STATUTES OF PALOMBARA SABINA, in Italian and Latin. ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM. [Palombara Sabina], 1562.
222 x 152 mm. 50 leaves: 12 2-134, COMPLETE. Original ink foliation 1-45 beginning on the fourth leaf. 25-27 lines written in brown ink in a calligraphic cursive hand between two vertical and 26 horizontal lines ruled in drypoint. Armorial title-page, decorative cartouche with scribal signature and date, and large foliate and calligraphic initials throughout, all decoration in brown ink and green and orange wash, three papered seals at end marking the approval and confirmation of the statutes by the lords of Palombara. (Title-page rubbed, margins thumbed, some spotting and staining.)
Binding: contemporary brown panelled goatskin over wooden boards, rolled and stamped in blind, IHS monogram within a knotwork circle in the central rhomboid, remains of four clasps (rebacked, wormed and rubbed); pastedowns cut from a vellum leaf of a 15th-century Italian choirbook; 18th-century red morocco case, gilt-tooled with an exuberant rococo design incorporating the arms of Palombara and the title (defective at top of spine).
Provenance: copied by Petrus Pisanus in February 1562, doubtless in Palombara: signature and date on f. iiiv -- Giannalisa Feltrinelli: sale, Christie's London, 3 December 1997, lot 217 (to Quaritch).
Contents: coat of arms of Palombara (f. ir, iv blank); introduction (f. iir-iiv); list of Capitula followed by the statutes on wickedness and crime ("Maleficiorum et criminalium") (ff. iiv-10v); list of Capitula followed by the statutes on Civil Law ("Ciuilium") (ff. 11r-19v, 20r-22v blank); list of Capitula followed by the statutes against doing damage ("Dandorum datorum") (ff. 23r-28v); added statutes, signed Ioannes Sabellus (f. 29r-29v); list of Capitula followed by the statutes instituting various controls ("Extraordinariorum") (ff. 30r-43v); added texts conveying later approvals and confirmations of the statutes by the lords of Palombara, signed and sealed Ioannes Dux Sabellus (1599), Paulus Princeps Sabellus (1628), Marcus Antonius Burghesius Princeps Sulmonis (1637) (ff. 44r-45r, 46v-47v blank).
The introduction to these statutes of Palombara Sabina, a town about 30 miles from Rome, identifies them as having been composed by the elected "massarios", Jacobus Irii Paloze, Petrus Franciscus Mariani and Santitus Jacobitti. The statutes give an evocative and many-sided portrait of a small Italian town in the 16th century. The "Civilia" define not only the structures of government, but also the election of officials and their payment, as well as matters of civil law concerning topics such as wills and dowries. The section on "Maleficia" includes fines for blaspheming -- twice as heavy if against God or the Virgin rather than the apostles or saints, and heaviest of all if damage is done to an image of the Virgin. There are fines for insults and a whole scale of fines for injury inflicted, whether by punching or kicking, according to whether the injured party bleeds or falls, and whether or not the injury lead to permanent scarring. In addition to prescribing fines, the statutes stipulate that for grave offences -- homicide, adultery, theft and other exorbitant crimes -- "Illustrissimi Nostri Signori" will judge. The section on damage done refers mainly to the protection of land and crops from beasts -- if damage is done by man rather than beast, the fines are doubled. The final section is a catch-all that shows concern with keeping the peace. It forbids the carrying of arms in the town, or going abroad after dark without a light. There are restrictions on gaming and the sale of dice and cards, and on the movement of goods, especially food and wine, into and out of the town. Measures relating to public health include those controlling the quality of meat, the disposal of waste water, and the requirement that the areas in front of houses be kept clean and clear.
According to the preface, these statutes were drafted, as well as copied, in 1562. The added confirmations at the end, signed and sealed by the local overlords in 1599, 1628, and 1637, show that the statutes continued in force for at least the greater part of a century. The care with which the present codex was written and decorated and the original nature of the subscriptions indicate that this was an official copy. The Italian Biblioteca del Senato, Catalogo della raccolta di statuti (Rome 1942ff.), vol. 5, pp. 213-214, lists only a manuscript of the 18th century, which appears to have been copied from the present exemplar. It was probably at that time, when the older codex was presumably retired from service, that it was provided with its elegant protective case.