Venice: Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1545.
Octavo: 14.5 x 9.8 cm. 80 lvs. Collation: a-k8
FIRST ITALIAN EDITION (1st ed., in Latin, 1525).
Bound in modern stiff vellum. Contents with occ. light blemishes. With a woodcut compass on folio 74; woodcut printer’s device on title and final leaf. Embossed bookplate, “Montisalti” on front pastedown.
An important account of the 1522 siege of Rhodes, a campaign led by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I “the Magnificent”. The Christian Knights of St. John of Jerusalem ultimately surrendered, after enduring months of punishing assault, agreeing to abandon their island stronghold and relocate, ultimately, to Malta. Suleiman would live to regret his decision to allow the Knights to leave unmolested.
This is the first Italian edition, translated by Francesco Sansovino, of “De bello Rhodio” by Jacob Fonteyn (v. 1450-1528) of Bruges. With additional texts not found in the first edition.
Fonteyn was an eyewitness and participant of the siege. His text aimed primarily to praise the bravery and tenacity of the knights of the Order and their newly-appointed Grand Master, Philippe de Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, who had refused Suleiman’s offer of a treaty and, subsequently, when threatened with war, had refused to surrender the island. Fonteyn listed the names of all those taking part in the action, the role they played in the combat, the wounds they received, and whether or not they died.
Rhodes had not been taken lightly or easily. The 600 Knights and their allies (1,000 Christian mercenaries, 500 Rhodian militiamen, and 250 Jewish volunteers), had withstood an Ottoman force of 300 ships and 75,000 soldiers.
This edition was based on the third Latin edition of the work, printed in Paris in 1540, augmented by three other texts: passages from “De insula Rhodo et militarium ordinum institutione” (Paris, 1536) by the German Dietrich Adama (d. 1540); a short treatise on navigation and the use of the compass by the Knight Hospitaller Jean Quintin (1500-1561); and an important description of the island of Malta by the same author, “Insulae Melitae Descriptio”(1st ed. 1536).
“The Siege of Rhodes (June–December 1522), led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, was the second attempt by the Ottoman Empire to defeat the Knights Hospitaller and take control of Rhodes. Control of the Greek island would consolidate Ottoman control of the eastern Mediterranean.
“Sultan Selim I (d. 1520) had vastly expanded Ottoman territory in the Muslim Middle East. His successor, Suleiman, now took the Christians as his target. Suleiman learned from the failed attempt of 1480: this time the Ottomans doubled the size of their fleet to more than 300 ships and, along with a force of 75,000, besieged the island in June 1522, blockading the harbor and bombarding the town.
“The walls had been strengthened after the first siege but, after several weeks, the cannons breached a section allowing the Ottomans to launch an attack on the English section. For a day, the Ottomans attacked, but English and German knights repelled them. After attacks on other parts of the ramparts failed, the Ottomans decided to explode mines under the walls but these attacks were repelled, too. In early December, the bombardment ceased while the two sides negotiated. However, peace talks broke down and the bombardment continued with increased ferocity as more artillery had been brought from Anatolia.
“The Knights’ Grand Master, Philippe de Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, could see that the situation was hopeless and surrendered in December to avoid loss of civilian life. Suleiman was generous, in recognition of the bravery of the defenders. In late December, the knights marched out of the town carrying their banners and were transported safely to Crete aboard Ottoman ships. Although costly, the capture of Rhodes was a significant victory for the Ottomans. The Knights Hospitaller relocated to Malta.”(EB)
The Knights Hospitaller:
“The Order of the Knights of St. John and Jerusalem was among the last of the Roman Catholic military orders. Its origins lay, paradoxically, in a small fraternity of Benedictines who, funded by Italian merchants and sanctioned by the caliph of Egypt, had cared for indigent Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land since 1023. Their medical skills were put to a hard test in 1099 when European soldiers of the First Crusade captured the holy city, producing a mass of wounded soldiers who quickly overflowed the Order’s infirmaries. Moved by the Benedictines’ work, some patients under their care petitioned to join the Order. On the logic that care for pilgrims could include keeping the pilgrim routes safe, the Order’s mandate soon included a martial function. They also adopted the Augustinian Order, it being more aggressive and more open to expelling Islam from the Holy Land. Despite the pan-European nature of the Crusades, the knights were organized by their countries of origin, or rather their native languages, the so-called ‘langues’ of Provence, Auvergne, France, Aragon, Italy, England, and Germany. Members were drawn exclusively from the elites, which limited their total numbers. What they lost in quantity, however, they more than made up for in quality. As warriors, the knights were formidable— first into battle, last to leave, and inspirational to those who placed religion above secular politics.
“As the years passed and the crusades rolled on, the Order grew rich on plunder and donations, established chapters throughout Europe (the quarter of St. John’s Wood in London was theirs before Henry VIII decided his needs were greater), and plowed money into castles and fortresses across the Holy Land. Their masterwork, the fortress of Krak des Chevaliers in modern-day Syria, has served its intended purpose as recently as 2014. Expelled with the rest of the Crusaders from the Holy Land after the fall of Acre (1191 AD), the Order settled on the island of Rhodes, a green place with countless inlets and bays suitable for sea raiding. They transformed the eastern port city, also called Rhodes, into a formidable fortress city, with strong defensive walls, each section of which was assigned to a separate langue.”(Bruce Ware Allen, The Great Siege of Malta, introduction, p. 2).
EDIT16 CNCE 19459; Adams F 721; USTC 830288