Provenance Mysteries: Discours ou est descrit au vray, l’estat du roy d’Espainge: et de ses royaumes, forces, & moyens, printed 1590

The May 2021 provenance mystery features Discours ou est descrit au vray, l’estat du roy d’Espainge: et de ses royaumes, forces, & moyens. The attributed author for this work is Jean de Prantinhac, and the book was published at an unknown location in 1590, but most likely it was printed in Montauban.

Title page

This work is very rare, in that this is the only known copy: no such title is recorded in the Universal Short Title Catalogue, and the only copy listed in the Heritage of the Printed Book (HPB) database is this copy. Olivier Barbier’s Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes also does not list the work. The attribution to Jean de Prantinhac stems from the inscription on the title page, which reads: ‘A Monthaulban per Prantinac’. Below this a further inscription has been trimmed: ‘Discource de Pranti[?]’. If that author attribution is correct, there is only one other book by him listed in the HPB: Anatomie de l’ame et de l’homme interieur, printed in Saint-Jean-d’Angély in 1616.

Close up of inscription (scored out)

This book presents two mysteries. The first regards the authorship, and whether this attribution is correct. I have not been able to find any information on this author, apart from a brief mention in a publication from the 19th century, discussing the Anatomie, but it did not provide any further information on this author. The 26 year gap between the two publications suggests that these two works, if both by a Jean de Prantinhac, cannot both be by the same person. The second concerns what is a possibly a cipher or other mark of ownership that has been crossed out on the title page. Was this the same hand that indicated the authorship, and place of publication? Is it a name or signature? It is unlikely that this inscription is traceable, but someone may recognise it, or have seen something similar.

Close-up of Prantinac attribution

I will confess that at this stage I have not read the book. The subtitle (et de ses royaumes, forces, & moyens: et consequemment, de toute la ligue. A ce opposé l’estat du roy, ses forces & moye[n]s: et des rois princes, & estats, ses amis, & confederés. Et un traicté, de l’exelence de la monarchie Françoise. Avec un oracle d’invention poëtique) indicates that it concerns the wars of religion in France, and Henry of Navarre’s battles against the Catholic League, which involved forces from Spain and other international Catholic forces. Robert Ashley (1565-1641), the library’s founder, took part in this war, and was at the fall of Gournay in September 1591. This book was part of his collection.

It is possible that someone will recognise the ornamental type the printer has used on the title page. Can similarities be observed with the printer Jamet Mettayer’s use of ornamental type on the title page to L’ordre des etats generaux tenus a Bloys, 1589? Mettayer was working in Tours from 1589 to 1594 and was embedded with the French court during the wars of religion. He printed pamphlets against the Catholic League.

The book is reasonably short at a total of 126 pages, and thus can be considered an ephemeral type of pamphlet. But given the keen interest in the wars of religion, and England’s interest in Spain and its armies after the Spanish armada years, why is this book so rare, and the authorship a mystery?

As ever, if you have any comments on this provenance mystery, contact the library at:

Renae Satterley

May 2021

Provenance Mysteries: De elocutionis imitatione ac apparatu liber unus by Jakob Omphalius, printed 1537

The April 2021 provenance mystery features De elocutionis imitatione ac apparatu liber unus by Jakob Omphalius (1500-1567), printed in Paris in 1537.  

This book presents us with many provenance mysteries. There is the interesting signature, consisting of what appear to be two initials and a flourish on the right-hand side of the page, with a proverb in the same hand written at the top of the title page: ‘Chi ha tempo, ha vita’ (literally, he who has time has life). It is possibly the same hand that has written ‘Quotidie, donec’ at the bottom of the page. But there are three, possibly four, further inscriptions which have been heavily scored out – one above the imprint information; one at the bottom of the page; one/two at the top of the page. A further clue in the form of the symbol for Jupiter is found at the bottom left-hand corner of the page.

Title page

If that was not enough in terms of mysterious provenance, the book also contains, in an unidentified hand, five pages of a hand-written index on the front end-leaves, manuscript notes on the back end-leaves, and a full page of notes on the verso of the title page. The book is heavily annotated throughout. The hand-written index is dated 1583 and has been written with much care and attention.

First leaf of the handwritten index

The title page and back end-leaves show some hand-colouring, possibly with watercolour paint? All of the hands still visible in the book are reasonably distinctive, and presumably would be recognisable by someone who has seen them before.   

Verso of the title page

Omphalius was a German jurist and well-known correspondent with other humanists, such as Erasmus and Josephus Justus Scaliger. He published at least thirteen works during his lifetime, including this work on rhetoric and oratory, which went through fifteen editions. In 2020, the dual-paneled marriage portrait of Omphalius and his wife, Elisabeth Bellinghausen, were reunited after being separated since 1896.  

As ever, if you have any comments on this provenance mystery, contact the library at:

Renae Satterley

April 2021

Provenance Mysteries: Roma trionfante by Flavio Biondo (1392-1463), printed in Venice in 1548

The March 2021 provenance mystery features Roma trionfante by Flavio Biondo (1392-1463), printed in Venice in 1548.

Biondo was a humanist, historian, antiquarian and archaelogist, and Roma trionfante is one of his best known works. It has been described by Frances Muecke as a ‘path-breaking antiquarian compendium of Roman institutions’. The work is divided into ten books, broken down into five main subjects: religion; public administration; the army; private institutions; and the Roman triumph. Biondo’s work went through many editions, from circa 1473 until at least 1559. Treccani, the excellent online Italian biographical dictionary states that Biondo’s intentions with this work were to present a ‘systematic reconstruction of Roman public and private life’.

The Middle Temple copy has copious contemporary manuscript notes on the front and final end-leaves, written in Italian, Spanish and English. But the mystery of course is: who wrote these copious notes, and of what do they consist?

The first end-leaf (recto and verso) may reflect the annotator’s practice notes, and may also be evidence of two or even three different hands on the same page. The nature of the notes is somewhat random and messy, and may indicate someone practising their Italian and Spanish. The same, or another scribe, seems to have carried out some basic arithmetic on the verso.

The title page unfortunately does not provide many further clues, with only ‘hist. nat.’ visible. The top right hand corner may provide some useful information, but a later hand has scored out the inscription. The three codes written below that are the library’s original shelfmarks: K.36; K.37; H.27.

Title page

The final end-leaf has a very neat Italian text on the recto, with an English text that is very difficult to read on the verso; the final line reads: ‘and soe I think it will make all one reconing’.

As ever, if you have any comments on this provenance mystery, contact the library at:

Renae Satterley

March 2021

Provenance Mysteries: The Use of Passions by Jean Francois Senault, translated by Henry Carey, c.1641

The February 2021 provenance Mystery features a manuscript (MS78) translation of Jean Francois Senault’s De L’Usage des Passions. The scribe of this manuscript is unknown, but the work was translated by Henry Carey, Earl of Monmouth as The Use of Passions circa 1641, and published in print in 1649.

The Use Passions

The Use of Passions is a two-part treatise exploring the position of Augustinian and Neo-Stoic philosophy in the 17th century. Senault was a widely admired churchman and philosopher and De L’Usage des Passions is one of his best-known works.

Henry Carey’s translation of The Use of Passions appears to be the earliest English translation of this text and exists in several print copies in libraries across England and North America, however manuscript copies appear to be rare. The Use of Passions also appears with title variations according to different translators, including Natural History of the Passions by Walter Charleton c.1674, and The Philosophy of the Passions: Demonstrating their nature, properties, effects, and abuse in two volumes c.1774 both originally published in London.

An online copy of Henry Carey’s 1671 translation can be found here.

The mystery of this manuscript comes from the list of ninety-one Italian books that have been included in the same manuscript. The list contains a wide variety of titles though it is unclear what relation they have to Italy or an Italian provenance. The only possible identifiers for this list are the as yet unidentified watermarks at the top of the page, and the title of Italian Books. Several books are in foreign languages though overall the list seems to mostly contain books written in or translated into English. Whether these books are in any way connected to The Use of Passions is unclear. The list has no obvious connection to Senault or his works. A more promising potential connection could be to Carey, who translated a variety of texts, however there is no indication he was prolific enough to have translated ninety-one books so this also seems like it may be a dead end.     

List of 91 ‘Italian Books’

It is entirely possible that this list is unrelated to The Use of Passions despite its position in the same manuscript. The list of Italian Books is written in recognizably different handwriting and the books listed do not seem to have any thematic connection. That may mean this could be as random as a bookseller’s list.

The final mystery of this manuscript is the signature on the cover reading Henry Harris. There is no context as to who this may be, whether he has any connection to the Italian Books, to Carey, to The Use of Passions, or why his name is signed on the binding. He could be connected to neither the manuscript, or to the list and The Use of Passions both. There is simply not enough context to be able to make a connection from his name alone.

Binding with Henry Harris’ signature

 Shannon Banister, King’s College London

Provenance Mysteries: Epistola, qua hanc explicat quaestionem

The January 2021 provenance mystery features Epistola, qua hanc explicat quaestionem, an corpus Christi propter coniunctionem cum uerbo inseparabilem, alienas à corpore conditiones sibi sumat … by Joachim Vadianus (1484-1551), printed in Zurich in 1539. Vadianus was a Swiss religious reformer and early humanist, who spent many years in Vienna, studying, writing and teaching. He was an important figure in the Swiss Reformation.

In the work featured here, our mystery concerns some interesting notes contained within the end leaves.

Our Archivist, Barnaby Bryan, has transcribed the first set as:

To knowe of my wife whether the font or

[??ave any comaundement to Morice H

[?]o paye parte to [Mrs?] Elizabeth Jones

[?]o bringe with me the lease that [?] [?]

[?] her mother in lawe to London

[Rest?] to bring Morice Hughes lease &


[? – Could it be abbreviation for item?] to looke in Polidore in Rufi Vita

What the cause was of the expulsion

Of Anselm owte of England

[Item again?] to searche for the iudgement of the

Learned [?!] [penatu??] in [?? Shury??] [Sane?]

The second set (which are found at the back of the book) have not been transcribed yet. Are both sets the same hand? What could the scribe have been trying to convey about his wife and/or Elizabeth Jones?

As ever, any ideas or clues can be address to the Librarian:

Provenance Mysteries: Tuba belli sacri Apocalypseos beati Iohannis adversus magnum illum antichristum, pontificem Romanum, 1622

The December 2020 provenance mystery features an anonymous work entitled Tuba belli sacri Apocalypseos beati Iohannis adversus magnum illum antichristum, pontificem Romanum, printed in an unknown location in 1622.

This is an intriguing book. It is a commentary on Revelations and a controversial work on the Catholic Church and the Pope. The book is bound with three other titles: De praedestinatione compendium, by Giulio Serina (1580); Excercitatio scholastica de norma et normato, by Andreas Libavius (1628); and Dissertatio de autoritate ecclesiae by Johann Georg Dorsche (1628).

The book’s publisher and place presents something of a mystery. According to the title page imprint, it was printed at the expense of the author (‘Impensis ipsius authoris’). The author is not listed on the title page or in the prefatory material, so it is unclear as to where and by whom this work was produced. The Bodleian Library’s catalogue provides two different potential authors for this work: Willem Stephani or David Calderwood (1575-1650). The latter catalogue record notes that the work was translated from the Dutch, so presumably Calderwood was in fact the translator, not the author, since the Short Title Catalogue of the Netherlands lists the author as Eewout Teelinck. That entry states that the original Dutch title was Basuyne des heyligen oorloogs der Openbaringghe S. Iohannis tegen den groten antichrist den Romschen paus and that the book was printed at Teelinck’s expense in 1622. Did the Latin version simply translate the Dutch information about the publication being made at the expense of the author? The British Library has two copies of this work, repeating the author as Stephani, but without any further authorship or publication information provided.

The British Library’s digitised version can be consulted here.

There is evidence that Calderwood was in the Netherlands during this time, and both the Dutch and Latin editions were produced by the same Dutch press, albeit one who remains unidentified.

Endleaf notes

The provenance mystery attached to this book concerns the endleaves, which contain some unusual manuscript notes (above). Are these shorthand? Code? Or just some very poor early modern handwriting? Why would such notes be found in a Sammelbänd volume like this? Were they intended to be included in this volume, or are they simply binder’s waste- remnants that the binder reused to line the volume?

As ever, if you have any comments on this provenance mystery, contact the library at:

Renae Satterley

December 2020

Provenance Mysteries: Lucio Marineo Sículo’s De las cosas memorables de España

Our Provenance Mystery for November features a guest post from Dr. Alexander Samson, Reader in Early Modern Studies, University College London.

Middle Temple’s copy of the 1539 edition of Lucio Marineo Sículo’s De las cosas memorables de España is missing the title page and preliminaries. In addition to damage to the early leaves, the volume has been the subjected to an unsympathetic 19th century rebinding, which has left the fascinating and copious marginalia in the gutter illegible and cropped chunks of the annotations from the outer margins. Despite the ravages of time, the copy is a fascinating example of an early modern English reading of Spain.

Marginalia on the first leaf

Born around 1444 in Vizzini, Sicily, part of Aragón’s Mediterranean empire, Lucas di Marinis, as he was baptised, did not learn to read until the age of twenty-five, studying in Catania, then Palermo and travelling finally to Rome, where in 1478 he joined the proto-Academia de Pomponio Leto and adopted the Latinate name by which he became known, Lucius Marineus Siculus. Moving to Spain as a client of Fadrique Enríquez, he joined the university of Salamanca as Professor of Oratory and Poetry (1485 – 97), before being persuaded to become a chaplain to Isabel la Cátolica and more importantly write a life of Fernando’s father Joan II, the first of a series of commissions that transformed him into a royal chronicler. His publication career encompassed editions of Latin and familiar letters, a chronicle of Aragón, a life of Ferdinand and Isabella, as well as the chorography we have before us. Foreshadowing a genre whose popularity exploded in the 1540s, the Opus de rebus Hispaniae memorabilibus / De las cosas memorables de España appeared curiously in Latin and vernacular editions in 1530 and 1533 at Alcala, before the posthumous 1539 edition from Juan de Brocar in Middle Temple, whose 81 extant copies is just pipped by the 94 copies of the 1533 Latin edition, following the author’s death in 1536 at the age of ninety two.   


There appear to be two distinct annotators of the volume, distinctive inks and different mixes of languages distinguish the comments, underlinings, lists and manicules. On the other hand, it is possible that the two sets of marginalia were by the same person, made at different times, the darker set switch between Spanish and Latin and are mostly limited to listing and underlining place names in the text, with occasional Latin translations of Spanish terms, while the lighter alternate between English and Spanish, are more discursive and extensive, although they disappear at sig d ii. The hands do appear very similar. Of course, any Spanish book in the Middle Temple’s collections raises the spectre of its founder Robert Ashley. However, this example lacks the markings that he typically used to lay claim to the volumes in his library. Again though it could be that it was an early acquisition before his books had coalesced into a collection or library. Its subject matter fits with the acute interest Ashley developed in Spanish history apparent from his copies of Florián de Ocampo, Juan Fernández de Velasco, Pedro González de Mendoza, Bartolomé Leonardo de Argensola, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesilla, amongst others, and his translation of Miguel de Luna’s Historia verdadera del rey don Rodrigo. Nevertheless, the hand is not his.


The encyclopaedic nature of De las cosas memorables de España, digesting Siculus’ prior historical work on Hispania’s past, both published and still in manuscript, is reflected in the way it was read. The annotations in the darker ink ‘indexicalise’ places and names, suggesting its use as a work of reference; on the first leaf of book one, for example, querying ‘unde Hispania?’, next to the section propounding theories about the name’s origin. The etymological, toponymic interests of this annotator are trumped in interest for us by the second set of annotations, which contain tantalising clues as to the identity of their English author. Beneath the first in the obsequious section of prefaratory epistles exchanged by Siculus with the pope’s orator amongst others, a note unrelated to the contents of the page records that ‘In a stone of the churche called St. Justo & Pastor in the towne of Alcala de Henares towards the market place are graved the woordes following’, followed by a transcription of a Spanish inscription recording how Cardinal Francisco Ximenez de Cisneros ‘dio a esta villa diez mil hanegas de trigo con que el dinero de el no se emplea sino en trigo para que el pan vaya siempre en crecimiento y el precio en baja pone se aqui para que no cumpliendo assi qualquiera pueda reclamar’ [gave to this town ten thousand bushels of wheat which money from him may not be spent on anything other than wheat so that the amount bread will always grow and the price fall, it is written here so that should this not be fulfilled whoever may sue for legal redress].


A plaque celebrating Cisneros’ contribution to Álcala was affixed to the Catedral Magistral de San Justo y San Pastor in 1995. At the end of the preliminaries hangs the mysterious aphorism ‘que quien dineros tienen [sic] haze lo que quiere’ [those who have money do what they like], a quotation from Feliciano de Silva’s Segunda Celestina, a copy of which from c. 1540 is found in Middle Temple library with the name of Thomas Skeffington on the title page, possibly the member of parliament for Leicestershire who lived 1550 – 1600. In a list of rivers found later on there is another significant annotation relating to the underlining of the Tajuna, a river which attracted the attention of Ashley in his copy of Ocampo’s Cinco Libros and Historia del Monte Celia. On sig. b iiii a little sketched plan of Toledo Cathedral with details of its size and composition again hint at an English traveller who supplemented Siculus’ compendium with contemporary details recorded by the traveller. Overleaf and most intriguing of all, picking up on the other annotators list, the English traveller annotates Siculus recording ‘en el camino mio’ [on my journey], ‘chinchon, St Martin de la Vega, Valdemoro, y a mano izquierda Torrejon…’ [Chinchón, San Martin de la Vega, Valdemoro, and on the left hand side Torrejón…]. The route is in dialogue with both the text and the original annotations. Might it be possible to identify from this itinerary across the plains of Madrid the English traveller owner of this volume? Could this be another of Skeffington’s books, although we may never know if he travelled to Spain himself?   

Dr. Alexander Samson,

Reader in Early Modern Studies, University College London

Provenance Mysteries: Thomas Hood’s The making and use of the geometricall instrument, called a sector

The October 2020 provenance mystery features Thomas Hood’s The making and use of the geometricall instrument, called a sector, printed in London by John Windet in 1598.  

This Thomas Hood (active 1582-1598) is not to be confused with the poet of the same name (1799-1845). According to Erwin Tomash and Michael R. Williams, the sector was a calculating instrument in use from the 16th to the 21st century and is also known as a proportional compass. While Galileo Galilei is often cited as the first inventor of the sector, Hood’s invention is contemporary to Galileo’s and Hood was the first to publish a book about his invention; Galileo was notoriously secretive about his knowledge and instruments. The sector could be purchased in London from Charles Whitwell (active 1594-1606) and Robert Becket. Whitwell lived ‘without Temple Barre against St. Clement’s Church’ in 1598. Whitwell’s sector can be viewed at the Science Museum. Edmund Gunter (1581-1626), in 1624, proposed a design of the sector which now tends to be the most well-known version.

Page one of the notes, with the heading

Thomas Hood was a lecturer in mathematics for the City of London. In his inaugural address of 1558 he declared: ‘the Lawyer thinketh him selfe cunning enough to handle his case, and therefore would laugh, if he should heere, that he standeth in need of our profession [i.e. mathematicians], yet have I knowne his sentence re-claimed by one of my coate’.

Page two of the notes

The mystery surrounding this book concerns the extensive contemporary manuscript notes found at the end of it. There are four pages of notes written and signed by a ‘D.G.’. The notes are headed: ‘In all eight lined tryangles the proportion of one syde to an other is such as the sine of of the angle, representing the one syde, hath to the sine of the angle each pertinge the other syde’. The notes then go on to discuss this theorem. But who was ‘D.G.’ (or D.C. or in a pinch b.C.)? They have gone to the trouble of writing out very comprehensive notes on this theorem, including illustrating the notes with quite beautiful diagrams. Was it a fellow mathematician? A contemporary of Hood? An instrument maker? Unfortunately there is simply not enough information in the book to give us any further clues.

Page three of the notes
Page four of the notes, with the initials D.G.

As ever, if you have any comments on this provenance mystery, contact the library at:

Renae Satterley

October 2020

Provenance Mysteries: Nova medicinæ methodus …

The September 2020 provenance mystery features Nova medicinæ methodus, nunc primu[m] & condita & ædita, ex mathematica ratione morbos curandi, by Johann Virdung von Hassfurt, printed in Etteling in 1532.

The book concerns the practice of medicine. Virdung was a German astrologer who visited England in 1503 ‘to learn magic’ according to an article by Lynn Thorndike written in 1937. Virdung ostensibly wrote to Johannes Trithemius regarding George Sabellicus. In 1507 Reynaldus de Novimagio (a 15th century printer) published Trithemius’s response to this letter, in which Sabellicus is described as ‘faustus junior’ and accused of being a ‘charltan and imposter’, and thus setting him up as the inspiration for the character of Faust.

Title page showing the ‘Lupus’ comment

As can be seen in the images here, the title page shows a variety of marginalia:

  • Someone has used ink to elaborately block out ‘Hasfurto Virdungo’ in the author’s name, but added in ‘Haffurto’
  • An original inscription has been scored out, but the same motto and cipher appears at the top of the title page: ‘fer et vince’
  • An inscription reading, in part: ‘carnifex qu[a]e nomi[n]e [huis?] p[er] [statiss?] viri de[?]e[?]it &c. Lupus nomine lupus [?] lupus natura et habitua
Title page close-up of the ‘fer et vince’ motto

The motto ‘fer et vince’ is repeated on folio A1r of the book (not shown here). The book is bound with a second work, Ad astrorum iudicia facilis introductio, by Claude Dariot, 1557. Within this work, on the verso of the first leaf there is an inscription: ‘Samuel Vuolphius fer et vince’. This is possibly Samuel Wolf (1549-1591), putting the final inscription above into context (lupus is the Latin word for wolf). Wolf was a Polish poet, but we cannot say definitively if this is hand. You can read an example of his work here. It was common practice in the early modern period to bind works together- it saved on the cost of binding to bind more than one title into a ‘sammelband volume’.

As ever, if you have any comments on this provenance mystery, contact the library at:


David Shaw has written in to add more insight, and to correct the original transcription, which reads:

carnifex qui nomen huius prestantissimi viri deleuit &c.
Lupus nomine lupus animo Lupus natura et habitu.’

He has translated this as: a scoundrel (literally ‘hangman’) who deleted the name of this eminent man. Wolf by name, a wolf in his soul, a wolf by nature and a wolf in his appearance.

The name which was written back in to compensate for the name that was inked out should have been transcribed as ‘Hasfurto’, and not ‘Haffurto’. 

As David has suggested, this could indicate a sequence of “academic hostilities” perhaps. We continue to investigate the potential provenance link to Samuel Wolf and will update the post if further evidence is found.

Renae Satterley

September 2020

Rare Book of the Month: #Throwback

In this regular feature we re-post the rare book of the month articles that were originally published on the Middle Temple website. Below is the rare book which first appeared in July 2017.

Title page.

The July 2017 rare book of the monthis De primatu Petri et Apostolicae Sedis potestate libri tres … contra Centuriarum auctores (“Three Books on the Primacy of Peter and the Power of the Apostolic See … against the Authors of the Centuries”), by Onofrio Panvinio. This book, printed in Venice in 1591, aimed to counter the arguments of Protestants against papal primacy. Since the Reformation, Protestants had rejected the idea that the Roman pontiff had supreme episcopal jurisdiction as pastor and governor of the Universal Church.

The Italian church historian Onofrio Panvinio (1530-1568) was born in Verona. At the age of eleven he entered the Augustinian Order. He was sent to Naples and Rome to study theology. From his adolescence Panvinio, however, was captivated by history. At the age of nineteen he wrote a chronicle of the order; two years later he would transcribe the calendars of ancient Rome (the Fasti Capitolini), numerous fragments of which had been found in the Roman Forum. There followed research into the history of several noble Roman families, ancient Roman history, the history of the Popes and, from 1559 onward, the history of papal elections.

De primatu Petri was a digest of sources relating to the primacy of St Peter. It was originally to be dedicated to Pope Pius V in 1566. The manuscript remained stuck, however, with the ecclesiastical authorities. These were keen to ensure that special care was taken in approving a book of such high significance. Until his death in 1568, Panvinio was unable to get the manuscript back from Cardinal Marcantonio Colonna and was thus unable to send it to another Cardinal, Otto von Waldburg, who wanted to have it published. The commission charged in 1570-1572 with finding Catholic answers to the most influential Protestant church history (Ecclesiastica historia, known as the Magdeburg Centuries) may have considered publishing De primatu Petri, but, if so, the plan was aborted.

In De primatu Petri, Panvinio aimed to counter the arguments of the Centuriators of Magdeburg by collecting and ordering testimonies, starting from the Bible, which proved that the primacy was given to St Peter by Christ, that Peter exerted it during his lifetime (Bk I) and that all the succeeding popes used it as well (Bk II). Panvinio took pride in answering the Centuriators’ polemical and insulting language, and their mixture of truth and lies, with a factual and orderly presentation of testimonies from authors who wrote mainly before the time of Emperor Charlemagne (d. 814) (“conviciis et maledictis a quibus ego vehementer abhorreo”; preface to Bk I).

Bk I (the only one published) contained two chapters dealing with the arguments of the Magdeburg Centuries against the primacy and a very long chapter where he picked apart the entire treatise of Ulrich Velenus from 1520 (who claimed that Peter had never come to Rome), citing all of it and trying to refute it passage by passage (see M. Flacius et al., Ecclesiastica historia, 13 vols, Basel 1559-74, Centuria I, cols 524-30, “Argumenta contra primatum Petri”; U. Velenus, In hoc libello … probatur Apostolum Petrum Romam non venisse, s.l. ca. 1520).

Beginning of the second part of the work (pars secunda).

Popes Gregory XIII and Sixtus V in 1585 granted Paolo Panvinio (Onofrio’s brother) and Marco Antonio Lanfranchi the privilege to publish the work as soon as it had been examined by the Inquisition. It was held back by the Inquisitors for another four years and was finally printed in 1589. In the dedication of the first edition to Sixtus V, Cardinal Colonna (the head of the Congregation of the Index of Prohibited Books) did not mention the Inquisition at all: he simply stated that after Panvinio’s death his literary executioners had approached him because Panvinio, on his deathbed, had uttered the wish that this work should be published. The scholar and editor Latino Latini had made editorial revisions (checking, in particular, Panvinio’s references to church fathers), while some theologians including Cardinal Guglielmo Sirleto had been consulted to confirm that the book could indeed be published.

Panvinio’s De primatu Petri was reprinted in Venice in 1591 (which is the copy in the Middle Temple Library); in Rome in 1698, in Bibliotheca maxima pontificia, edited by J. T. de Rocaberti, and in Venice again in 1762, in Thesaurus theologicus, edited by F. A. Zaccaria.

On Panvinio see the biographical entry ‘Panvinio, Onofrio’, in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, lxxxi (Rome 2014), pp. 36-39, available online at  For a detailed summary of the contents of De primatu, see also J. L. Orella y Unzué, Respuestas católicas a las Centurias de Magdeburgo (1559-1588), Madrid 1976, pp. 284-95.

Stefan Bauer

Marie Curie Fellow

Lecturer in Early Modern History (from September 2017)

University of York

July 2017