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A rare Savonarola edition

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By , 21 May 2010 4:20 pm

A copy of the Expositio in Psalmum L (51) “Miserere mei deus” (F150.d.6.5) has been identified as an exemplar of the edition attributed to Johannes Tacuinus de Tridino in Venice around 1500 (ISTC is00214200 and GW M40516), adding this rare edition to the 73 editions of Savonarola’s works held at Cambridge University Library.

The book was purchased for the library at the sale of Jean de Meyer’s collection in Antwerp on 2 November 1869 on suggestion of Henry Bradshaw, the University librarian.  The author of the sale catalogue, Camille Vyt, had identified it as the edition printed by Thierry Martens in Antwerp around 1502 (Catalogue des livres et manuscrits formant la bibliothèque de feu M. Jean de Meyer, Ghent, 2-5 November 1869, p. 27, lot 101/c).  As this attribution was accepted by Bradshaw, the book was classified by the library among the foreign books published after 1500.  It therefore escaped the attention of J.C.T. Oates when he was compiling his catalogue of the library’s incunables.  In the recent Newton catalogue, the book was correctly recognised as a pre-1500 edition but described as a copy of the 1499 Florentine edition by Bartolommeo di Libri, despite its apparent difference from the two other copies of Bartolommeo’s edition held by the library.

In fact, the book can be securely identified as a rare exemplar of Tacuino’s edition:  the number of leaves and the incipits and explicits of the commentary to the psalm and of the Oratio before Communion inItalian (leaf B8 recto) correspond to those described for this edition in GW M40516, the manuscript version of the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, whose digital images are also available in ISTC.

Tacuino’s edition is known to survive in only five other exemplars in Germany Libraries (Darmstadt, Düsseldorf (2), Giessen, and Köln).  The Cambridge copy is the only one outside Germany. The poor survival rate of the edition (no exemplar is known to survive in Italy), can be explained with the ban, destruction and inclusion in the Index of Prohibited Books (Index Librorum Prohibitorum) of all Savonarola’s writings by order of Pope Alexander VI Borgia, who was furious with Savonarola for publicly denouncing his immoral conduct and the corruption of the Roman Curia.