PSEUDO-ARISTOTLE, Secreta secretorum; 'MARDOCHEUS IUDEUS', Epistola ad Alexandrum de cognitione veri dei; ADAM DE MONTALDO (fl. c.1450-1495), Divinitus prolata iudicia sive premonita; Quedam alia summatim posita iudicia; in Latin ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM.
[Rome, c.1490]268 x 175 mm. ii paper + 83 leaves + ii paper: 19(of 8 + i), 2-108, 112, catchwords in lower margins of most final versos, COMPLETE, 28 lines written in black ink in a humanistic bookhand between two verticals and 29 horizontals ruled in faint metalpoint, justification: 168 x 100mm, most headings in red, five in burnished gold or gold and blue, one in gold on a blue ground, red titles in side margins, ten illuminated initials and over 80 historiated initials of two- to four-lines on gold grounds linked to full or partial side borders of gold bars with acanthus and flowerheads or of acanthus and flowers interspersed with gold disks, eight illuminated initials and 23 historiated initials of four- to nine-lines linked to side borders of similar types, page with title with large historiated initial and border to all sides with the arms of Innocent VIII held by putti, closing petition with a large initial in burnished gold on a ground of white vine decoration extending to form a side border, an unframed miniature below of Adam de Montaldo presenting the book to Innocent VIII (original cancellations and partial replacements of text ff.1v, 58, 78, slight rubbing to borders and miniatures ff.2 and 82, cropped into edge of marginal titles f.82, original cancellation leading to ink smudging across part of text and illumination and modern repainting of illuminated initial f.58, modern repainting of cancelled portrait of Innocent VIII f.59v, some flaking and retouching of initial f.38v, ink smudged into five lines of text f.76, silver tarnished, some wear to margins). English 19th-century blind stamped straight grained green morocco over wooden boards, spine and turn-ins gilt (extremities worn). Green cloth box.
1. The book was written, probably in Rome, by its author-editor, the Augustinian hermit Adam de Montaldo, manu propria, with his own hand (f.1v), for presentation to Innocent VIII and so during Innocent's papacy 1484-1492. Adam, humanist historian, polemicist and prophet, had previously dedicated works to Calixtus III (1455-1458) and Sixtus IV (1471-1484); as a fellow Genoese, he had a closer connection with Innocent VIII, to whom he presented a history of the Pope's family, Tractatus de nobili familia genuensi Cybo. In this volume, his final petition to Innocent VIII remains unaltered, as do Innocent's arms on f.2, but the opening dedication on f.1v has been redirected to Ludovico Sforza, il Moro, ruler of the duchy of Milan and, since 1487, of Genoa; Ludovico's name probably also appeared over the cancellation of Innocent's on f.58. In a new dedication to Ludovico added on f.1, Adam explains that when he made the original dedication he thought the Pope was given to letters: now he sees suam beatitudinem maioribus rebus intentam and so addresses the book to Ludovico.
The 'greater things', on which His Holiness was intent, may constitute a heavily veiled reference to his alliance with the Turks in 1489, which would have alienated Adam, an energetic campaigner for an anti-Turkish crusade. Alternatively, or additionally, Adam may simply have given up hope of the Pope honouring his promises of support: 'all my trouble has proved absolutely vain and of no use to me', as he bitterly added after his account of how he helped Innocent's election by threatening St Augustine with severe displeasure if there were any other result, ff.77v-78. Retaining the closing petition, ff.82-83, where Adam reminded Innocent to fulfil his promises of support for Adam's old age, ensured that Ludovico Sforza knew what was expected of him -- Adam's expectations were doubtless based on il Moro's reputation as a patron, most famously now of Leonardo da Vinci. The re-dedication, referring to him simply as princeps, apparently predates 1494, when he finally became Duke on the death of his nephew, in whose name he had ruled Milan since 1476.
2. Marginal additions in a contemporary cursive hand show that the manuscript rapidly acquired a reader. Assuming that it was indeed presented to Ludovico Sforza, it probably left the ducal collections in the upheavals of the French invasions. The Visconti-Sforza library, housed in the castello at Pavia, was seized by Louis XII and removed to France in 1499; books 'in use' may have been elsewhere with the duke or members of his family. In 1500 Ludovico was taken a prisoner to France, where he died in 1508.
3. Joseph Yates Brookes (1780-1856): among the manuscripts bequeathed to his grandson, Henry Yates Thompson, thus inspiring one of the greatest of manuscript collectors, who dedicated the last of his catalogues 'To the memory of my grandfather Joseph Brooks Yates whose example made me a collector of manuscripts' (A Descriptive Catalogue of Fourteen Illuminated Manuscripts, 1912).
4. Henry Yates Thompson (1838-1928): the notes on aspects of the contents inside the upper cover and on the first paper leaf may be by his hand; no 47 in M.R. James, A Descriptive Catalogue of Fifty Manuscripts from the Collection of Henry Yates Thompson, pp.255-260. Quantity was not Yates Thompson's goal: he decided that it would be limited to one hundred manuscripts of exceptional quality or interest so that, as he continued to buy, he sold volumes that he felt had been displaced by new acquisitions. This volume was auctioned at Sotheby's, 3 May 1904, lot 30, going to Leighton for £27.
5. Charles William Dyson Perrins (1864-1958): friend of Yates Thompson and rival in the acquisition of manuscripts, Dyson Perrins was also a serious collector of incunables and porcelain. Like Yates Thompson, he sold as he collected, sometimes to raise funds required elsewhere. The sale of this volume in 1907, Sotheby's, 15 June, lot 410, to Edwards for £81, may be connected to his purchase in the preceding year of a substantial group of manuscripts from Charles Fairfax Murray, who had acquired his knowledge of medieval manuscripts and the practicalities of illumination from William Morris. In 1898, M.R. James noted that the initial on f.58 was 'quite erased' and 'defaced', while the bust of a pope in a tiara, f.69v, was 'defaced', presumably for Adam de Montaldo because they showed Innocent VIII. These initials have since been skilfully and sympathetically repainted: as painter, collector and dealer, Fairfax Murray (1849-1919) was often involved in restorations, although by 1903 rheumatism had largely confined him to an advisory or supervisory role.
6. HSA HC387/1677, acquired in 1910 from Karl W. Hiersemann of Leipzig, who supplied many manuscripts to Archer Huntington until the First World War interrupted their dealings; typed Hiersemann description in French loose in box; Faulhaber, pp.77-8, 421-2, 650-2.
Adam de Montaldo, Dedication to Ludovico Sforza, headed Ad Illustrissimum principem lodovicum sfortiam prefatio f. Adae, f.1; changed dedication headed F. Ade de montaldo ianuensis augustiniani in opus Aristotelis ad alexandrum de regimine dominiorum ad [over cancellation] illustrissimum principem Lodovicum Sfortiam [cancellation ends] clementissimum, opening Cum superioribus iam iam annis clementissime [over cancellation] Princeps..., f.1v.
Pseudo-Aristotle: Secreta secretorum, edited by Adam de Montaldo, as stated on f.1v, headed magni Aristotelis ad Alexandrum De regimine dominii, opening Fili Ale[x]ander gloriose ey iustissime imperator..., ending ...ac omnium principatuum orbis imperium vendicabis. Vale Feliciter, ff.2-53v.
'Mardocheus Iudeus', Epistola ad Alexandrum de cognitione veri Dei, text opening Summo principum omnium regi Alexandro..., ending ...poteris dicere alexandrum regum et principium omnium hominem esse feliciorem. Vale, ff.54-57v.
Adam de Montaldo, Divinitus prolata iudicia sive premonita, headed F. Ade de Montaldo ianuensis servi Jesu Christi divinitus prolata iudicia sive premonita ad [cancelled] Innocen..., opening Quoniam non sum nescius divina est voluntas..., ending ...morte gemine prolis omnibus stupentibus restituit sanitati, ff.58-76; Quedam alia summatim posita iudicia, text opening Quid velim [over cancellation] princeps [end cancellation] clementissime de iudiciorum aut annuntiationum iesu christi..., ending ...fidem meam divinum munus infallibilis sanitatis, ff.76-81; Petition to Innocent VIII, headed Ad Innocentium papam reductio memorie super gratia ante papatum de quo Frater Adam prenvviiarum [sic] mihi promissam nunc suppliciter impetrandum, ff.82-83.
The Secreta secretorum, a very popular manual of advice and information, survives in numerous manuscripts. It originated c.900 with an Arabic reworking of Greek material to form a manual of good government, presented as letters of advice sent by Aristotle to Alexander. By about 1100, the text had acquired considerable accretions on other topics, including health, diet, astrology, physiognomy and alchemy. An abbreviated version was translated into Latin c.1120 and a full version c.1230; the attribution to Aristotle ensured its readership in scholarly circles, while the range of subject matter gave it a wider appeal, leading to many vernacular translations. Material was easily added to, or subtracted from, the two main versions, which, coupled with an apparent dearth of authoritative exemplars, led to the Secreta secretorum circulating in numerous variants. There is no modern edition, see S. Williams, The 'Secret of Secrets', the Scholarly Career of a Pseudo-Aristotelian Text in the Latin Middle Ages, 2003.
Adam de Montaldo, apparently unaware of the growing rejection of Aristotles' authorship, presents an abbreviated text in an unusual order. He omits the prefatory material to open directly with Aristotle, followed by Book I on kings, f.3. Book II on the character of kings, f.6, is curtailed and the next section, f.12, jumps to what are usually its concluding sections with brief surveys of the planets, stones and plants. Book III on Justice, f.6v, is followed by parts of Book IV, f.18v, on the cosmos, the soul, good council and the importance of faith, and by Book VI, f.27, on scribes and officials. On the duties of a king at war, f.29, comes from Book IX; the treatise on physiognomy, f.31v, which usually closes Book X and the whole work, here ends the first treatise. The second treatise, f.35, contains material on health and diet from Book II.
Adam de Montaldo, whose original works are mostly polemical or laudatory, deployed his extensive knowledge of antiquity and its literature in editing and adapting. He expanded and prepared for the press Giovanni Tortelli's De orthographia (Rome, 1471) and revised and extended Benvenuto da Imola's Romuléon for an unknown patron (Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal ms 667). For these and Adam's life, see L. Capoduro, 'L'edizione romane del "De Orthographia" de Giovanni Tortelli (Hain 15563) e Adamo da Montaldo', Scrittura, biblioteche e stampe a Roma nel Quattrocento, ed. M. Miglio, 1983, pp.37-56; M. Miglio and S. Maddato, 'Arsenal 667, Scrittura del passato e immagine del presente, Benvenuto da Imola e Fratello Adamo', Filologia Umanistica per Gianvito Resta, eds V. Fera and G. Ferraú, 1997, II, pp.1289-1305. It is not clear where Adam received his humanistic education but, as he recounts on f.58v, he spent time in the service of Alfonso V of Aragon, King of Naples (d. 1458). He became an Augustinian hermit at an unknown date: his theological studies began in 1467 and he travelled widely as a preacher, spending periods in Genoa but also much time in Rome.
Adam's desire to use the past as a source of moral and practical instruction is evident in the pairing of the Secreta secretorum with the letter of 'Mardocheus the Jew', explaining the nature of the true Godhead to object to Alexander's declaring himself divine. This text has been noted in only four other copies, all of the 15th century, one of which is probably a direct copy of another ((Zurich, Zentralbibliothek, Car VI 60, dated 1487, copied from Car C 26). Its authorship is unknown: its presence in this volume raises the question of Adam de Montaldo's own involvement. Its fusion of antiquity and Judaeo-Christianity is central to Adam's concerns and he demonstrated his interest in, and knowledge of, Alexander when he extended the Romuléon by adding the Macedonian to Benvenuto's sequence of Roman emperors.
Adam left no doubt about his authorship of the premonitions, which are given an anecdotal, autobiographical form. Dating from before and after he became an Augustinian, many were occasioned by his travels round Italy to preach, while some were prompted by phenomena like comets. He foresaw deaths -- among them those of Alfonso V, linked with his failure to fight the Turks -- plagues, earthquakes -- as in Florence -- and other events, including papal elections. It was probably his prophecies that earned him a formal admonition from the prior general of his order for 'his very dangerous tongue' and may even have resulted in his imprisonment in 1483. Here he is anxious to stress that all his foreknowledge came from Christ and that he never misused it. This appears to be the only copy of these fascinating texts. Dismisssed by M.R. James as the work of 'a twaddling old man', they can now be appreciated for their insights into contemporary beliefs and attitudes, giving vivid impressions of everyday life. Despite the recent interest in Adam's work, scholars have yet to make use of this finely illuminated volume which encapsulates so much of its author's history and preserves his appearance.
The portrait of Innocent VIII is one of the rare depictions of this pontiff, who has not come down to us as a great patron of illumination (see J.J.G. Alexander,'Fragments of an illuminated missal of Innocent VIII', Pantheon, 1980, pp.377-82). The few surviving leaves from his missal and breviary show the hands of the illuminators who also worked on Adam's version of the Romuléon (Arsenal 667). The Secreta secretorum was almost certainly also produced in Rome. Its richly coloured borders and minutely deatailed initials are reminiscent of Ferrarese illumination but illuminators from many centres were drawn to Rome. Like the Romuléon, the Secreta received an extensive cycle of illustration that surely involved Adam's careful instruction for the faithful encapsulations of the texts -- the potentially controversial premonitions mostly received carefully unspecific decoration. The small fields of the initials required both an elimination of unnecesssary detail and an attention to detail, to distinguish, for instance, all the varieties of plants contributing to a healthy diet. In the larger initials, the painter could provide elaborate settings, such as the landscape for Aristotle to point out the secrets of nature, f.12. Even on this small scale, the bearded figures of Adam in his black Augustinian habit have all the appearance of true portraits, whether writing at his desk on f.1v, preaching from a raised pulpit on f.76 or kneeling before Innocent VIII on f.82. Here the illuminator carefully distinguishes between the petition he is decorating, represented by the scroll offered by Adam, and the main text, shown as a blue bound book. On the page, the distinction is made by opening the petition with a magnificent white vine initial, the only one in the volume. The decoration was as carefully planned and executed as the texts in this exceptional volume of unstudied works by Adam de Montaldo.
The subjects of the historiated initials are as follows:
f.1v Adam de Montaldo writing at his desk
f.2 Aristotle presenting his work to the enthroned Alexander
f.3 A standing king in Roman armour
f.6 An enthroned king in robes of state
f.12 Aristotle pointing out the secrets of nature
f.16v The personification of Justice
f.18v Landscape illustrating 'the world is a garden'
f.20 The soul as a small naked figure emanating from a youth's mouth
f.21 The creation of man
f.27 Bust of a king, pointing to give instructions
f.27v Three heaps of coins
f.31v Bust of thoughtful man illustrating self-knowledge
f.35 A scribe at his desk
f.37v Naked boy in a landscape: man born into the world must stay alive f.38v Naked figure seated on a bench illustrating the complexions of man
Diet and medicine: f.40 corn; f.41v barley; f.42 two varieties of millet in two initials, beans; f.42v chick peas; f.43 lentils, pulses; f.43v turnip, onion, garlic (hanging from the bar of the A); f.44 leek, cabbage, parsley; f.44v lettuce, purslain, mallow; f.45v nasturtium, figs, mushrooms; f.46 plum, pear, peach, quince; f.46v apple, pomegranate, dried pomegranate, medlar; f.47 walnut, hazel, almond, chestnut; f.47v grapes, olive tree; f.48 a beehive, salt, kale; f.48v pepper, three joints of meat; f.49v a bird (?dove); f.50 pot of stew, three fish jumping from the water; f.50v two eggs, a round, flat cheese; f.51 a glass decanter of red wine; f.52 bust-length youth drinking citrine wine; f.51v water in waves
f.54 Mardocheus writing his letter
Birds and heraldic beasts: f.28 black bird of prey; f.29 griffon; silver lion with gold crown; f.59 falcon; f.59v white bird; f.61v dove f.62 ?hawk, green parakeet; f.62v ?rook; f.63 stork; dove and pigeon; f.63v pink breasted bird; f.64 two birds; f.64v two birds; f.65 lion, wolf; f.65v griffon; f.67 lion, fleur de lys; f.68 ox; f.68 lion and eagle; f.68v a helmet, eagle, lion; f.69 lion, griffon; f.69v Innocent VIII (repainted); f.70 silver bird; f.70v the Visconti biscia the death of Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan; silver horse; f.72 eagle; f.72v silver helmet with gold crown; f.73v dragon, bird; f.75v eagle
f.76 Adam de Montaldo preaching in a raised open air pulpit to a group of men and women.
The subject of the marginal miniature is Adam de Montaldo offering his book and petition to Innocent VIII.