Nuremberg: Wolfgang Huber, 1512.
Quarto: 18.2 x 13.2 cm.  p.
Modern quarter vellum. A good copy with mild marginal soiling, discreet repairs in the gutter of the first bifolium, and a restored section of the blank margin on the final leaf. Occasional contemporary underscores. With a large woodcut title illustration. No copies of this or the other two printings in North America.
Extremely rare, contemporary eyewitness account of the uprising in Brescia and its suppression by the troops of the French commander Gaston de Foix, Duke of Nemours (1489-1512). The report, by an anonymous author, probably comes from a German or a Swiss soldier, perhaps a commander of a battalion of landsknechts. It is dated Bern, February 24, 1512, i.e. just after the events described. The woodcut on the title shows the city of Brescia, the surrounding countryside, a pitched camp, and the fortified monastery of Saint Eufemia. Two other editions were published by Schobser in Munich.
The Sack of Brescia took place on February 18, 1512 during the War of the League of Cambrai. The city had revolted against French control, garrisoning itself with Venetian troops. Gaston de Foix, recently arrived to command the French armies in Italy, ordered the city to surrender; when it refused, he attacked it with around 12,000 men. The French attack took place in pouring rain, through a field of mud; Foix ordered his men to remove their shoes for better traction. The defenders inflicted heavy casualties on the French, but were eventually overrun, suffering 8,000 – 15,000 casualties. The Gascon infantry and the German landsknechts then proceeded to thoroughly sack the city, massacring thousands of civilians over the next five days. Following this, the city of Bergamo paid some 60,000 ducats to the French to avoid a similar fate.
The King of France, Louis XII, had occupied the duchy of Milan at the beginning of the 16th century and had wrested the territories of Brescia and Bergamo from the Republic of Venice. Although historically parts of the duchy of Milan, both cities had been for many decades under the dominion of the Serenissima.
In the first days of February 1512, the Brescian Luigi Avogadro, seeking to restore Brescia to Venetian control, stormed the city with Venetian troops and reconquered it with the exception of the citadel, where the French survivors and their Brescian sympathizers took refuge.
Gaston de Foix received news of the capitulation of Brescia, which inspired popular uprisings from many towns in the province. Foix encircled the city and eliminated all the garrisons stationed outside the walls. The French then laid waste to the surrounding lands. Hearing that 4,000 Spaniards had advanced to the Po, to give aid to Brescia, Gaston de Foix sent his infantry to storm a fortified monastery on a height behind the citadel, which was defended by 1,000 rustics. Unable to endure the assault of the German foot soldiers, the rustics hid themselves in the cloisters, and were pursued and slain.
Wanting to avoid siege, Foix tried to parley but the people of Brescia refused to capitulate. On the morning of the 19th, the sack of the city began. The fight lasted for hours but, given the might of the enemy troops, it ended with the defeat of the Brescians and the Venetians, thousands of whom fell. Some of the wounded managed to escape and to take refuge in Venice. Others were captured and sent to Pavia, Milan or even France. The most important were beheaded and quartered in the days immediately following the battle; the shreds of Avogadro body, from whom the conspiracy had taken its name, were hung on pikes at the four corners of the city and torn to pieces by stray dogs. Luigi's sons, Piero and Francesco, were transferred to Milan and beheaded there.
The Foix troops then carried out a savage looting in the city that increased the number of dead and brought one of the most prosperous and developed economies in northern Italy to the brink of ruin. The soldiers rushed into every house, terrorizing and torturing people into revealing where their money and valuables had been hidden. The women were raped without any regard for age or social status.
Even the convents and monasteries were invaded, the nuns suffered the fate of the civilians but the friars and priests were slaughtered, often on the altars, where the French performed sacrilegious acts. The corpses and the dying were thrown (without distinction) from the windows, while the French divided the gems and golds, measuring them with their helmets. The French stole four thousand carts of booty and stripped the convents for a sum equal to forty thousand gold ducats.
About ten thousand died in this part of the siege. The drunken French and German landsknechts penetrated into the winter cathedral, where women and children had found refuge, abusing and raping them.
Brescia was in ruins. But their conqueror, Gaston de Foix, would be dead in two months, at the age of 23. Four years later, after the defeat of the French and a Spanish interim, Brescia reunited with Venice.
VD16, E-3819; USTC 662723; Köhler 1567