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.
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