Italy (Rome?): N.p., ca. 1630. Item #38
Folio. 305 x 210 mm. (12 x 8 ½ inches). 17th century Latin manuscript in one hand, highly legible, covering the years 1492-1503. 608 numbered leaves. Illustrated with two engraved title-pages by Francesco Villamena (1566-1624) in the monumental style with a large architectural border and the title written in ink. The coat-of-arms drawn in manuscript on the title-page are of the arms of the Borgia Family and the engraving of the title-page border is in an early, unrecorded state. Pen and ink initials in of Federico Cesi drawn in the lower boarder on the engraved plate.
Full 18th century sheep binding, red leather label; spine and edges rubbed, but sound. Some browning to the paper stock, but no deterioration to the paper and not effecting the legibility of the text. Otherwise very good copy.
Johann Burckhard (ca 1450-1506), a member of the court of Pope Alexander VI, oversaw papal ceremonies and official activities of the Pontiff from the 1480’s until his death in 1506. During this time, he maintained a diary, which recorded many of the Pope’s activities and described many of the events and illustrious visitors who made their way to Rome. His diaries include details of the coronation of Alfonso II of Naples, the visit to the Pope by Don Federico de Aragon, the reception of Charles VIII of France, the Papal Embassy of Emperor Maximillian, and the Jubilee of 1499 to name a few of the historic ceremonies recorded in this manuscript.
Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503), was member of the Borgia dynasty that ruled much of Rome during the period and one of the more notorious popes of the 15th century. Alexander’s Papacy is remembered for its disregard for convention and his outright hostility to his priestly duties. He ran the Vatican as his personal empire rather than a follower of Saint Peter. During his reign Alexander VI fathered several illegitimate children and elevated members of his family to lucrative positions in the Church’s hierarchy.
The record of the Borgia Papacy that appears in this fair copy of the Diaria describes Alexander’s administration during the last decade of the 15th century, as well as numerous mentions of his family including the exploits of Lucretia Borgia, and descriptions and critiques of members of the Roman nobility that were part of the Borgia court. Finally, it includes descriptions of some of the salacious behavior of the Borgia family and its Court, which marked it as one of the most corrupt papacies in history.
Because of its content, Burckhard’s manuscript was prohibited by the Papacy from being printed and thus stimulated the production of several manuscript copies like the one offered here. The size, format, and legibility of this copy, and the provenance that links it to the Federico Cesi supports this conjecture. Furthermore, it is thought that this copy was prepared for Federico Cesi because of his relationship with Federico Villamena and the use of this title-page border in the manuscript. Villamena also used this engraved border in the edition of Galileo’s Il Saggiatore, that Cesi paid for and its appearance here, with the initials F.C. strongly suggests the copy was personally owned by Cesi.
It was not until 1883 that an edition of the diaries was published in Paris covers the years 1483-1506. Of the printed editions, OCLC records a copy at the Morgan Library, Princeton, Dublin, one in Poland, and 7 copies in Germany.
Calvi, Repertoire des sources historiques du moyen age. No., 172. Chevalier, Repertoire des sources historiques du moyen age. No., 371. Forcella, Iscrizioni delle chiese e di altri edifici di Roma dal sec. XI ai giorni nostril. V, 42; 61-62. Potthas, Repertoire des sources historiques du moyen age. II, pp. 611-12. Williams, George, Papal Genealogy, the Families and Descendants of the Popes. Jefferson, North Carolina, 1998. (38).