SARPI, Paolo

SARPI, Paolo The History of the Quarrels of Pope Paul V with the State of Venice

London, [Eliot's court press for] John Bill, 1626


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. pp. [xx], 435, [i]. Roman letter within printed rule border, woodcut initials and headpieces, C19 armorial bookplate of the Earl of Macclesfield on pastedown, Shirburn Castle blindstamp to first three ll. T-p slightly dusty, tear to lower margin of X4 just affecting catchword and border, generally a very good, clean copy in contemporary English polished vellum, lacking ties.

Sarpi’s account of the interdict controversy of 1605 to 1607 first published, posthumously, in Venice in 1624, translated for the first time here into English by Christopher Potter. At the beginning of the reign of Paul V, Venice had attempted to restrict Papal prerogative over her territory by asserting the right to try ecclesiastics in the secular courts, and license ecclesiastical foundations and acquisitions of property. Paul V demanded the Republics’ formal submission to his authority, which was refused, largely at the instigation of Sarpi, who was appointed state canonist and theological counsellor. A war of pamphlets followed, inspired or controlled by Sarpi, who had received the further appointment of censor of everything written at Venice in defence of the Republic. Rome imposed interdicts which were ignored in many cases, and Sarpi assumed even more protestant positions – subjection of the clergy to the state, toleration of worship, rejection of the Council of Trent. Never before in a religious controversy had the appeal been made so exclusively to reason and history. The Venetian clergy, a few religious orders excepted, disregarded the interdict, and discharged their functions as usual. The Catholic powers refused to be drawn into the quarrel though at one point it looked as if they would. In the event, a compromise was reached through the intervention of the King of France, by which time the Venetians had substantially achieved their original objectives, Papal dignity was saved and Sarpi’s extremism abandoned. The opinion of Le Courayer, that Sarpi “était Catholique en gros et quelque fois Protestant en detail” (that he was Catholic overall and sometimes Protestant in detail) seems not altogether groundless. Christopher Potter, the translator, was one of the most prominent recruits of the Laudian party from the Puritan clergy. A very good copy of a work of lasting political importance which arroused considerable interest in England at the time.

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