Venice: Four Books Printed on the Press of the Convertite at Venice – With Early Conventual Provenance, 1559.
Bound in 18th c. Italian parchment over boards, citron morocco label, gilt. Edges sprinkled red. Occasional damp-staining, mild soiling, scattered foxing, early annotations and some printed sidenotes shaved. The four works printed by the Convertite with early underscores; the fourth work with one marginal note (a reference to the Council of Trent) and the fifth work with underscores and marginal notes. The underscores and annotations in all of the works are in the same hand and pre-date the 18th c. binding. The same reader has added a contents summary on the title recto and verso of the first work in the volume.
These books were printed in Venice at the Augustinian monastery of Santa Maria Maddalena, a convent founded in the mid-15th century and annexed to an oratory dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene at the western end of the Giudecca. It was occupied by the "Convertite", a community of nuns made up of penitent ex-prostitutes, concubines, and adulteresses.
From 1557 to 1561, the nuns of the monastery printed at least twenty-five devotional volumes in Latin and Italian. The woodcut printer’s device of the Convertite depicts Saint Mary Magdalene, her naked body concealed by her long hair. She appears in the sky, held aloft by angels, and adored by four nuns.
The nuns signed their imprints “In the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene, by the hands of the penitent nuns” (In coenobio sanctae Mariae Magdalenae per monialium poenitentium manus). The printing house operated in association with the Venetian bookshop “al Segno della Speranza” in the vicinity of Santa Maria Formosa, and some of the books’ title pages announced the address of the bookshop, "In vico Sanctae Mariae Formosae ad Signum Spei".
The typographic experiment of the Convertite came to a tragic end. In 1561, the first rector of the monastery, father Zuan Piero (Giovanni Pietro) Leoni from Valcamonica, was tried and convicted of having raped at least 20 nuns and having drowned the babies born as a result of the rapes. Sentenced to death, he was beheaded and burned in Piazza San Marco. After his death, the convent’s printing house was shut down.
The origins of the Convertite date to the 1520s, though records are scant. In 1542, they occupied a house of their own, and in 1551 were granted permission to establish a convent. The convent was modelled on that of another group of Convertite, founded at Rome in 1520. During the years that the printing press was active, the number of women in the convent grew from 300 (in 1556) to 400 (in 1561). The convent survived the scandal of 1561 and continued to attract women through the late 17th century. Not only did the convent regain its positive status but in 1634 the Convertite suffered from a virginity scandal, when it was discovered that many women who had been admitted were in fact virgins. For a thorough examination of the Convertite of Venice, see McGough, "Raised from the devil's jaws": A convent for repentant prostitutes in Venice, 1530-1670.” 1997
Stamp (Franciscan emblem and initials S.M.D.N.) of the Poor Clares of the Monastero Santa Maria Donnaregina, Naples (suppressed and dissolved in 1861.) References to a community of nuns (of the Basilian Order) on the site date back to the 8th century. In 1264, Pope Gregory IX allowed the nuns to join the Franciscan Order.
In 1293, Queen Mary of Hungary, consort of Charles II, King of Naples, financed the construction of a new complex for the nuns (the older complex having been badly damaged by an earthquake) which included the still-extant gothic church Santa Maria Donnaregina, “a rare example of aristocratic convent architecture, designed and built with an unusual gallery choir specifically for the devotional use of the nuns”(Elliott and Warr). The Poor Clares were strictly enclosed and therefore, within the church itself, the nuns were restricted to the choir, which was painted with an important fresco cycle.
In the 17th c., the Poor Clares constructed a new church, Santa Maria Donnaregina Nuova, and linked this baroque church to the medieval convent, cloister, and the earlier gothic church, forming a unified whole. Remarkably, these structures have all survived as the Complesso Monumentale Donnaregina.
1. Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, Saint (ca. 1221-1274)
♠ SANCTI ♠ || BONAVENTVRAE S.R. || ECCLE. CAR. ORDI- ||NIS MINORVM. || De praeparatione Sacerdotis Missam celebraturi || Libellus sanè pulcherrimus, || ac perquàm vtilis.
Venice: In coenobio sanctae Mariae Magdalenae per monialium poenitentiu(m) manus. Venundatur in vico sanctae Mariae formosae ad signum Spei, 1558
Octavo: 14.2 x 9.7 cm. 11 ff. Collation: A8, B4 (-blank B4)]
Printer’s mark: Barbieri b, motto I.
One copy in North America (Saint Bonaventure Univ.)
Barbieri 5; A. TESSIER, Di alcuni rarissimi opuscoli, pp. 290-297 n° II; Short-title, p. 118; Le edizioni, I, n° 146; Edit16 on line CNCE 6877; Opac di SBN ITICCUUM1E�03860 = ITICCU CNCE�06877; RICI BIB39924 e BIB42822 (con data 1559)
2. Isidorus Hispalensis, Saint (ca. 560-636)
BEATI ISI ♠ || DORI HISPALENSIS || QVONDAM ARCHI- || EPISCOPI, DE OFFI || ciis Ecclesiasticis libri || duo, ante annos. || DCCCC. ||Ab eo editi, & nu(n)c || ex vetusto codice in lu|| cem restituti |
Venice: In coenobio sanctae Mariae Magdalenae per monialiu(m) poenite(n)tium manus. Veneunt in vico sanctae Mariae formosae ad signum Spei, 1559
Octavo: 14.2 x 9.7 cm. 47,  ff. Collation: A-F8 (with blank F8 present)
Printer’s mark: Barbieri b, motto I
No copies in North America.
Barbieri 12; A. TESSIER, Di alcuni rarissimi opuscoli, pp. 290-297 n° IV; Short-title, p. 341; Le edizio-ni, I, n° 401; Edit16 on line CNCE 33228; Opac di SBN ITICCUVIAE�02212; RICI BIB42625
3. Heynlin, Johann (1430 – ca. 1496)
RESOLVTO ♠ || RIVM DVBIORVM || CIRCA CELEBRA || TIO-NEM MISSARVM || occurrentium, || Per venerabilem patre(m) dominu(m) Ioannem a Lapi- || de, Doctorem Theologum Parisiensem, or- || dinis cartusiensis, ex sacrorum Ca- || nonum, probatorumq(ue) doctoru(m) || sententijs diligenter || collectum.|| Summa dubiorum in hoc opere || resolutoru(m).
Venice: In coenobio sanctae Mariae Magdalenae p(er) monialiu(m) poenitentiu(m) manus. Venundatur in vico sanctae Mariae formosae ad signum Spei, 1559
Octavo: 14.2 x 9.7 cm. 39,  ff. A-E8 (with E8 blank present)
Printer’s mark: Barbieri b, motto I
Two copies in North America: Illinois, Johns Hopkins.
A guide to resolving doubts about the celebration of the Mass, written by Johann Heynlin (Baden 1430 ca. - Basel 1496), who established the first printing press in France, at Paris in 1470.
Barbieri 10; A. TESSIER, Di alcuni rarissimi opuscoli, pp. 290-297 n° V; Short-title, p. 369; Le edizioni, I, n° 420; Opac di SBN ITICCUVIAE�02266; RICI BIB61778 (con data 1558)
4. Peter Lombard (1100-1160)
SVMMA THE || OLOGIAE, AB VNIVER || SITATE THEO. PARISI. || IAM OLIM VLTRA 100 AN- || nu(m) à 4 libris Sententiaru(m) Mag. Pet. || Lombardi Epscopi Parisi || ensis excerpta, || Atq(ue) in libros quatuor itidem redacta, ac || nunc primum in lucem aedita, || & typis excussa.
Venice: In coenobio sanctae Mariae Magdalenae per monialium poenitentium manus. Venundatur in vico sanctae Mariae formosae ad signum spei, 1559
Octavo: 14.2 x 9.7 cm 48 ff. Collation: A-F8
Printer’s mark: Barbieri b, motto I
One copy in North America (Univ. Florida)
Barbieri 15; A. TESSIER, Di alcuni rarissimi opuscoli, pp. 290-297 n° VI; Gli incunaboli e le cinquecen-tine della Parrocchia di S. Maria Maggiore di Trento presso la Biblioteca diocesana tridenti-na “A. Rosmini” di Trento, a cura di Anna Gonzo, Trento, Provincia Autonoma, 1988, n°224; GIUSEPPE LIPARI, Incunaboli e cinquecentine della Provincia dei Cappuccini di Messina, II, Messina, Sicania, 1995, n° 1495; Le edizioni, I, n° 646; Edit16 on line CNCE 33230; Opac di SBN ITICCURMLE�02675; RICI BIB63816
5. Cabasilas, Nicolas, Saint (1322-1392); Hervet, Gentien (1499-1584), transl.
Nicolai Cabasilae de Divino altaris sacrificio ; Maximi de Mystalogia, hoc est de introductione ad sacra Ecclesiae mysteria, seu sacramenta ; divi Chrysostomi et divi Basilii sacrificii, seu missae ritus, ex sacerdotali graeco, Gentiano Herveto Aurelio interprete.
Venice: Per A. Bruciolum et fratres ejus, 1548
Octavo: 14.2 x 9.7 cm. Collation: A-S8 (with blank Q8, -blank S8).
FIRST EDITION. Gentien Hervet’s Latin translation of “Interpretation of the Divine Liturgy” by the Byzantine mystic and theologian Nicholas Kabasilas.
The book was printed by the Florence-born author, editor, translator and publisher Antonio Bruciolo (1487-1566), who, together with his brothers Francesco and Alessandro, printed books at Venice from 1540 to 1548 in Campo Ss. Filippo e Giacomo. It is worth noting that Brucioli’s Italian translation of the New Testament was published by the bookshop “ad Signum Spei”, at which the books printed by the Convertite were sold.
Barbieri, “Per monialium poenitentium manus. La tipografia del monastero di Santa Maria Maddalena alla Giudecca, detto delle Convertite (1557-1561)”, in “La Bibliofilia”, Vol. 113, No. 3 (settembre-dicembre 2011), pp. 303-354; Borraccini, Rosa Maria, “All’ombra degli eredi: l’invisibilità femminile nelle professioni del libro”, in “La donna nel Rinascimento meridionale”, atti del convegno, 2009, p. 418.