SARPI, Paolo. Historia del concilio tridentino di Pietro Soave Polano. Nella quale si scoprono tutti gl’artificii della Corte di Roma, per impedire che né la verità di dogmi si palesasse, né la riforma del Papato, et della Chiesa si trattasse

London,  appresso Giovan. Billio, Regio Stampatore., 1619

Folio (315 x 205 mm.), [8], 806, [10] pages, woodcut Royal arms on title, woodcut decorated initials. Contemprary oak boarded black fishskin gilt, spine in compartments with gilt tile, blue edges. A few spots, light foxing, joints cracking but a very fine copy on large paper from the libraries of the Venetian merchant Amadeus Svajer (ex libris) and Lord Amherst of Hackney (ex libris). Large paper copies of the first edition are very rare.

First edition of this pivotal work of Modern historiography, containing a lucid and accurate reconstruction of the history of the Council of Trent. The Tridentine Council (1545-1563), which proved decisive in laying the bases for the Catholic Counter Reformation, was considered by Sarpi the most relevant event of his recent past and the event mainly responsible for the political situation of his years. Precisely in light of the dramatic consequences that it had on contemporary politics and ideologies, it was epically defined by the author as the “Iliade del secol nostro” (“Iliad of our century”). The Historia is articulated in eight books, without any further subdivision in chapters or paragraphs, encompassing both the history of the Council and of its preparatory phases in an annalistic form. Paolo Sarpi (1552-1623) was a Venetian ecclesiastic, a diplomat and a state theologian of the Republic of Venice, and a polygraph. During Venice’s struggle with Pope Paul V (1605-1621), which cost the city a papal interdict, Sarpi wrote powerfully in support of the Venetian case, arguing that the Pope was infallible only in matters of faith. Sarpi’s basic tenet was that “princes have their authority from God, and are accountable to none but him for the government of their people.” With his work, Sarpi hoped to assume an authoritative position in the European debate questioning the religious and political primacy of the Pope; in so doing, he proved to be one of the earliest advocates in Italy of the separation of church and state and, overall, a forerunner of Modern European thought. Written in Italian for an European public, the work was dedicated to James I Stuart, King of England. As a work of polemic against the outcomes of the Council, which strongly reasserted the Pope’s primacy over the Christian Church, Sarpi’s Historia was anonymously published in London under the pseudonym of Pietro Soave Polano (that is, the anagram of Paolo Sarpi Veneto), and was immediately put on the Index by the Roman Church. The manuscript was smuggled out of Italy with the help of the British Embassy and was soon translated into Latin, English and French; notwithstanding the early condemnation, the work was widely read for at least the next two centuries. Notwithstanding his anti-papal stance, Sarpi proves to be an attentive and reliable chronicler, carefully redacting his Historia after contemporary documentary information. In a patent contrast with the Italian production of his time, he intentionally adopted an anti-literary, but easy-understandable style, preferring a plain and rigorous syntax to the richly elaborated Baroque period style of writing.

STC 21760; ESTC, S116701; Gamba 2080; PMM 118.

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