Missale Chaldaicum Iuxta ritum Ecclesiae nationis Maronitarum

Rome, Typographia Medicea, 1592


FIRST EDITION. 4to. Pp. (iv), 264. Syriac letter, some Roman and Arabic. Text in red and black within red and black typographical borders. Large woodcut to first tp, classification annotations at foot, second in red and black with large printer’s device, some woodcut initials and head and tail pieces. 19 detailed half page biblical woodcuts including last supper and crucifixion, some smaller woodcuts. Verso of last leaf a bit dusty, C19 circular stamp of St Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia. Thick paper, good margins, light age browning, a few leaves more so. A robust and attractive copy, in contemporary calf, rebacked, new eps, aer.

This impressive Maronite liturgy denotes an important stage in Catholicism where Eastern and Western belief systems were integrated following the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and in the lead up to the Synod of Diamper (1599). Written in Syriac, with some Arabic and Latin script, the main body of the book is composed in the language closest to that spoken by Jesus himself – Syriac developed from Aramaic. It is the Book of the Qurbono (Book of Offering), i.e. the celebration of the Eucharist, and was compiled and edited by the students of the Maronite college in Rome. This particular edition was taken from a manuscript written in 1566 in the Monastery of Qozhaya, Lebanon, by the hermit Mikhail al-Razzi. The publishers altered the prayers of the al-Razzi manuscript: in fact, they translated the words of consecration from Syriac to Latin, demonstrating the Latinization of the Maronite church.

The exceptional woodcuts depict a variety of biblical scenes in a highly attractive style. Some bear the monograms of the painter and engraver Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630) as the designer, and Leonardo Parasole (1570-?) as the cutter. The men collaborated on a rare and exceptional Arabic bible, published by the Typographica Medici in 1591 (Mortimer Italian 64), from which the woodcuts in this book were taken. Tempesta was a successful artist and completed frescoes at the Villa d’Este and Doria Pamphilj as well as numerous etchings and engravings. This painterly, Mannerist style is present in the woodcuts. The combination of Eastern text and geometric decoration with the Western practice of woodcut production epitomises the hybridity that characterises this book. They add remarkable depth and detail to key scenes from scripture including the Annunciation, an emotive portrayal of Christ being hammered onto the cross, and the last supper. The last supper woodcut is included several times, reflecting the eucharistic purpose of the book.

The Maronites are a branch of Christianity first propagated from the followers of the fourth century AD Saint Maron. He became a hermit later in life, having studied the holy scriptures in Antioch, and was widely known for both his deep spirituality and miraculous healing powers. He was a prolific missionary, and following his death devoted disciples and followers continued his teachings. The Maronites are Chalcedonian, meaning that they supported the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, which decreed that Jesus was true God and true man. They are characterised by their balanced relationship between East and West. A faithful Maronite community remains mainly in Lebanon to this day, as well as in Syria, Cyprus, Israel, and various other diasporas altogether numbering in the millions.

During the era of the creation of this book, the Catholic church was reaching out towards the East, especially through the Typographica Medicea, or the Medici Oriental Press. Established in the late 16th century by Ferdinand de Medici, it was directly related to the pope, as demonstrated in the dedicatory letter to Pope Clement VIII. Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585), the predecessor of Clement VIII, was instrumental in bringing the Maronites under the wing of Rome. This Maronite Missal, represented a dramatic step for the Maronites towards Europe. Saint Charles Borromeo was another high ranking Catholic figure who actively sought the integration of the Maronite church. The Maronite College in Rome was established in 1584, and this Missal published shortly thereafter.

Graf I 184; BMSTC It 16th 380. Only NYP copy recorded in US.
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