Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]. ROME.
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]
Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]

Mirabilia Urbis Romae [and associated texts]

Rome: Marcello and Eucharius Silber, alias Franck, ca. 1509-, 1527.

Price: $26,000.00

Octavo: 12.8 x 9.5 cm. [8], [56], [4], [8], [12], [8] lvs.

SIX SEPARATE WORKS BOUND AS ONE. Bound in early 20th c. olive morocco (rubbed, spine lightly sunned). Very good copies internally with a few small marginal tears, light damp-staining to margins of several leaves, a little more extensive on the final three leaves but still very pale. Illustrated with 11 woodcuts. Contents and full descriptions follow:.

1. Mirabilia Rome.
(Rome: Marcello Silber, between 1510 and 1527)
[8] lvs., unsigned. With title page woodcut.
Bib. references: CNCE 75624. Not in Tinto, Gli annali tipografici di Eucario e Marcello Silber (1501-1527).

2. Indulgentie Ecclesiarum Urbis Rome [add: Historia et Descriptio urbis Romae and Stationes ecclesiarum urbis Romae]
Rome: per Marcellum Silber, alias Franck, 4 March 1512
[56] lvs. Collation: [a]-g8. With title page woodcut and 9 woodcuts in the text.
CNCE 31027. Not in Tinto. Rossetti G-201, Sander 4627, and Schudt 35.

3. Tolomei, Pietro di Giorgio, of Teramo (d. 1473)
Translatio miraculosa Ecclesie beatissime virginis Marie de Loreta (sic!)
(Rome: Eucharius Silber, not after 1509)
[4] lvs., unsigned. With title page woodcut.
CNCE 56122. Tinto, n. 56.

4. Ximenes, Franciscus
[Confessionale] Interrogationes sive doctrine, quibus quilibet sacerdos debet interrogare suum confitentem.
(Rome: Marcello Silber, not before 1510)
[8] lvs., unsigned.
CNCE 31031. Tinto, n. 71. IGI 3132. BMC It. p. 340.

5. Escobar, André dias de (ca. 1348-1448)
Modus confitendi
(Rome: Marcello Silber, between 1510 and 1527)
[12] lvs. a8, b4. With title page woodcut.
CNCE 54285. Tinto, n. 81.

6. Coniuratio malignorum spirituum in corporibus hominum existentium prout fit in Sancto Petro.
(Rome: Marcello Silber, not before 1510)
[8] lvs., unsigned.
CNCE 13085. Tinto, n. 74.

The subjects of the woodcuts are: 1. MIRABILIA: Title page woodcut of the She-Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus in the foreground, Rhea Silvia praying within an aedicule in the middle distance, and a view of Rome in the distance (the walls of the city, Pantheon, Pyramid of C. Cestius, and medieval towers clearly visible), 2. INDULGENTIAE: Same title page woodcut as in 1., woodcut papal arms of Julius II, with the della Rovere oak tree prominent; the sudarium of Veronica being displayed to a crowd of the faithful; and 7 woodcuts of Saints, the Madonna and Child, and the Crucifixion, each representing one of the principal churches of Rome: St. John (the Lateran), St. Peter (the Vatican), St. Paul (San Paolo fuori le mura), the Madonna and Child (Santa Maria Maggiore), San Lorenzo (San Lorenzo fuori le mura), Saint Sebastian (San Sebastiano ad catacumbas), the Crucifixion (Santa Croce). 3. TRANSLATIO MIRACULOSA: Title woodcut of Madonna and Child, to be understood as the portrait painted by Saint Luke. 4. (unillustrated) 5. ESCOBAR. Title page woodcut depicting a confessor and a penitent, overseen by an angel and a demon,. 6. CONIURATIO (unillustrated.)

Items 1. & 2. Mirabilia texts:

The “Mirabilia Romae” is the oldest extant guidebook to the city of Rome. As the forerunner to all later guides to the Eternal City and a bestseller for over 300 years, the “Mirabilia” achieved iconic status.

The two medieval texts transmitted under the title “Mirabilia Romae” were composed around 1143, possibly by a certain Benedict, a canon of St. Peter’s. The first text, the “Mirabilia Romae” (Marvels of Rome) is a guide for visitors to the ruins of the ancient city, with explanations of the origins and functions of the buildings and places described (see below for a discussion of the contents.) The second work, properly the “Historia et Descriptio urbis Romae” is a short historical work that recounts the founding of Rome and discusses the Roman emperors. Two additional texts, long associated with and transmitted together with the “Mirabilia”, the “Indulgentiae ecclesiarum principalium urbis Romae” and the “Stationes ecclesiarum urbis Romae”, were written as practical guides for pilgrims visiting the Holy City. The “Indulgentiae” gives an account of the churches of Rome, beginning with the 7 principal churches that pilgrims may visit in order to receive indulgences. In addition to listing the number of indulgences that may be obtained on different feast days, the guide describes what altars, relics, and tombs may be found in each church. In the church of S. Caterina dei Funari, for example, are preserved the oil that flowed from the saint’s sepulcher as well as the milk that flowed -in place of blood- from her neck when she was decapitated. The “Stationes” lists the station churches for Lent, Easter, and Advent, so that a pilgrim may easily locate a church for a given mass. The text begins with the “Salve sancta facies”(Hail, Holy Face.), a verse prayer to be recited when viewing the sudarium of Saint Veronica (a handkerchief with a miraculous image of the face of Jesus upon it). The prayer is printed opposite a woodcut showing the relic being displayed before a crowd of the faithful. For the reader, this woodcut would serve as a substitute for viewing the sudarium in person. Reciting the prayer would reduce a soul’s time in Purgatory by 20,000 years. All four of the texts described above are found in the present compilation volume (items 1 and 2).

The “Mirabilia Romae” itself is divided into chapters discussing: the walls of Rome, the city gates, the hills of Rome, the bridges, the “palaces” of the emperors (with mention of the columns of Trajan and Antoninus Pius and the apocryphal “Palace of Nero”), triumphal and memorial arches, baths, theaters, cemeteries and catacombs (both pagan and Christian), locations where the saints suffered martyrdom, temples, the Capitol, the “marble horses” (the Quirinal Dioscuri), the equestrian statue of “Constantine”, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, with an account of Octavian’s vision of the Madonna and Child.

The mix of lore and fact found in the “Mirabilia” reminds the reader just how little was known of antiquity when these guides were composed. Yet the stories, often fantastic, add to our sense of wonder, helping to explain why these guides remained so popular even after the humanists and antiquarians had begun to tease out the reality of antiquity through a more scientific examination of the same evidence.

Our guide describes the vanished Capitolium as a palace composed almost entirely of gold, said to be worth “a third of the word’s wealth”. Within this temple were as many statues as there were provinces, all facing a statue that represented Rome. They were adorned “by mathematical art” with bells around their necks as a sort of ancient early warning system. Whenever one of the provinces, anywhere in the empire, would revolt, its corresponding statue would turn away from the statue of Rome and its bell would begin to ring. The Senate would then mobilize and send troops to crush the uprising.

In the description of the Colosseum, the seed of historical truth (the colossus of Nero as the Sun God), gives rise to a marvelous conception of the amphitheater as a temple of the Sun, the great opening above covered with a gilded bronze dome that mimicked the actual sky, complete with thunder and lightning, and rain that was pumped through lead pipes. The artificial sky was adorned with golden images of the planets and Luna riding her four-horse chariot. A monumental statue of the Sun, whose head reached to the sky, stood within, bearing an orb in his hand, a symbol of the Earth. Pope Sylvester, we are told, destroyed the temple, but the arm and head of the statue were still to be seen in the Lateran, where -according to the writer- the general public misidentified them as belonging to Sampson. The colossal arm and head, which were moved to the Capitoline in 1471 as part of the founding collection of the Capitoline Museum, are now understood to be those of the emperor Constantine.

However, the “Mirabilia” contains much that is factual or nearly so. The writers strive to make accurate statements (we are given the heights of the columns of Antoninus Pius and Trajan, for instance) and attempt to solve what were certainly difficult puzzles, such as the workings of the ancient baths. The “Mirabilia” also preserves for us the names and details of monuments known to the author but later destroyed, such as the elusive “Arcus Pietatis” near the Pantheon and the 4th-century arch of Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius (See Richardson, New Topographical Dictionary, pp. 26, 28). But what is perhaps most valuable to us is the window that the “Mirabilia” provides into the medieval perception of Rome, a city of pagan ruins and Christian monuments in which emperors, saints, prophetic youths, and Virgil the Magician inhabit the same landscape.

Item 3. A Pilgrim’s Guide to The Miraculous House of the Virgin at Loreto

This volume contains another guide for pilgrims, a popular 15th century account of the miraculous journey of the Virgin Mary’s house –spirited through the air by angels- from Nazareth to Loreto. The text gives a full description of that journey and includes an account of a 14th c. archaeological expedition to the Holy Land to verify the house’s authenticity (See below).

The “Translatio”, like the “Mirabilia urbis Romae”, was printed in numerous editions, very few copies of which have survived intact. All are extremely rare and all are undated; Tinto (“Gli annali tipografici di Eucario e Marcello Silber”, n. 56) attributes the printing of this edition, with “Loreto” misspelled in the title, to Eucharius Silber “not before 1509”.

From at least the late 14th century, popular legend held that a modest house in the territory of Recanati was in fact the house of the Virgin Mary, which had been miraculously transported by angels from Nazareth, first to Dalmatia, then to Italy. To the faithful, this was the house in which the Annunciation had taken place and in which the Christ Child had taken his first steps, and it quickly became a shrine and the object of veneration. In 1471, when Pope Paul II granted a plenary indulgence to the shrine of the Virgin Mary at Loreto, the house had achieved only local fame.

“It was the relation of Loreto’s miraculous translations composed circa 1472 by the governor of the shrine, Pietro di Giorgio Tolomei of Teramo, that first brought the legend of the Holy House into universal credit and spread its fame throughout Catholic Europe.”(Lightbown)

Teramo begins his account by affirming that the church was once a room in the house where Mary herself was born, where she raised her son Jesus up to the age of 12, and where she lived after the crucifixion. In her latter days, Mary was attended by the Apostles, who witnessed many miracles while in her home. After Mary’s death, they declared the place a church. It was here that the evangelist Luke painted his famous portrait of the Virgin (represented in woodcut on the title page) and hung it in the house, where, we are told, it could still be seen in Teramo’s lifetime.

The exact nature and origin of the house was revealed by the Virgin Mary herself, who appeared to a holy man in Recanati in the year 1396 and insisted that he tell the consiglio of Loreto. Learning of this revelation, the consiglio sent a delegation of 16 men to Nazareth with the measurements of the structure. When the men returned to Italy, they announced that they had found only the foundations of the Virgin’s house (with an inscription saying that it had gone away) and that the measurements corresponded exactly to those of the house in Loreto.

The house had made various stops on its way to Loreto. After leaving Nazareth, which had been overtaken by Muslims, the house –carried by angels- first settled in Dalmatia, where it “did not receive the honor due to the Virgin”. Once again the house took flight and settled in Italy near the home of a maiden named Loreta. But there were brigands in this wooded land and so the angels transported the house to a hill on which two brothers lived. The brothers came to blows over the offerings left at the shrine and so the house took its leave of them, settling at last on a public road near Loreto. Once there, the inhabitants constructed a church around it.

“In further proof of his miraculous story, Teramo also cites the witness of two inhabitants of Loreto, both of good repute. Paolo di Rinalduccio (d. c. 1448) had declared that his grandfather’s grandfather saw with his own eyes the angels carrying the church over the sea and putting it down in the wood, and had visited it there several times. Francesco del Priore told Teramo that his grandfather’s grandfather had had a house beside the church when it stood in Loreta’s wood and that its removal took place in his forefather’s lifetime.”(Lightbrown, Crivelli)

See Grimaldi, Il libro lauretano: secoli XV-XVIII, Loreto, 1994.

Items 4., 5., & 6. Confession & Exorcism:

Like their Mirabilia and Loreto pamphlets, the Silbers printed the final three texts in this sammelband numerous times, starting in the 1490s. Of these, the last has the strongest associations with Rome. It is an exorcism manual that claims to print the liturgical conjuration “as used in Saint Peter’s” (see below.)

There are indications that Silber intended all three to be purchased together. Two of the three (items 4 and 5) are confessional texts that were often printed together, both in Italy and north of the Alps. Moreover, of the three works, only the “Modus Confitendi” has a title page, while the other two have drop titles.

The “Modus confitendi”, a guide to help confessors preach and administer the sacrament of penance, was written by the Portuguese Benedictine Bishop André Dias de Escobar (ca. 1348-1448), who, in addition to holding several bishoprics, was a minor penitentiary in the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Roman Curia. Among the subjects discussed are the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Sacraments, and other articles and tenets of Christian faith. The second confessional text, “Interrogationes sive doctrine, quibus quilibet sacerdos debet interrogare suum confitentem”(Questions with which a priest ought to examine a confessant) is attributed to Franciscus Ximenes (Francesc Eiximenis) in at least two 15th c. editions. See Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, 2592, and A. Ivars in Archivo Ibero-Americano (1970), pp. 251-56. Like the Mirabilia and the Loreto guidebooks, such confessors manuals were products of the Middle Ages that remained in use into the early 16th c.

Exorcism:

Item 6. Conjuration of Malign Spirits from the bodies of men, “as it is practiced in Saint Peter’s”:

“The ‘Conjuration of Malign Spirits’ was the most successful exorcism text of the [late 15th c.]. Its popularity might have lain in its claim to be the liturgy used on demoniacs in St. Peter's Basilica itself. It consisted of twenty-six separate stages, only three of which were derived from the ancient exorcism liturgies. The prayer ‘Exorcizo te immunde spiritus’, lifted from the baptismal liturgy, was followed by ‘Deus angelorum, Deus archangelorum’, and the prayer ‘Deus celi, deus angelorum’, derived from the Paris Supplement… The devil was conjured to depart by the Trinity, by the Passion, by the keys of St. Peter, by the lance that pierced Christ's side, by the death and entombment of Christ, by the Resurrection, and by the Ascension.

“The reference to St. Peter's keys further strengthened the association between the ‘Coniuratio’ and Rome at a time before the Papacy exercised a significant degree of central control on the liturgy… Although it was derived in part from ancient liturgical sources, the direct borrowing of exorcisms from the baptismal liturgy and the absence of the great adjurations (the central and unvarying component of the oldest liturgies of exorcism) demonstrated that the compilers of the work had little knowledge of the liturgical history of exorcism. The ‘Coniuratio’ drew upon the mysteries of the faith for power over demons, and this set the pattern for the elaborate conjurations of later exorcists such as Girolamo Menghi. However, it is clear that the ‘Coniuratio’ could easily be used for magic, and Owen Davies has aptly described exorcism manuals as 'the most influential occult products of the print age', classing them with grimoires as well as liturgical texts.”(Young, A History of Exorcism in Catholic Christianity (2016), p. 102-103).