Lucca: Appresso Pellegrino Bidelli, 1642.
Quarto: 20.5 x 14.7 cm. *4, A-Z4, Aa-Uu4, Xx6; A-V4, X6, Y-Z4. With an added etched title page.
A large, crisp copy with deckled edges throughout, bound in near-contemporary stiff parchment over boards. Edges of text-block sprinkled. With and etched title page of the countess (accompanied by her army) and her ally Pope Gregory VII.
First edition of this life of the medieval Italian noblewoman Matilda di Canossa, “la Gran Contessa” (1046-1115), who won renown both for her diplomatic skills and her military achievements. Matilda was heiress to large territories in northern Italy and a powerful supporter of the popes against German imperial ambitions. Matilda was a crucial ally of Pope Gregory VII (d. 1085) during his war with the Emperor Henry IV (1050-1106), whose forces were defeated by Matilda’s own at Sorbara (near Modena) in 1084.
An educated woman, Fluent in French and German and able to read and dictate in Latin, Matilda was an intellectual and patron of letters who built a library and supervised an edition of Justinian’s “Pandects”. A justly famous –and controversial- figure in her own time, she is referred to –both positively and negatively- by contemporary writers, including Ekkehard von Aura, who called her “the wealthiest, most famous woman of our times and most distinguished in virtues.” Anselm of Canterbury sent Matilda his “Meditations”. She died in 1115 and in 1634 her body was removed to St. Peter’s in Rome.
The author, Francesco Maria Fiorentini, was a physician, hagiographer, correspondent of Galileo, and himself a native of Lucca. The task of writing a life of Matilda was suggested by Marcantonio Franciotti, archbishop of Lucca, who granted Fiorentini access to the episcopal archive, rich in primary source documents of the 11th and 12th centuries.
Transcriptions of some of the most important contemporary documents occupy the final sixty-five pages of this book. These include letters and official pronouncements of Matilda herself, some of which are accompanied by a woodcut rendering of Matilda’s famous cruciform signature (lvs. X1, X2, and X4).