WILLIAM OF TYRE. Historia della guerra sacra di Gierusalemme.

Venice, appresso Antonio Pinelli, 1610


4to. pp. 8, 615, (i), (xvi), index (b 8 ) bound at rear. Roman letter, little Italic. Woodcut printer’s device, decorated initials. T-p a little dusty, a handful of ll. lightly toned or foxed at margins, minimal worming to lower blank margin of few gatherings, ink smudge to lower outer corner of 2pp. of final index, verso of last a little soiled, repaired at gutter. A very good copy in early C17 French polished calf, double gilt ruled, large gilt centrepiece with arms of Paul Petau to covers, raised bands, compartments double gilt ruled with Petau’s gilt chiffre, gilt-lettered title, lower outer corners repaired. Armorial blind stamp ‘Bibliotheca Augusta Rhodocanakiana’ to t-p.

An excellent copy of this famous medieval history of the kingdom of Jerusalem—elegantly bound for the major bibliophile Paul Petau (1568-1614). He owned one of the best libraries in early modern France, which included books and mss from the collections of Jean Grolier and Jean Nicot, and major monastic institutions like the abbey of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire. His son Alexandre continued to enlarge the collection until his death, in 1672. In the C19, this copy was in the library of the bibliophile Prince Demetrius Rhodocanakis of Chios (1840-1902).

One of the most praised medieval historians, William (1130-86), Archbishop of Tyre, grew up in the kingdom of Jerusalem, founded after the First Crusade in 1099. He was ambassador to the Byzantine Empire and tutor to the son of the king of Jerusalem. His only extant work is ‘Belli sacri historia’, a chronicle in 23 books, probably unfinished, of the history of the kingdom of Jerusalem from the seventh century to 1184. It remains a most important historical source to date. After a substantial ms. circulation in the medieval period, it was first published in Latin in 1549, and translated into French, Italian and German. This is the fourth edition of the Italian translation by Giovanni Horologgi. The chronicle focuses on the First Crusade and its political consequences, with sections the invasion of Egypt of 1167, on the Persians and Turks. In addition to descriptions of places like Damascus, Edessa and Tyrus, it provides accounts of battles and sieges in the Mediterranean, from Jerusalem to Sicily, and even an account of the origins of the Turks, shedding light on their perception and ‘mythography’ in medieval Christianity. History blends with ‘mirabilia’, magic and even mild humour, as in the episode of the enchantresses who sought to throw a charm onto the Christian stone throwers attacking the walls of Jerusalem, but they were killed, ‘to the laughter and cheerfulness of all outside’, by one of their enormous stones. For its priceless details, ‘Historia’ was the main historical source for Tasso’s poem ‘Gerusalemme Liberata’, especially for its portrayals of Turkish princes.

Four copies recorded in the US.USTC 4021523; Röhricht, Bib. Geog. Palestinae, p.23. Not in Brunet.

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