Monastic provenances of early printed books in Bodleian collections: case 1

A Bible from the Benedictines of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

Fol. a1r: initial

Biblia Latina
Venice: Franciscus Renner, de Heilbronn, 1480.
Folio and 4o (ISTC ib00566000; Bod-inc B-275)
Bodleian Library: Auct. M 2.12


Venice, Benedictines, S. Georgius maior [San Giorgio Maggiore], from 1429 a member of the Congregation of Sta Justina of Padua. The institution was dissolved in 1782.

Maffeo Pinelli (Venice 1735-1785) hereditary director of the official Venetian Press; the catalogue of his library was prepared by Jacopo Morelli, Marciana librarian in 1787 (listed there in vol. I no. 132); all the books were purchased by the London bookseller James Edwards for £600, and auctioned by him in 1789. The Pinelli collection was made of books from aristocratic collections and from religious institutions, mostly from the Veneto.

The Bodleian purchased some 79 incunabula at the Pinelli sale through Peter Elmsley; this volume, lot 5041, cost £1.10.0 as listed in the annotated sale catalogue and in the published List of Books Purchased for the Bodleian for 1789, p. 1.

D11v: "Iste liber est monachorum congregationis S. Justine de Padua deputatus in S. Georgii maioris Venetiarum | .773."

Binding: 18th-century English calf, c.1790, bound for the Bodleian Library; yellow edges; 255 x 185 x 60 mm.

Bibliography: Antonella Barzazi, «Un tempo assai ricche e piene di libri di merito». Le biblioteche dei regolari tra sviluppo e dispersione, in “Alli 10 agosto 1806 soppressione del monastero di S. Giorgio”: Atti del convegno di studi nel bicentenario, Venezia S. Giorgio Maggiore, 10-11 novembre 2006 / a cura di Giovanni Vian, Cesena, Badia di Santa Maria del Monte, 2011, pp. 71-92.

History of the Collection:

The first nucleus of the library at San Giorgio Maggiore dated to at least the early 15th century, though a new building, by Baldassarre Longhena, was ready in 1671 and filled with new books purchased by the Abbot Alvise Squadron, mostly from the booksellers at the Mercerie, the commercial heart of the city.

In 1782 the Venetian Republic began the dissolutions; in 1789 Jacopo Morelli, librarian of the Marciana Library, was charged by the Council of Ten to investigate the state of Venetian religious libraries; in San Giorgio he noted 19 manuscripts and 62 rare books (BMV Archivio, busta: biblioteche delle corporazioni religiose 1789-1812, fasc. 1 ‘Nota dei migliori codici manoscritti e dei piu’ rari libri stampati della Libreria di S. Giorgio Maggiore’).

In 1797 the French entered the city and started taking away to Paris the best books according to a selection prepared by the commissaries Berthollet and Monge: the 470 volumes included 4 manuscripts and 24 printed books from San Giorgio Maggiore. In the same year other books were taken away, without receipt, by a citizen Brunet, described by a local historian as a pedlar turned general (‘venditore di chincaglierie divenuto poi generale’), who removed several books from the libraries of the monasteries of the city. Moreover, the library of the monastery was also runsacked by the population, and rare books taken away, during a short spell when the monks had to leave the monastery. Other volumes were probably taken away by the monks themselves in an attempt to save them. So, ironically, the books that survived are those who had been taken away to Paris or stayed in the Marciana.

In 1806 a new inventory of the library of San Giorgio Maggiore recorded 213 manuscripts and 78 incunabula.  With the annexation of Venice to the French ‘Regno Italico’ in 1806, books from the religious houses of the city were sent to Padua, where volumes from some 40 monasteries were gathered in the ex-monastery of St Anna. They were left there for years, almost forgotten, with plenty of opportunities to remove them. With the fall of Regno Italico in 1815, valuable manuscripts and rare books ended up in the University Library of Padua. However, the books of San Giorgio Maggiore which can be found today in various European and American libraries are witness of different, more complex, events.

Other books surviving from San Giorgio Maggiore are today in:

Oxford, Bodleian Library:

Johannes Crastonus, Lexicon Graeco-latinum, [Milan]: Bonus Accursius, [not after 28 Mar. 1478].
“Iste liber est monasterii sancti Georgii maioris … numero 708”; purchased in 1824 for £10. 10. 0. (Bod-inc C-470).

Franciscus de Platea, Opus restitutionum, usurarum, excommunicationum, [Venice]: Bartholomaeus Cremonensis, 1472.
“Iste liber est … deputatus monasterio sancti Georgii maioris … no. 619”; purchased in 1831 from Thomas Thorpe for £0. 10. 0. (Bod-inc P-334(1))

Plautus, Comoediae, Venice: Simon Bevilaqua, 17 Sept. 1499.
“Reuerendus dominus Andreas Mocenicus prothonotarius apostolicus pro anime sue salute diui Georgii maioris cenobio dicauit signatus C.115”
. Purchased in 1956 from McLeish. (Bod-inc P-356(2))

Cambridge, University Library:

Boethius, De consolatione philosophiae, Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 8 June 1495.
“Est S. Georgii Maioris Venetiarum”. (Oates 1037)

Clifford C. Rattey, Torquay:

Plato, Opera, Venice: B. de Choris and Simon de Luere, for A. Torresanus, 13 Aug. 1491.
With a ms note on the final leaf [exactly like the Bodleian copy] recording the transfer from the Benedictine monastery of St Justina, Padua, to the monastery of St George the Great Venice; later Robert Finch (1783-1830); Taylor Institute Oxford. (Catalogue of the library at Corbyns, Torquay, formed by Clifford C. Rattey, Leamington Spa, 1965, no. B112)

Copenhagen, Royal Library:

Marsilius Ficinus, De religione christiana. Venice: Otinus de Luna 1500.
“Est sancti Georgij maioris de Venetiis…N. Wandstad Venetiis emit 20 s. 1658”. Georgius Francus de Frankenau (1644-1704). Hafniae 1698. Count Otto Thott (1703-1785), part of a donation which included 6,159 books printed before 1530 and 4,154 manuscripts; nothing known specifically on how he acquired them. (Madsen no. 1591)

Edinburgh, University Library:

Geraldus Odonis, Expositio in Aristotelis Ethicam, Venice: Simon de Luere, for A. Torresanus, 14 July 1500 (ISTC:  io00029000).
With the inscription: “Est Bibliotecae S. Georgij Maioris Venetiarum”. (Papers of Edinburgh Bibl. Society, IX, 1913, no. 150)

Harvard Univ., Houghton Library:

Plinius Secundus, Gaius, Historia naturalis, Parma: Stephanus Corallus, 1476.
On [a]2r “Est  S. Georgij Venet.rum”; on the lower margin of [P]3r “Iste liber e(st) monachorum congregationis s. Justine de Padua deputatus in s. Georgio Venetiarum signatus numero 545”. In Cambridge Mass, by 1841: Ms note in upper margin of [o]2r “King’s Chapel, Boston, to the library of Harvard University, Cambridge. 1841”. Gift of the Minister, Wardens, and Vestry of King’s Chapel, Boston. (Walsh 3350)

London, Valmadonna Collection:

Johannes Picus de Mirandula, Opera, Venice: Bernardinus de Vitalibus 1498 (ISTC: ip00634000).
On f.1r: “R[everen]dus dns Andreas Mocenicus protonotarius pro anime sue salutis diui Georgii maioris cenobio dicauit signatus numero 114”. Andreas Mocenigo (Venice 1473-1542) was a historian, scholar, Proctor of St Mark and ambassador to Pope Julius II. The book was later in the library of Gotha, and eventually disposed as a duplicate: on f. 1r: black oval stamp: “DUPLUM | BIB | GOTH”.

Lucca, Biblioteca Statale:

Biblia, Venice: J. Herbort, 30 Apr. 1484.
On c. 408r: “Congregationis s. Justine de padua deputatus monachis in monasterio s. Georgij maioris […] habitantibus ac signatus numero 281”. (M. Paoli, Le edizioni del 400 in una raccolta toscana, Lucca, 1990-92, no. 140)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France:

Antoninus Florentinus, Summa moralis, Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1477-1480.
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 15th c.; Count Sebastiano d’Ayala (1744-1811); purchased at his sale in 1802. (CIBN A-453*).

Augustinus, De Civitate Dei, Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 2 Oct. 1475.
Prov. Benedictines of  S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 1484; ex-libris of Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, circa 1780 [ ?]. (CIBN A-682)

[Biblia.] – Interpretationes Hebraicorum nominum, Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1476.
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 15th c., evidence from illumination (representation of St George on a5) and erased ex-libris; Vienna, Imperial Library, removed in 1809. (CIBN B-382*)

Cicero, Pseudo-, Rhetorica ad C. Herennium, Milan: Antonio Zarotto [for Marco Roma], 12 Aug. 1474.
Prov. Benedictines of  Sta Justina of Padua (annotation of Van Praet), or possibly Benedictines of  S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice (from Van Praet 1813). (CIBN C-465*)

Dante Alighieri, La Commedia, Florence: Nicolò di Lorenzo, 30 Aug. 1481.
Prov. Orlando di Francesco Franceschi, 1728; Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 18th c.; ex-libris of  Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, circa 1780. (CIBN D-13*)

Franchinus Gafurius, Practica musicae, Milan: Guillaume Le Signerre for Giovanni Pietro da Lomazzo, 30 Sept. 1496.
. Benedictines of S. Sisto of Piacenza, used by Johannes Maria, Piacenza, 16-17th c.; Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 17th c. (CIBN G-000)

Guillelmus Duranti, Rationale divinorum officiorum, [Mainz]: Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, 6 Oct. 1459.
On the last leaf: Iste liber est congregationis monachorum sancte Justine deputatus monasterio sancti Georgii maioris Venetiarum ac signatus numero 315″ “Constitit ducatorum decem octo emptus anno 1461”. (CIBN D-278; DeRicci, Mayence, 65).

Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae, Brescia: Bonino de’ Bonini, 3 Mar. 1485.
Prov. Benedictines of  Sta Justina of Padua, 16th c.; Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice [ ?]; removed in 1796. (CIBN G-000)

Lactantius, Opera,  Venice: Wendelinus de Spira, 1472.
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. (CIBN L-5*)

Nicolaus Perottus, Rudimenta grammatices, Venice: [Jacopo da Fivizzano for] Marco de’ Conti and Gerardo Alessandrino, 17 Jan. 1476/77.
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. (CIBN P-124)

Bartholomæus Platina, Vitæ pontificum, [Venice:] Johannes de Colonia et Johannes Manthen, 11 June 1479.
Prov. Benedictines of Sta Justine of Padua; Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice; ex-libris of Venice, Biblioteca Marciana. (CIBN P-443*)

Priscianus, Opera, [Milan: Domenico da Vespolate for Bonino Mombrizio, after 24 Feb. 1476.]
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice; ex-libris of Venice, Biblioteca Marciana. (CIBN P-595*)

Strabo, Geographia, Venice: Wendelinus de Spira, 1472.
Prov. Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 16th c.; Cardinal Loménie de Brienne (1727-1794); purchased at his sale in 1792. (CIBN S-471*)

Johannes Tortellius, Orthographia, Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1471.
Prov. Benedictines of  S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. (CIBN T-290*)

Laurentius Valla, Elegantiæ linguæ latinæ, Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1471.
Prov. Unidentified coat of arms; Benedictines of S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 16th c.; Cardinal Loménie de Brienne (1727-1794); purchased at his sale in 1792. (CIBN V-37*)

Subiaco, Biblioteca Statale del Monumento di Santa Scolastica:

Bartolomeo Facio, De rebus gestis Alphonsi Aragonij regis libri 7, Mantuam Feb. 1563.
On the titlepage: “Est Bibliothecae S. Georgii Maioris Venetiarum”. (ANT.500 XXIII B 22)

Uppsala, University Library:

Nicolaus Perottus, Cornucopiae linguae latinae, Venice: P. de Paganinis, 14 May 1489 (ISTC ip00288000).
Inscription: “Iste liber est Congregationis monachorum s. Justine de Padua ordinis s. Benedicti deputatus in monasterio s. Georgij maioris Venetiarum signatus 947”. (Sallander 1907 no. 1885).


Even if nothing has been published more in detail, some books are very probably still in Venice.

[Source:  Paul Needham’s IPI, Bod-inc., and Nicolas Petit, BnF]

Seminar on the History of the Book: Martin McLaughlin, “From Cosimo Bartoli to James Leoni: translating and illustrating Alberti”, 18 February 2011

Engraving of a design for a triumphal arch, from James Leoni's 1726 English translation of Alberti's De re aedificatoria. The inscription on the arch alludes to the 1725 Treaty of Hanover signed by George I. (The Warden and Fellows, All Souls College, Oxford)

The fifth in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book marked the birthday of Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), on 18 February, with a presentation by Professor Martin McLaughlin on the subject of “From Cosimo Bartoli to James Leoni: translating and illustrating Alberti”.

The humanist and polymath Leon Battista Alberti was a prolific author on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from architecture to cryptography, as well as of literary works in both Latin and Italian. Significantly for those interested in the history of the book, he is also responsible for perhaps the first known reference to the emerging technology of printing, in his De cyfris of ca. 1466. The session focused specifically on his treatise on architecture, De re aedificatoria, and particularly on subsequent translations of it into other languages, notably those by Cosimo Bartoli and James Leoni.

De re aedificatoria was written in Latin sometime around 1452, in imitation of Vitruvius, and published for the first time in Florence in 1486, with subsequent Latin editions published in Paris in 1512 and in Strasbourg in 1541. It was probably expected to be read by learned patrons and antiquaries rather than used by practising architects. Although manuscript translations of the work into Italian were probably available from a fairly early stage, the first printed Italian translation, by Pietro Lauro of Siena, did not appear until 1546. Lauro’s translation was, however, almost immediately eclipsed by a clearer and more accurate version by Cosimo Bartoli, printed in Florence in 1550. Bartoli’s translation remained the only Italian version of De re aedificatoria for over 400 years, and was almost certainly an influence on Palladio, who was a friend of Bartoli’s. Bartoli’s edition was the first to divide the work into clearly titled chapters, and also the first to include illustrations. Bartoli was at great pains to use the best available text for his translation, and indeed claims, in his dedicatory letter to Cosimo I de’ Medici, to have been almost driven to give up the enterprise altogether because of the difficulty of finding a reliable Latin text to work on, and because of the numerous errors in all the available versions. He used the 1541 Strasbourg edition, which was probably the best available text at the time.

The first English edition of De re aedificatoria was printed in London in 1726, and consists of Bartoli’s Italian translation printed in parallel with a translation of it into English by Giacomo, or James, Leoni. This is a significantly more lavish affair than the 1550 edition, and includes illustrations, some of them pull-outs, engraved by Bernard Picart, after Leoni’s own drawings. These are clearly inspired by the woodcut illustrations to Bartoli’s Italian translation, with each of the original woodcuts having a corresponding engraving. Although the translation is generally attributed to Leoni, it is in fact unlikely that he had sufficient English to have made the translation on his own, and it is more likely the work of an uncredited team of translators. That Leoni and his team were working from Bartoli’s Italian version rather than from the Latin original is evidenced by a number of places where errors or misreadings found in Bartoli are unquestioningly followed by Leoni, and specific examples of these were considered, as well as some instances of mistranslations that appear to be entirely Leoni’s own work.

Some further examples were considered where Leoni appears to have adapted his translation to the English audience for whom he was writing; for example, a passage concerning tarantulas includes, in Leoni’s translation, the explanatory phrase “a small earth spider, commonly called a tarantula”, which does not appear either in the Latin original or in Bartoli’s Italian translation, both of which were written for an audience who could be expected to know what a tarantula was. A visual equivalent of this ‘domesticating’ strategy is seen in Leoni’s illustration of a triumphal arch: where Bartoli had shown an arch dedicated to his patron archduke Cosimo, Leoni’s arch (pictured) is dedicated to ‘Great Britain, Who Holds the Fate of Europe in Equal Balance’, an allusion to the 1725 Treaty of Hanover signed by George I.

Although much of the session did focus on these errors and mistranslations, these are in fact comparatively rare examples, and both Bartoli and Leoni’s translations show a high degree of accuracy. The popularity of both is demonstrated by the frequency with which they were reprinted after their original publication, with Bartoli’s translation reprinted twice in 1565, and Leoni’s reprinted in 1739 and 1755. Bartoli and Leoni in their different ways were responsible for keeping Alberti’s name alive in the centuries before the great revival of the humanist’s fame which began with Burckhardt’s well-known verbal portrait of Alberti in his Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860).

A final discussion considering issues such as the translation of Alberti into other languages was followed by an opportunity to look at examples – from the Codrington Library at All Souls College – of some of the editions considered.

from Martha Repp

Re-reading the 15th century in digital images

Digitization of a number of inscriptions on Bodleian incunables has captured some of the evidence for the early use and ownership of pre-1500 printed books. Under the direction of Cristina Dondi, who contributed to the catalogue of incunables in the Bodleian Library (published in 2005), several pages and bindings bearing marks of ownership have been photographed and are accessible via the library’s Special Collections Images page, in the collection “Early Printing in Europe”. It’s now possible to share the copy-specific qualities of these books much more widely than before.

Link to images of provenance evidence in Bodleian incunables.

Looking at the high-quality images available via the Luna browser, early books scholar Martin Davies was able to read an inscription in a book, Scriptores rei militaris ed. Philippus Beroaldus, (catalogue reference Bod-inc S-121) that named the earliest owner. He corrected an earlier reading of the person named — not Anthonius Vieris, as Dr Dondi had originally thought, but Anthonius Urceus, or Antonio Urceo (1446-1500), who was himself a humanist author. The inscription is now recorded as: ‘1496. Kl. martijs hos libros emi e[g]o Anthonius Vrceus de Platone librario sol. .xij.’

See the Bodleian Incunable catalogue (Bod-inc) online

Tracking Incunables between Venice and Oxford

1574 die xii mensis septembris. Philippi [Basadone] d Francisci q. v. H. D. Philippi liber quem emit apud S. Marcum ad horologium pro solidis quadringentis paruorum
Inscription on Livy, Historiae Romanae decades, publ. Venice 1481, Bodleian Auct. Q inf. 2.21: 1574 die xii mensis septembris. Philippi d Francisci q. v. H. D. Philippi liber quem emit apud S. Marcum ad horologium pro solidis quadringentis paruorum

Dr. Cristina Dondi of the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) presented to the Seminar on the History of the Book at All Souls College a wealth of evidence on the provenance of copies of early printed Venetian books held at the Bodleian Library, together with an argument about their place in the wider history of the book trade.

Drawing on a sample of over 1400 books printed at Venice in the fifteenth century, Dr. Dondi called for book historians to engage with economic history, remarking that many economic histories of the book trade had been written without reference to the book itself.

Giving a detailed account of the formation of the Bodleian’s exceptional collection of incunabula over several centuries, she argued that provenance research should orient itself away from the history of collections as such, favouring instead a broader history of the book trade and of the demand for particular categories of books. Individual copies of some of the earliest printed books, produced in Europe’s greatest centre of print production, bore ‘stratified evidence of their history’ – in the form of bindings, decorations and manuscript annotations.

Her presentation moved from close reading of the marks of ownership of individual copies to tabulating the evidence as a whole, substituting ‘precise numbers for impressions and generalisations’. Books could be read as ‘archaeological specimens’ that bore witness to the distribution of books across Europe, and to the knowledges contained within them.

For example, provenance could reveal patterns in the degree of interest in books of laws, science or philosophy in various parts of Europe. Lastly, and in questions, Dr. Dondi called for copy-specific data to be added to bibliographic catalogues such as the multinational Incunabula Short-Title Catalogue (ISTC), furthering the history of the book in its widest sense.  — Giles Bergel

Rubrication : articulation, not decoration

‘Rubrication’ can refer to several types of coloured (usually red) elements added to a printed page in order to articulate the text. This practice carried a tradition of handwritten emphasis from the manuscript period into the 15th century and the age of print — but this tradition was later overtaken by typographic innovations.

Dr Margaret M. Smith opened the fifteenth year of the Seminar on the History of the Book, 1450-1830 (convened at All Souls College, Oxford) with a paper presenting observations from her research in progress on ‘Hand rubrication: the mid-fifteenth-century method of textual articulation’.

Was rubrication part of the publication process? Examination of many copies of the same edition suggests that hand rubrication was not done in the printer’s shop and is not uniform across a given edition or text. It was not uncommon, however, for the printer to leave spaces in the printed text for the addition of rubricated elements such as paragraph signs or larger initials at the beginning of major text divisions. Similarly, the existence of printed tables providing the wording for rubricated headings indicates that the printer expected some texts to be rubricated as part of the process of completing the book. The rubrication would have been done by a professional or by a knowledgeable owner.

Dr Smith showed two leaves from 15th-century books bearing five main types of rubrication: large initials, paragraph signs, underlining, initial strokes (single penstrokes that highlight a printed initial), and headlines at the top of a page.

In the page reproduced here (a leaf of Gregory the Great’s Moralia in Job, printed by Kesler in Basel in 1496, part of Book 14, ISTC ig00432000.), large Lombard-style initials mark the beginning of chapters; paragraph signs mark the beginning of extracts from the book of Job (lemmas); underlining highlights chapter numbers, the marginal cue for ‘Tex.’ and some marginal references to other Biblical books; initial strokes mark upper case letters; and the running titles at the top of the page are underlined. In each of these instances the rubrication helps the reader orient themselves in a way that Dr Smith observed is analogous to punctuation.

Dr Smith’s quantitative research suggests that just under 50% of extant incunables received rubrication and that hand rubrication declined from the 1470s to the 1490s. Many of the functions of hand rubrication were taken over by changes in page design and by typographical signals, such as today’s use of italic type to distinguish particulars words in a text.

Finally, cataloguers of antiquarian books were urged to note the presence of hand rubrication in copy notes, to make available the kind of quantitative evidence on which Dr Smith’s work was based. — Julia Walworth

Gregory the Great's Moralia in Job, printed by Kesler in Basel in 1496
Gregory the Great's Moralia in Job, printed by Kesler in Basel in 1496