The Englishwoman visits Senigallia’s Biblioteca Antonelliana. Part III: Early printed books.

The Biblioteca Antonelliana boasts no less than 11 incunabula, or books printed before 1500 (“in the infancy of the art”, as the Oxford English Dictionary charmingly puts it). I decided to look at the two singled out by Marinella Bonvini Mazzanti in her “Senigallia” (Urbino: QuattroVenti, 1998). She chose first Livy’s History of Rome.

Livy ed Sabellicus

I thought you’d like a passage about the elephants. This is from Book 21, chapter 58. Hannibal is crossing the Apennines, nearly as bad as the Alps and bitterly cold. Seven elephants died (lines 8-9). So much for sunny Italy! Note that a little line above a letter is an abbreviation, such as scribes used to use, often standing for n or m.

This edition was printed in Venice in 1491 by Johannes Rubeus Vercellensis or Matteo Capcasa. I love its beautiful, clear, elegant typeface. Capcasa has already popped up in my first blog post, “On the trail of incunabula in central Italy“,  this time as printer of a prologue to the letters of Marsilio Ficino, though by 1495 Capcasa had moved to Parma.

What makes this edition a bit different is its editor, Marcus Antonius Coccius Sabellicus (1436-1506), whose original Italian name was Marcantonio da Coccia. Marcantonio, a blacksmith’s son, is an interesting person in his own right. From his humble origins, he rose to become a humanist and professional man of letters. He is the owner of the first known European copyright, granted to him in 1486 by the Venetian government.

Marcus Antonius Coccius Sabellicus

Mazzanti’s next choice of book is a complete contrast – from classical humanism to traditional theology.

Title page of Praeceptorium Gotoscalci Hollen, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia. Nuremberg, Koberger, 1497.

This is one of those late fifteenth-century theological works which an English librarian described to me, somewhat disparagingly, as relatively common among incunabula. Hollen (c1411-1481) was a German theologian and preacher.  This book is a work of instruction in moral theology for laymen and priests alike, though principally aimed at helping priests in their pastoral duties. Hollen wanted to save them a bit of trouble in writing their sermons.

Decorated S from Gottschalk Hollen's Praeceptorium in Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia. Nuremberg, Koeberger, 1497.

I wanted to show you the “illuminated” S. Early printed books were often decorated in this way to appeal to potential buyers, who were used to attractively illuminated manuscripts. The page above is a sample sermon on the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, verses 16-22, the story of the rich young man who could not bring himself to give up his great possessions for the sake of eternal life. The passage begins, “If you wish to enter life, keep God’s commandments.”

The bibliographical details of this work are a bit of a puzzle. According to Mazzanti, the ISTC and the staff of the Biblioteca Antonelliana, this is one of only two copies in Italy (the other is in Fabriano) of a 1491 edition, printed in Nuremberg for Anton Koberger in 1491. But in Mei’s “Collectio Thesauri”, vol I, Simonetta Pirani describes it as a 1521 edition. I can’t resolve the difference because the colophon has been carefully cut out by some unscrupulous person. (In early printed books the printer’s details were contained in a colophon at the end of the book.) There is only a modern pencilled note giving the 1491 details.

I hope this post will encourage you to visit local libraries in the Marche and ask to see their early printed books.  They are usually very helpful if you ring or call in advance (contact details are usually on the comune’s website), but their English may not be fluent. Probably your local comune, wherever you are staying or wherever you live in the region, will have some treasures in its library.

The Englishwoman visits Senigallia’s Biblioteca Antonelliana. Part II: Corinaldo’s churches.

I was fascinated by the difference between Gherardo Cibo’s illustrations, in Ridolfi’s manuscript, of the churches of Corinaldo (where we have our holiday home), and how they appear today. Here are the churches I know best.

Church of St Peter Corinaldo,  Ridolfi MS, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia

Once upon a time San Pietro was Corinaldo’s principal church; now only its bell tower remains.

campanile-s-pietro- Corinaldo
San Pietro today. Thanks to Corinaldo Comune


San Francesco, Corinaldo, Ridolfi MS, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia

San Francesco, now Corinaldo’s parish church, formerly attached to a  friary of Franciscan Friars Minor. It has been considerably altered since 1596.

San Francesco today.

San Niccolo, then S Agostino, now S Maria Goretti, Corinaldo

This was originally the church of San Niccolò. When it was taken over by the Augustinians, it became known as Sant’Agostino, and is now the Diocesan Sanctuary of Santa Maria Goretti, Corinaldo’s own local saint, who died in 1902 as the result of an attempted rape by a neighbour’s son.  Today’s church (below) is not the church Ridolfi knew; that church was mediaeval. The church we see today was built in 1740-56.

santuario di S Maria Goretti Corinaldo
Thanks to the Santuario di S Maria Goretti

The former San Niccolò today.

Santa Anna, Corinaldo, Ridolfi MS, Biblioteca Antonelliana Senigallia

This is the church of Santa Anna, the patron saint of Corinaldo. It’s my favourite of the town churches. It contains a tender late 15th-century wall-painting of Saint Anne, which perhaps Ridolfi knew, with her daughter Mary sitting on her knee, and baby Jesus sitting on Mary’s knee in his turn. The church exudes a sense of love, especially on St Anne’s feast day when it is full of people praying and lighting candles, perhaps in memory of their mothers and grandmothers.

C15 affresco-sant'anna Corinaldo
Thanks to Valmisa.

Today’s church is in the same place but was built in the eighteenth century.

Sant'Anna Corinaldo

Sant’Anna today.

Santa Maria degli Olmi now Sant'Apollonia

This is the church of Santa Maria “de Ulmis magnis”, “of the big elms”, and you can see an elm in the picture. It is first mentioned in 1090, when it was known as Santa Maria delle terre. The area is still known as Olmigrandi, but the church’s dedication changed to Sant’Apollonia in the eighteenth century, and two centuries later it was demolished and rebuilt a short way down the hill, in 1914. It’s of special interest to me because it’s our local church and we often go to Mass there.

Thanks to Parrocchia di Corinaldo.



Sant’Apollonia today.






Next time I’ll tell you about the early printed books in the Biblioteca Antonelliana.

The Englishwoman visits Senigallia’s Biblioteca Antonelliana. Part I: Manuscripts.

Senigallia is a pleasant resort town. As well as its lively Lungomare (Promenade) and its Spiaggia di Velluto (velvet beach), it boasts an attractive old town and a fine communal library.

It is much easier to explain face to face, rather than on the telephone, who I am; a British librarian, and what I want to do; spread awareness of the bibliographic treasures of Le Marche. So it was easy to book an appointment to look at some of the manuscripts and rare books in Senigallia’s  library, and return a day or two later, as Senigallia is just down the road from us. The staff were most welcoming and helpful. The conditions were not the best for photography, but I thought you’d like to see the manuscripts anyway.

The Biblioteca Antonelliana is called after Cardinal Antonelli, its founder, who in 1767 left all his books to the public administration of Senigallia, for the opening of a public library. His heirs contested the will and it was not until 1825 that the library opened. Since then it has acquired the libraries of various suppressed religious orders, and benefited from the wills of local citizens, both priests and aristocrats.

The library possesses not only books but manuscripts, and I was privileged to be allowed to see some of its greatest treasures.

This  manuscript is, according to the catalogue, Patriarch Joseph III’s Chaldean missal with the Nestorian liturgy. Presumably this was Patriarch Yosep III Maraugin, who was in office from 1714-57 (or -59), and could therefore have known Antonelli. Apparently the Patriarch had a copy made from a thirteenth-century original used by the “heretical patriarch Elias, whose name can be read” . It is not clear to me whether this is the original or the copy.

Here are four pages from the liturgy.

Page from Chaldean liturgy, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia


Another page from Chaldean liturgy, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia

Two pages from Chaldean liturgy, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia


This is a 14th century cantorino of the Office of the Dead. A cantorino is a book of liturgical chants with music. The script is Bolognese Gothic, which was in use in Italy from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries.

C14 Cantorino of the Office of the Dead


Translation: “that he be not made to suffer for any wrong he  may have done; for he always desired to do Thy will. And as the true faith numbered him  here among those who served Thee, so let thy mercy find him hereafter a place among the choirs of Angels.

O God be mindful of me, for that my life is but wind, nor the sight of man may behold me.

V: From the depths I did cry to thee O Lord, O Lord hear [my voice]. ”

A vow shall be paid to Thee in Jerusalem. Office of the Dead. Biblioteca Antonelliana Senigallia.

Translation. “A vow [shall be paid to Thee] in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer. All flesh comes unto thee. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine on them.”

[Blessed is he] who cometh in the name of the Lord. Office of the Dead. Biblioteca Antonelliana Senigallia.

Translation. ” [Blessed is he] who cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us. Thou only art holy, thou only …”. You can see that there are two different hands here, and it looks as if , in an attempt to substitute a missing page, the Agnus Dei (well over halfway through the Mass) and the Gloria (near the beginning) have got mixed up.

Below is a fifteenth-century illuminated Book of Hours, a collection of devotional text for private use by the laity. Its central nucleus is the Hours of the Blessed Virgin. The script is Gothic Rotunda, in use in Italy, southern France and Spain from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. This photograph shows an illuminated D.

Illuminated D from Biblioteca Antonelliana's Book of Hours Senigallia

Translation: “O God make speed to save me: O Lord make haste to help me.Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning [is now, and ever shall be].”


The last manuscript I saw was Bishop Pietro Ridolfi da Tossignano’s “Historiarum libri duo” (Two volumes of histories) which, as well as a history of Senigallia, contains the results of his episcopal visitation, or inspection, of its diocese. According to Marinella Bonvini Mazzanti in Volume 1/1 of “Collectio thesauri”(the exhibition catalogue of the treasures of Le Marche’s libraries), Ridolfi, a man of the Counter-Reformation, was actuated by a passionate desire to revive the spiritual life of the diocese and, presumably, to rescue its churches from neglect. He describes all the places of worship in the diocese, including Corinaldo, with illustrations by Gherardo Cibo and two others. Thus Ridolfi’s work has become an invaluable historical document.

Here is its title page.

Ridolfi Historiarum libri duo, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia.

In fact the book was probably actually finished in 1601, the year of Ridolfi’s death, so he never had it printed. It has now actually been printed in August of this year, but the official launch is planned for later this month (September).

I didn’t see any more manuscripts but next time I’ll tell you about the early printed books in the Biblioteca Antonelliana.