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 http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/onofrio-panvinio_(Dizionario-Biografico)/.  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

Provenance Mysteries: In Clementinarum volumen commentaria

This week’s provenance mystery features In Clementinarum volumen commentaria, by Francesco Zabarella, printed in Venice in 1579. This is a work of canon law consisting of commentaries on the Constitutions of Pope Clement V (the first to reside in Avignon when the Curia was moved there from Rome). According to the Free Library of Philadelphia website: “Clement’s Constitutions comprise his decretals (papal letters that bear on canon law) and those of several of his predecessors. This compilation, along with five others, formed the main body of ecclesiastical law for the Catholic Church until the early twentieth century. Soon after it was disseminated, the Constitutions acquired a number of commentaries.”

The work is a mystery for two reasons. The first is the scant ownership information on the title page, which consists of the initials B.G., and the second is the manner in which the book has been branded with the words ‘Card. Zabaris. Clement.’ into the bottom fore-edge.

1.     Zabarello title page

The liklihood of identifying the initials ‘B.G.’ is scant at best. While the recording of provenance information is becoming much more common in library and short-title catalogues, there is no ideal way to record initials when the full name is unknown. Searching catalogues for initials will returns thousands of hits, even when restricting date or subject ranges in one’s search. Having said that, the Virtual Authority File and CERL Thesaurus both have an entry for a ‘B.G.’, which is linked to a small prefatory contribution found in Ad Cesaream Regiamqve Maiestates Tuberinus suus cum Priuilegio Cappellanus contra falsas Luteris positiones (castigatum emendatum et revisem per auctorem ipsum), by Joannes Tuberinus, printed in Basel in 1524. Given this publication early date, compared to our work of 1579, however, it does not seem likely that the two people are the same.

The second mystery is how the author and title information was stamped onto the fore-edge. If one examines the photo closely, you will notice that the letters are indented into the paper. This can be achieved in two ways. The first is through branding, using a type of hot iron. The use of such ‘fire marks’ is often found in religious libraries, such as monasteries, seminaries, and colleges. According to this website: http://www.marcasdefuego.buap.mx:8180/xmLibris/projects/firebrand/, this was a practice typical to Colonial New Spain, although it is highly doubtful that this book originated from outside Europe. The book is bound in limp parchment, which is also typical of such religious libraries.

The second manner is by indenting the letters into the fore edge, possibly with heavy metal type, then inking the indentations. It seems more likely that this was the method used in this book, but due to lockdown we are unable to examine the book in more detail. Whatever method was used, identifying the book on the bottom fore edge suggests that the books were laid flat, and indicating the author/title in this manner would make them easier to find.

If you recognise the initials or branding on show here, or have further comments about the annotations found within this copy, please do get in touch: library@middletemple.org.uk.

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 June 2017.

Title page of Warning to the dragon and all his angels, by Lady Eleanor Douglas (1590-1652), printed in London in 1625.

The June 2017 rare book of the month is Warning to the dragon and all his angels, by Lady Eleanor Douglas (1590-1652), printed in London in 1625. Douglas is also known as Lady Eleanor Davies (née Touchet) and Eleanor Audley. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that she “was to be fluid in the use of the names which birth and marriage gave her, deploying them in pamphlet and petition according to context and the identity she was presenting”.

Lady Eleanor was the fifth daughter of the eleventh Baron Audley (1550/1-1617, admitted Middle Temple 1573/4). She could read Latin and English, and most likely had a good understanding of the law as she administered her father’s estate after his death. She married Sir John Davies (admitted Middle Temple 1588, called to the Bar 1595, died 1626) in 1609. Despite the fact that Davies was much older than her, they had three children together. The family moved to London in 1619 after Sir John was relieved of his position as attorney-general for Ireland; by 1623 Lady Eleanor was living in Berkshire.

A warning to the dragon and all his angels, 1625, is the first of many pamphlets published by Douglas. Her prophetic visions were first inspired in the same year by a heavenly voice which declared “there is Ninteene yeares and a halfe to the day of Judgement and you as the meek Virgin”. Many of her prophecies were anagrams and she believed that a version of her name (Eleanor Audelie) was an anagram of ‘Reveale O Daniele’.

A warning presents “political developments in Europe as a fulfilment of the books of Daniel and Revelation”. Her pamphlets angered her husband to such an extent that he burned them all, leading Lady Eleanor to predict his death within three years’ time. Davies died in December 1626. She subsequently married Sir Archibald Douglas in 1627, but he also burned her prophecies, leading her to announce that he would be punished by God with a mental disorder. Douglas’s prophecies also angered some in the court of Charles I, but she was consulted by Queen Henrietta Maria on her first pregnancy.

In 1631, her brother, Mervin Touchet (1593-1631, admitted Middle Temple 1610/11), second Earl of Castlehaven was executed on charges of sodomy and abetting the rape of his wife; he was the “first peer to be tried for felony under Charles I”. Douglas and her family petitioned the king for mercy, but Charles I refused to investigate the Earl’s allegations of corruption on the part of his wife and son, who stood to gain an immense inheritance upon his death. Douglas published various tracts, starting in 1633, to exonerate her brother.

Lady Eleanor’s name printed backwards at the first page of text.

In 1633 she also travelled to Amsterdam with her husband, where she had more of her prophecies printed and smuggled back into England. Archbishop Laud had the tracts publicly burned after she presented him with a manuscript prophecy- a “warning of his judgment at hand”. She was subsequently arrested, fined and imprisoned. In 1635 she was arrested and committed to Bethlem Hospital (also known as Bedlam) for causing various disturbances in Lichfield Cathedral. She was transferred to the Tower of London in 1638 and was released from there in 1640.

Despite all of the calamities in her life, she published her prophecies up until the year of her death; the English Short Title Catalogue lists 74 titles in all (69 of which are unique titles, the others being reprints), but given the number of her works that were burned, it is highly likely that many more were published. Despite (or due to) her seemingly difficult personality, Douglas is notable for being “one of the first English women to see her works through the press”, although Cambridge University Press’s Orlando project notes that her works are “vehement, opinionated, and hard to read, for Douglas’s handling of words and syntax takes little account of rules or norms. Her theological and political beliefs are idiosyncratic and her imagery, steeped in that of bible prophecy, is sometimes impenetrable”.

Provenance Mysteries: Dialogo en que particularmente se tratan: las cosas acaecidas en Roma: el ano de M.D.XXVII and Dialogo de Mercurio y Caron.

This week’s provenance mystery features two works which are bound together into one volume: Dialogo en que particularmente se tratan: las cosas acaecidas en Roma: el ano de M.D.XXVII and Dialogo de Mercurio y Caron. Both were written by Alfonso de Valdes, and printed circa 1530. According to EDIT 16, the former was printed in Venice by Nicolini da Sabbio e Giovanni Antonio & fratelli; it seems likely that this would be the same printer and place for the latter title as well.

Valdes was a Spanish Humanist and promoter of the views of Erasmus of Rotterdam; he corresponded regularly with Erasmus in the 1520’s. He was, on his mother’s side, descended from a family of converted Jews. The Spanish Jews (and their descendants) who were forced to convert to Christianity at the end of the 14th century were referred to as conversos and were not allowed to practise their Jewish faith. According to an article written by Inmaculada Rodríguez-Moranta in 2012, the Dialogo de Mercurio y Caron is a work “in the tradition of the didactic genre and Menippean satire, and evidences a deep influence of the thinking of Erasmus of Rotterdam.”

1.     Dialogo de Mercurio title page

The inscriptions are very difficult to read, but according to Isaac Levy (who transcribed the inscriptions described herein) seem to consist of two ownership inscriptions. In the first illustration (Dialogo de Mercurio title page), the upper inscription appears to be that of a “Shelomo …. Halevy”, but the middle letters cannot be distinguished.

The second set of inscriptions in this illustration appear to be that of a student practising their handwriting. The inscriber has used Hebrew characters to write out something in Spanish.  The surname may be Asenyes / Asenyos /  Esenyos, or a variant thereof. The name appears again as Senor…. just below the Middle Temple stamp.

The inscription at the bottom of the title page is slightly easier to read: “Este libro es de [?] … abra…” but the remaining text cannot be made out.

2. Valdes 2

In the second illustration (Valdes 2), the inscription to the left of the doodle possibly reads: “Yud Tasdi Vav” with the potential inscription of “Yishmerehu Tsuru Vegoalo” preceding that. According to Isaac Levy this acronym often accompanies the signatures of Spanish Jews and is a short prayer that they should be guarded by the Almighty. These inscriptions are found on the leaf preceding the title page of Dialogo en que particularmente se tratan… and are written upside down on that leaf.

3. Valdes 3

Thanks to the assistance of an anonymous source, the third illustration (Valdes 3) looks likely to be the handwriting of a Jewish annotator who used the book and the paper to practice writing Hebrew letters, including the beginning of the Hebrew alphabet. It would seem that the scribbler was called David but otherwise the writing was written in the script known as Rashi script, the cursive Hebrew script of Spanish Jewry, and which had nothing to do with Rashi. Although the letters are in Hebrew, the actual language may be either Spanish (Ladino) or perhaps Italian. There is no spacing between the words.

The presence of Hebrew writing in a book by a conversos is probably not surprising. It is possible that the unknown inscriber was learning how to write Hebrew, and/or was also of Jewish descent, and interested in retaining and practising their heritage. 

If you recognise the handwriting on show here, or have further comments about the annotations found within this copy, please do get in touch: library@middletemple.org.uk.

Provenance Mysteries: De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

This week’s provenance mystery features De revolutionibus orbium coelestium by Nicolaus Copernicus, printed in Basel in 1566.

As this blog post is about the potential provenance of this item, rather than its content, we will not go into great detail about this seminal work, apart to point out that this is the second ‘edition’ of the book; the first was published in 1543. The blog post author will hold her hand up and admit, as Arthur Koestler suggested in 1959, that I have never read the book. However, as Owen Gingerich’s work showed, many Renaissance readers did read this book and, in many instances, left behind evidence of their reading (see: rhttps://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Owen-Gingerich/The-Book-Nobody-Read/20904969).

The copy held at Middle Temple Library is an example of a copy which was read, and more importantly, annotated. In the images here we can see two pages (at least) have been annotated in the margins by a Renaissance reader. This reader has also underlined relevant passages and ordered the points by numbering them in the margins. The annotator has also outlined Copernicus’s queries and solutions.

1.    Marginalia on folio a1r
1.    Marginalia on folio a1v

This is a provenance mystery because this is not Robert Ashley’s hand: it is far too elegant and neat. The book was in Ashley’s collection, however, and formed part of his 1641 bequest. During the lockdown, we are reliant on photographs that were taken at an earlier date, hence there are only two from the book currently available. According to the catalogue record, however, there are two different hands represented in the book. These photographs only show one of those hands.

According to Sachiko Kusukawa, “extant copies with identical annotations have revealed the existence and teaching activities of itinerant mathematical tutors such as Jofrancus Offusius and Paulus Wittich.”. There is no evidence present in these two photographs to show if that is the case here, unfortunately. Whoever the annotator of this copy was, they were in good company, as we know that Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler did read the book.

The English mathematician and astronomer Thomas Digges was also familiar with Copernicus’s work. According to Pietro Daniel Omodeo, Digges’s A perfit description of the caelestial orbes, which was included in his father Leonard’s book, Prognostication of 1576 was “mainly a paraphrase of the cosmological chapters of De revolutionibus.

If you recognise the handwriting on show here, or have further comments about the annotations found within this copy, please do get in touch: library@middletemple.org.uk.

Rare Book of the Month: #ThrowBack

In this new regular feature we re-post the rare book of the month features that were originally published on the Middle Temple website. Below is the rare book which was originally featured in May 2017.

The May 2017 rare book of the month is Discorso dell’essenza del fato, e delle forze sue sopra le cose del mondo, e particolarmente sopra l’operazioni de gl’huomini, by Baccio Baldini, printed in Florence in 1578.

Book open to show the inscription by Ubaldini and the signature of Bowyer

This slim folio book on fate and fatalism is interesting due to its provenance. On the blank leaf facing the title page we find an annotation: “Alla Prudentiss:a Virtuosiss:a et Feliciss:a Elisabetha Scr.ma Regina d’Inghilt.a Petruccio Ubaldino, in segno di vero desiderio della lunga felicita di sua Mta. 1586”. In other words, presented to Queen Elizabeth I in 1586 by Petruccio Ubaldino (Ubaldini).

Although Petruccio Ubaldini (flourished 1545-1599) was a citizen of Florence who was in Henry VIII’s army by 1545, on the Scottish borders. By 1550 he had translated into Italian Boece’s Scotorum historiæ. By 1562 Ubaldini was based in London performing various duties: teaching Italian, transcribing official letters and copying and illuminating texts. He had various financial difficulties, but by 1575 had managed to obtain “an annual state pension from the queen”. Throughout this time period, he presented the queen with various manuscripts, written and illuminated himself. By 1579 his finances and career had improved, and in 1581 he started receiving monies from the London printers John Wolfe and Richard Field for his collaborative work with them, including the printing of several of Machiavelli’s works. It should be noted that Wolfe also printed two of Robert Ashley’s translations, L’Uranie ou muse celeste and A comparison of the English and Spanish nation, both 1589. The Library holds four works written by Ubaldini and one translated by him.  

Another interesting piece of provenance is the ‘William Bowyer’ written on the title page. This is not, of course, the William Bowyer admitted to Middle Temple in 1553, as he died in 1569/70. It could refer to his eldest son, to whom Bowyer donated all of his “bokes escriptes writinges and monuments … as be of my own hande writing” (Dictionary of National Biography). While we do not have a death date for that William Bowyer, we know that he “died young”. Bowyer the elder’s younger son, Robert Bowyer, was keeper of the records in the Tower of London, and inherited his father’s historical and heraldic manuscripts. Presumably his brother pre-deceased him, and thus it is possible the books passed to Robert, or were sold off; Robert died in 1621.

But how did the book come to reside in Middle Temple Library if it was at one point in the possession of Queen Elizabeth I? We unfortunately simply do not know but, as with most of the rare book collection, it most likely was part of the 1641 Robert Ashley bequest. Although it could have been donated at one point by the Bowyer family to the Inn, we do not have any evidence of this. The book is listed in the first printed catalogue of 1700.

The full text version of the book can be viewed at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=WstiAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false.

Renae Satterley


May 2017

Provenance Mysteries: Medicinæ practicæ priores libri tres

This week’s provenance mystery blog post was written by David Pearson. Prior to retirement in 2017 David was Director of Culture, Heritage and Libraries at the City of London Coporation; Director of the University of London Research Library Services; and Librarian at the Wellcome Trust amongst other roles. He has recently published a new edition to his Provenance Research in Book History, published by the Bodleian Library. This mystery is found in Laurent Joubert’s Medicinæ practicæ priores libri tres, printed in Lyon in 1577.

Anyone who has been to one of my full week or shorter courses and workshops on provenance will know that I often include a session on Frustrations. There are so many ways in which provenance evidence can be manifested in books, with skills to hone for recognising them, but there are just as many ways in which we end up looking at a jigsaw with missing pieces. Any training on provenance research should always cover the problems, and help us accept that there are many puzzles which are just insoluble.

When Renae asked me to do a guest posting for this blog, selecting an image from a few she would send, I guessed what might be coming – we like to think we know a trap when we see one. I wasn’t disappointed: illegible names, cropped marginalia, old unidentifiable pressmarks, anonymous manicules and underlining. Provenance frustrations take many forms.


This image struck me as a nice example of one of the simpler of those forms, which manifests itself in many ways. Initials, which look as though they stand for someone’s name, may turn up inscribed in books (on titlepages, flyleaves or elsewhere), stamped internally or onto covers, on bookplates, sometimes on leaf edges. Or, are they not a name? – might they be a bookseller’s code, or stand for something else?  The evidence may be ambiguous. In my experience, if you don’t have a spelled-out name somewhere else in the book, or some other clue that suggests an identification, initials are usually a dead end.

Title Page

So, who is J D?  The letters look to have been written on this titlepage within fifty years or so of the late 16th-century imprint date. If they were lower down, and smaller – particularly if they were around the imprint rather than the device – we would suspect they were a bookseller’s code, but here they do look like the initials of a name. John Donne?  Middle Temple Library, lots of Donne’s books there – wouldn’t that be nice?  Which would be a provenance pitfall, rather than a frustration, which can often be hard to resist; the eyes of hope can easily be tempted to turn possible into probable, or just think it’s worth mentioning the possibility, when really the case is too thin for that. Provenance research needs to be forensically evidence-based, avoiding the speculative and fanciful. It doesn’t look to me like the J or the D which Donne typically wrote in the many examples of his inscription which do survive. The book has early marginalia and manicules – quite possibly the work of J D, though we can’t be sure of that – and its binding has no clues to help; the two parts of the book have been bound in the wrong order, with the second bound before the first.

The straight answer is, I don’t know who J D is, I doubt that we will ever know, and we just have to live with that. Except that somewhere, there may be another book or books in which the same J D wrote his initials with more besides, or spelt out his name, and someone may know where that is. If so, please step forward and tell us – otherwise, just one more of those frustrations.

Provenance Mysteries: De missione legatorum Iaponensium ad romanam curiam, rebusq[ue],

This week’s Provenance Mystery is De missione legatorum Iaponensium ad romanam curiam, rebusq[ue], by Duarte de Sande, printed in Macau in 1590. This is one of the first books to be printed in Macau according to The Libraries and Documents of Macau by Jorge de Abreu Arrimar. J.M. Braga, in The Beginnings of Printing at Macao (p. 35) claims it as the second book printed in Macau.

The marginalia found in this book is actually very scant. In the first image, the numbering in the left hand margin is that of Robert Ashley (1565-1641) the founder of Middle Temple Library. The marginalia in the right hand side, however, is not in his hand. The marginalia in the second image, ‘T. Joanna Aragon Neapolitanorus’ is both adding to, and correcting of the printed text- replacing Aragon (‘Aragoniorum’) with Naples, and adding the name of Giovanna d’Aragona. Interestingly, in this digital version of the work produced in 2010, the same corrections are made to the text (see p. 487).

While normally we would prefer to feature more copious annotations and evidence of provenance in these posts, it is worth highlighting this book for one particular reason. In her article, ‘Encounter as process’, Professor Nandini Das wrote that a copy of this book was obtained by Richard Hakluyt from the 1592 capture of the Portuguese ship, the Madre de Dios. In his Principal navigations, Hakluyt recounts how the ship was taken, and lists some of the treasures it contained, including many jewels which were stolen before the ship’s treasures could be transferred to the Queen. These jewels included a diamond which eventually found its way into the possession of Francis Langley, brother-in-law to Robert Ashley.

There are currently only 5 recorded copies of this book: two are in German collections, one in Spain, one in Italy, and one in Portugal. As this is the only recorded copy in a British collection, is it therefore possible that this is an annotated copy once owned by Richard Hakluyt?

UPDATE 29 June 2020: Anthony Payne, the author of Richard Hakluyt: A Guide to His Books and to Those Associated with Him 1580–1625 got in touch to let us know that there are in fact two copies at the British Library (G.6688 and C.24.a.15) although the author is given as ‘Eduardus de Sande’ in their catalogue record. Anthony also told us about the copy in the Oliveira Lima Library (RBK 976 1590) at the Catholic University of America. Their copy has some interesting provenance, with contemporary manuscript notes reading: “Para el señor Don Theotonio de Braganc̜a Arcobispo de Euora. Mandao op[e] visitador di Japaõ,” and “Liber Carthusiae scalae (?) coeli(?) dono datus ab Illmo. et Rmo. in X[o] Patre D. Theotonio Archiepiscopo Ebore[n] fundatore et dotator eijusdem domus.” This translates as the presentation copy to the Archbishop of Evora by the Jesuit Alessandro Valignano, who wrote the preface to the work

To view a digitised version of the copy now in Seville go to: https://archive.org/details/ARes71522/page/n12/mode/2up.

If you think you recognise the ownership of this book, please do let us know at: library@middletemple.org.uk.

Renae Satterley, Librarian, April 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 April 2017.

Title page to the Anatomiae

The April 2017 rare book of the month is the Anatomiae, sive de resolution corporis humani ad Caesarem Mediovillanum libri IIII, printed in Frankfurt in 1591. The book is by Costanzo Varoli (or Varolio/Varolius) and has been described by the Dictionary of Scientific Biography as a “teleologic physiology of man”. Some accounts claim that this work does not contain illustrations, but as can be seen here, that is untrue. It contains one illustration depicting the workings of the lens of the eye, and its perception from different angles. Varoli states in the illustration that vision from the left and right sides of the lens are ‘confused’ and out of focus. The ‘greatest perfection’ of vision is obtained from the middle of the lens, looking straight on.

The book was published posthumously and is actually two works in one, the Anatomiae and the De nervis opticis. The latter was originally printed in 1573, and is included in this work with some slight variations to the woodcuts. Although the pagination is continuous throughout the work, there is a separate title page for the De nervis opticis.

Varoli (1543-1575) was taught anatomy at the University of Bologna by Giulio Cesare Aranzio, who in turn had been taught by the great anatomist, Vesalius. He earned his medical degree in 1566 from the University of Padua and was given the “newly instituted extraordinary Chair of Surgery” at the University of Bologna in 1569 where he also taught anatomy. He later went on to lecture on anatomy at the Sapienza University of Rome, starting in 1572. He was a successful physician and surgeon in Rome during this time as well, but died prematurely from an unknown disease at the age of 32.

Woodcut illustration of the brain in De nervis opticis

Varoli is best known for having made an important change to the way that the brain is dissected. Rather than leaving the brain in situ (i.e. in the skull), he removed it entirely and dissected it in slices from the base upwards. Leaving the brain in the skull for dissection meant having to dissect it from above. Although Vesalius does depict the base approach in plate 48 in his De humani corporis fabrica of 1543, he is nonetheless best known for dissecting the brain from above, still in the skull.

Varoli’s technique enabled him to view the brain in a completely new manner and lead to his discovery of the pons (bridge) in the brain stem, which was later renamed the pons Varolii; he recognised that the pons is a “connection between the cerebellum and the cerebrum”. Dissecting the brain from the base enabled anatomists to have better access to deep structures in the brain, as well as allowing them to dissect along different planes. Varoli was also the first to first to identify the ileocecal valve and the first to distinguish the lobes of the brain.

These discoveries are outlined in the De nervis opticis, which takes the form of a letter to Gerolamo Mercuriale (1530–1606), Mercuriale’s reply and Varoli’s response. As mentioned above, this was originally printed in Padua in 1573. The work is mainly concerned with the optic nerve which was his main interest, along with the other cranial nerves. The full text version of this 1573 book can be viewed at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=UVw6AAAAcAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false.

Woodcut illustration on p.22 of the Anatomiae

For further reading on Varoli, see Zago, S. & Meraviglia, M.V. J Neurol (2009) 256: 1195. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00415-009-5192-5.

The book is in need of restoration. The front half and the spine of the binding is missing and some of the paper is in need of repair; the book also needs to be cleaned. If you would like to sponsor this book, please contact the library: library@middletemple.org.uk. The estimated cost of repair is £300.00.

Renae Satterley


April 2017

Provenance Mysteries: injury by beard

As of this month we are introducing a new regular blog post: Provenance Mysteries! In these posts we will look at items in the rare book collection which have (as yet) unidentified ownership marks such as mottos, doodles, illegible signatures, etc. If you think you recognise the ownership of one of these books please do let us know at: library@middletemple.org.uk.

The first Provenance Mystery is: Opera, ad multorum codicum Latinorum, eorundem[que] uetustissimorum fidem recognita & castigata, by Flavius Josephus, printed in Cologne in 1524. Although there is a note in Robert Ashley’s hand at signature D6v regarding Joseph Scaliger, the doodles and marginalia as shown in these photos are in someone else’s hand, as yet unidentified. The book’s title page and preliminary leaves up to signature A3 are missing, so any signatures that would normally be found on the title page are now missing.

Injury by beard: Joab stabbing Amasa after grabbing him by the beard

The book has an extensive amount of marginalia and some very amusing doodles, such as the two shown here. The first (see above) depicts an incident from the Bible, when Joab took Amasa by the beard, seemingly to greet him, but then proceeded to plunge a knife in his belly (with thanks to Jennifer Nelson, reference librarian at the Robbins Collection, University of California Berkeley School of Law for identifying this). The second doodle (see below) depicts the funeral of Herod the Great. Both doodles are in reference to the text.

Herod the Great’s funeral procession

It is possible that the hand is that of Sir Thomas Smith (1513-1577) the Tudor diplomat and humanist. Queen’s College Cambridge put together an online exhibition of the books in the Old Library’s collection which showed evidence of Smith marginalia.

A depiction of Salomon (?)

Comparison to those images shows some similarities, but not enough to draw any firm conclusions. But the ownership of the collected works of Flavius Josephus would have fit in with the rest of Smith’s collection of books, which consisted of a mix of theology, mathematics, grammar and poetry among other subjects. Smith was considered “one of the foremost classical scholars of the day”. However, a cursory glance through his library list does not find the Josephus amongst the listed books.

As such, it remains a provenance mystery for the time being!

Renae Satterley, Librarian, March 2020