and first English translation of the Taxe printed in 1625, mentioned by Medham in his census as no. xxxvi. In 1619 the king sent Goad out to replace Joseph Hall at the Synod of Dort. At Dort Goad, previously a Calvinist, went over to the Arminians. In 1623 he was engaged as assistant to Daniel Featley in disputations which were held with Jesuits: George Musket, John Percy alias Fisher, and others.

A very good copy of this important work with exceptional English provenance.

USTC 145341. Not in BM STC Fr. C16th Brunet V 682.

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