MAGNIFICENT SILVER BINDING
Missale Romanum ex decreto sacrosancti Concilii Tridentini restitutum.Rome, Ex Typographia Vaticana, 1609, with addenda 1744 – 1840
Folio, pp. (lvi) 644 (iv), (xx), 12; (ii), (ii), (ii), (ii), (ii) 40 (ii), (ii) 2. Roman and italic letter, text in red and black within frame throughout, double column. Woodcut historiated and floriated initials, typeset music in square notation, one woodcut typographical ornament in first addendum. Engraved vignette depicting saints Peter and Paul with arms of Pope Paul V on t-p; first page of all liturgical sections within large engraved decorated frame with biblical scenes in cartouches supported by angels and cherubs; 9 splendid full-page engraved plates depicting the Epiphany, Adoration of the Magi (signed MG), Crucifixion (signed Philippe Thomassin), Resurrection, Ascension (signed Philippe Thomassin), Pentecost (signed Philippe Thomassin), Trinity Sunday, Assumption of the Virgin, All Saints (signed MG); 8 half-page illustrating text. Intermittent light age yellowing, occasional finger soiling, spotting and light waterstains at margins, some rather crude marginal repairs and to one leaf of text without loss, one leaf mostly remargined, wax drops to a few pp., small hole to one leaf of addenda affecting two words, some addenda margins soiled, many extended or strenghtened. A very good copy, in a superb contemporary binding of dark red velvet with embossed silver plates decorated in a rich baroque style. On the upper cover, within a fine architectural border, the virgin Mary is represented in a large oval ornated centrepiece surrounded by leaves, swirls and flowers upon which cherubs sit; below, the two evangelists Marcus with the lion (right) and Johannes with the eagle (left). On the lower cover, within a similar frame, the bust of a Pope is depicted at centre, with the two evangelists Luke (right) and Matthew (left) below. Spine in velvet, with red morocco expansions to both sides, two silver ornaments and a central cartouche, edges a bit worn and frayed. All edges red, 7 bookmarks. In folding box.
An exceptional, sumptuously bound and handsomely decorated copy of a Clementine Missal printed in Rome in 1609, containing all instructions, chants, prayers and readings necessary for the celebration of the Mass promulgated by Pope Pius V after the Council of Trent and revised, not very successfully, by Pope Clement VIII.
The superb binding, in red velvet with applied silver plates on all sides, is a work of great elegance and expertise in the Roman baroque style. Bindings embellished with precious metals were typically produced for Liturgical texts, and this tradition dates back to the Middle ages. Red velvet became popular during the 16th and 17th centuries, and it was combined with silver due to the attractive contrast between the colours and textures of the materials. In Italy, this type of binding decoration appears more frequently on Missals compared to other liturgical texts, and it is common especially during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Similar luxury bindings were usually commissioned by members of the private èlite, churches and senior clergy; often, they were used on presentation copies for princes of the state or church. The lower cover bears the portrait of a pope: this remarkable and quite rare feature – images of saints and of the virgin Mary are more standard centrepieces in this type of binding – indicates that this work might have been commissioned by or gifted to a Pope, or realised in his memory. A C20 German bookseller note on the front pastedown identifies the portrait with that of Paul V, pope when this edition was printed. Although this is a possibility, the image – which depicts a shaved man, with prominent cheekbones, a narrow mouth and a nimbus around his head – does not resemble the typical iconography of Paul V, who is always represented wearing a beard and was never beatified. Moreover, if this binding was contemporary with the book’s publication, it would represent a rather early example for its style. We have not been able to identify this pope with certainty, but another possible suggestion – on the basis of the iconography – is Benedict XIII, pope between 1724 and 1730. The process for his beatification was opened for the first time in 1755, and a date around this period for the binding is possible according to the style of the decoration.
The slightly worn bookmarks, finger marks and wax stains indicate that this book has been actively used during the mass. Interestingly, although heavy and richly decorated altar missals such as this one were usually destined to remain in the same church or monastery, the final additions in this copy suggest that it had travelled from Rome to northern Italy – perhaps with its owner. These final pages, i.e. from (xx) onwards, were attached to the Missal in a later date and include lists of additional local festivities printed in Asti in 1744, Turin in 1793, Alessandria during first half of the 19th century (Piemonte) and Milan in 1793 (Lombardy).
Three of the nine splendid plates depicting the major feasts – Crucifixion, Ascension and Pentecoste – are signed by Philippe Thomassin (1562-1622). A French publisher and engraver emigrated to Rome, he often engraved plates after the works of famous painters including Raphael and Parmigianino.USTC 4033663; Not in BL Italian 17th century.