MIRABILIA ROMAE Le cose meravigliose dell’alma città di Roma […] L’antichità di Roma di M. Andrea Palladio

Roma, Vincenzo Accolti, 1589


8vo, pp. 126 (ii). Roman letter, ‘L’antichità di Roma’ with separate t-p. Woodcut floriated initials, headpiece and tailpiece. Charming woodcut vignette depicting the personification of Rome to t-ps, 7 small illustrations of saints and of the Holy Cross. Slight waterstain to lower margins of first two gatherings at gutter, marginal foxing, ink spots to lower outer corner of one fol. A good copy in contemporary vellum, small loss to upper cover, ms. label to spine, traces of ties. Ms. ex libris “Sum Erasmi à Landau L[iber] B[aro] Sena 1589” to upper cover, “Ex libris Balthasaris Seldenreich” and “Bibliothecae Conventus Brunensis, ad SS: Joannes, Ord: Min, S: Franc Convento” to t-p.

Very rare edition of this tourist guide to the city of Rome, printed and edited by the Italian Vincenzo Accolti. The long tradition of travel guides to Rome begins in the 12th century, when Benedict, canon of St. Peter’s, compiled a guide for the pilgrims coming to the city, entitled ‘Mirabilia Romae’. The first printed edition is dated to the early 1470s and from then countless were published, with more than thirty in the 16th century. Over the decades, the original text was largely modified and integrated with contributions of various authors. This is the second version printed by Accolti. 

The guide begins with a description of the churches of Rome. Printed here anonymously, it is largely based on a text written by the architect Andrea Palladio in 1544. First, the seven major churches of Rome are presented: St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Mary Major, St. Lawrence, St. Sebastian and Holy Cross in Jerusalem. Each paragraph is ornamented with a small woodcut depicting the respective saint. Then, the guide talks about the churches of Tiber Island, Trastevere and Borgo. Three itineraries are proposed to visit all the remaining churches: from Porta del Popolo to the Capitoline Hill, and from here in two directions (‘to the left’, and ‘to the right’) towards the mountains. This section is completed with a list of days and churches where indulgences can be obtained, and an explanation of the actions that should be performed in order to receive them, including prayers, fasting and charity. The short ‘Guida Romana’, first printed in 1565, follows: this is a guided tour of the city divided in three days. Accolti here includes lists of popes, Roman emperors, rulers of France, Naples, Venice and Milan.

‘L’antichità di Roma’ by Palladio, a brief history of ancient Rome, is included in a separate section. This also comprehends a curious anonymous work on the ‘fires of the ancient peoples’, explaining Roman heating systems. At the end, there is a useful list of coaching inns located along the way from major Italian cities, with an indication of the distance between them: these were stations where horses could rest, and travellers enjoy a hot meal. It is the original travelguide.

In 1598, this copy was purchased by Erasmus à Landau. ‘Liber baro’ corresponds to ‘Freiherr’ in German, and it is a title of nobility of the Holy Roman Empire that was attributed to barons. In the 16th century, members of the German noble families would often spend some time in Italy for their studies: Erasmus à Landau, L.B. of Haus and Rapottenstein in Austria, is recorded in the lists of German students in the archival registers of various Italian universities. A student of Law, he matriculated at Siena precisely in 1598, travelled to Pisa in 1590 and Bologna in 1591. Later, the book fell in the hands of Balthasar Seldenreich: he is recorded as a student from Vienna at the university of Pisa, where he obtained a doctorate in philosophy and medicine in 1620. It was possibly Balthasar, or perhaps another member of the Austrian community of students in Italy, who brought this travel guide to northern Europe. Here, at a later date, it was held in the rich library of the Franciscan convent (friars minor) of St. Johns in Brno.

Not on Worldcat, only 5 copies on USTC, no copies in the US.

USTC 806473. This ed not in Adams or BM STC It. 16th century, Brunet, Graesse. On Erasmus à Landau, see A. Luschin, Oesterreicher an italienischen Universitäten, Vol 2-3 (1886); on Balthasar Seldenreich, see F. Weigle, Deutsche Studenten in Pisa (1959).