Friday, 19 June 2020

Rare books 21: The 20th of September, 1665

A work recalling certain events twelve years after they occurred. It is an account of the intercession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel during a naval encounter on this day (Lucca, 1677). Notes: Readers of Samuel Pepys will know that this week was the height of the Plague in London. 7,165 people had died in the city during the previous week, a figure recorded by a shocked Pepys after his visit to the Duke of Albemarle, who had been with the Mayor of London the night before. Pepys records visiting a barber for the first time in twelve months (sound familiar?) and laments the state of the streets, with grass growing in Whitehall. In other news, today is three days after the death of King Philip IV of Spain (1605-1665). To believe the cover of this rare book, it is also the date of a naval conflict, probably in the Mediterranean, though between whom and on what account is thus far unclear. Visits to several online sites for sea battles has not yielded anything definite for September, 1665. The Venetians are fighting the Turks. Google Books displays pages in Italian books reporting that something is going on with Naples, but exactly what is lost in the fine print. Neapolitans populate the pamphlet’s pages, all arguing for the intercession. It is more than sobering to know that these men had survived the plague of 1656, the one that almost eradicated the population of Naples. The item in hand has been used as an ink blotter. Someone has unhelpfully added text in ink that he thinks adds something. Tears and burn marks are visible. The Italian is resistant to immediate elucidation. As for author authority, it is not certain if those testifying to the miracle are the authors, or simply signatories to a legal document. There is no record for this document in any major Italian state library, including the Bibliotheca Statale di Lucca, the town where it was printed.

The pamphlet is positioned on a page of ‘Decorative Floors of Venice’ by Tudy Sammartini, with photographs by Gabriele Crozzoli. (London, Merrell, 1999), here details of the floor of Santa Maria Assunta at Torcello.

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