“Måske vil vi engang glædes ved at mindes dette”. Om Giacomo Castelvetros håndskrifter i Det Kongelige Bibliotek

  • Anders Toftgaard Det Kongelige Bibliotek


Anders Toftgaard: “Perhaps even this distress it will some day be a joy to recall”. On Giacomo Castelvetro’s manuscripts in The Royal Library, Copenhagen.   In exile from his beloved Modena, Giacomo Castelvetro (1546–1616) travelled in a Europe marked by Reformation, counter-Reformation and wars of religion. He transmitted the best of Italian Renaissance culture to the court of James VI and Queen Anna of Denmark in Edinburgh, to the court of Christian IV in Copenhagen and to Shakespeare’s London, while he incessantly collected manuscripts on Italian literature and European contemporary history.   Giacomo Castelvetro lived in Denmark from August 1594 to 11 October 1595. Various manuscripts and books which belonged to Giacomo Castelvetro in his lifetime, are now kept in the Royal Library in Copenhagen. Some of them might have been in Denmark ever since Castelvetro left Denmark in 1595. Nevertheless, Giacomo Castelvetro has never been noticed by Danish scholars studying the cultural context in which he lived. The purpose of this article is to point to Castelvetro’s presence in Denmark in the period around Christian IV’s accession and to describe two of his unique manuscripts in the collection of the Royal Library.   The Royal Library in Copenhagen holds a copy of the first printed Italian translation of the Quran, L’Alcorano di Macometto, nel qual si contiene la dottrina, la vita, i costumi et le leggi sue published by Andrea Arrivabene in Venice in 1547. The title page bears the name of the owner: Giacº Castelvetri. The copy was already in the library’s collections at the time of the Danish King Frederic III, in the 1660’s.   The three manuscripts from the Old Royal collection (GKS), GKS 2052 4º, GKS 2053 4º and GKS 2057 4º are written partly or entirely in the hand of Giacomo Castelvetro. Moreover, a number of letters written to Giacomo Castelvetro while he was still in Edinburgh are kept among letters addressed to Jonas Charisius, the learned secretary in the Foreign Chancellery and son in law of Petrus Severinus (shelf mark NKS (New Royal Collection) 1305 2º). These letters have been dealt with by Giuseppe Migliorato who also transcribed two of them.       GKS 2052 4º   The manuscript GKS 2052 4º (which is now accessible in a digital facsimile on the Royal Library’s website), contains a collection of Italian proverbs explained by Giacomo Castelvetro. It is dedicated to Niels Krag, who was ambassador of the Danish King to the Scottish court, and it is dated 6 August 1593. The title page shows the following beautifully written text:   Il Significato D’Alquanti belli & vari proverbi dell’Italica Favella, gia fatto da G. C. M. & hoggi riscritto, & donato,in segno di perpetua amicitia, all ecc.te.D. di legge, Il S.r. Nicolò Crachio Ambas.re. del Ser.mo Re di Dania a questa Corona, & Sig.r mio sempre osser.mo   Forsan & haec olim meminisse iuvabit   Nella Citta d’Edimborgo   A VI d’Agosto 1593       The manuscript consists of 96 leaves. On the last page of the manuscript the title is repeated with a little variation in the colophon: Qui finisce il Significato D’alquanti proverbi italiani, hoggi rescritto a requisitione del S.r. Nicolo Crachio eccelente Dottore delle civili leggi &c.   Since the author was concealed under the initials G.C.M., the manuscript has never before been described and never attributed to Giacomo Castelvetro. However, in the margin of the title page, a 16th century hand has added: ”Giacomo Castelvetri modonese”, and the entire manuscript is written in Giacomo Castelvetro’s characteristic hand. The motto ”Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit” is from Vergil’s Aeneid (I, 203); and in the Loeb edition it is rendered “Perhaps even this distress it will some day be a joy to recall”. The motto appears on all of the manuscripts that Giacomo Castelvetro copied in Copenhagen.   The manuscript was evidently offered to Professor Niels Krag (ca. 1550–1602), who was in Edinburgh in 1593, from May to August, as an ambassador of the Danish King. On the 1st of August, he was knighted by James VI for his brave behaviour when Bothwell entered the King’s chamber in the end of July. The Danish Public Record Office holds Niels Krag’s official diary from the journey, signed by Sten Bilde and Niels Krag. It clearly states that they left Edinburgh on August 6th, the day in which Niels Krag was given the manuscript. Evidently, Castelvetro was one of the many persons celebrating the ambassadors at their departure.   The manuscript is bound in parchment with gilded edges, and a gilded frame and central arabesque on both front cover and end cover.   There are 417 entries in the collection of proverbs, and in the explanations Giacomo Castelvetro often uses other proverbs and phrases. The explanations are most vivid, when Castelvetro explains the use of a proverb by a tale in the tradition of the Italian novella or by an experience from his own life.   The historical persons mentioned are the main characters of the sixteenth century’s religious drama, such as Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth, James VI, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and his son, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, Gaspard de Coligny and the Guise family, Mary Stuart, Don Antonio, King of Portugal, the Earl of Bothwell and Cosimo de’ Medici. The Catholic Church is referred to as “Setta papesca”, and Luther is referred to as “il grande, e pio Lutero” (f. 49v). Giovanni Boccaccio and Francesco Petrarca are referred to various times, along with Antonio Cornazzano (ca. 1430–1483/84), the author of Proverbi in facetie, while Brunetto Latini, Giovanni Villani, Ovid and Vergil each are mentioned once.   Many of the explanations are frivolous, and quite a few of them involve priests and monks. The origin of the phrase “Meglio è tardi, che non mai” (52v, “better late than never”) is explained by a story about a monk who experienced sex for the first time at the age of 44. In contrast to some of the texts to be found in the manuscript GKS 2057 4º the texts in GKS 2052 4º, are not misogynist, rather the opposite.   Castelvetro’s collection of proverbs is a hitherto unknown work. It contains only a tenth of the number of proverbs listed in Gardine of recreation (1591) by John Florio (1553?–1625), but by contrast these explanations can be used, on the one hand, as a means to an anthropological investigation of the past and on the other hand they give us precious information about the life of Giacomo Castelvetro. For instance he cites a work of his, “Il ragionamento del Viandante” (f. 82r), which he hopes to see printed one day. It most probably never was printed.       GKS 2057 4º   The manuscript GKS 2057 4º gathers a number of quires in very different sizes. The 458 folios in modern foliation plus end sheets are bound in blue marbled paper (covering a previous binding in parchment) which would seem to be from the 17th century. The content spans from notes to readyforprint-manuscripts.   The manuscript contains text by poets from Ludovico Castelvetro’s generation, poems by poets from Modena, texts tied to the reformation and a lot of satirical and polemical material. Just like some of Giacomo Castelvetro’s manuscripts which are now in the possession of Trinity College Library and the British Library it has “been bound up in the greatest disorder” (cf. Butler 1950, p. 23, n. 75). Far from everything is written in the hand of Giacomo Castelvetro, but everything is tied to him apart from one quire (ff. 184–192) written in French in (or after) 1639.   The first part contains ”Annotationi sopra i sonetti del Bembo” by Ludovico Castelvetro, (which has already been studied by Alberto Roncaccia), a didactic poem in terza rima about rhetoric, “de’ precetti delle partitioni oratorie” by “Filippo Valentino Modonese” , “rescritto in Basilea a XI di Febraio 1580 per Giacº Castelvetri” and the Ars poetica by Horace translated in Italian.   These texts are followed by satirical letters by Nicolò Franco (“alle puttane” and “alla lucerna” with their responses), by La Zaffetta, a sadistic, satirical poem about a Venetian courtisane who is punished by her lover by means of a gang rape by thirty one men, and by Il Manganello (f. 123–148r), an anonymous, misogynistic work.   The manuscript also contains a dialogue which would seem to have been written by Giacomo Castelvetro, “Un’amichevole ragionamento di due veri amici, che sentono il contrario d’uno terzo loro amico”, some religious considerations written shortly after Ludovico’s death, ”essempio d’uno pio sermone et d’una Christiana lettera” and an Italian translation of parts of Erasmus’ Colloquia (the dedication to Frobenius and the two dialogues ”De votis temere susceptis” and ”De captandis sacerdotiis” under the title Dimestichi ragionamenti di Desiderio Erasmo Roterodamo, ff. 377r–380r), and an Italian translation of the psalms number 1, 19, 30, 51, 91.   The dominating part is, however, Italian poetry. There is encomiastic poetry dedicated to Trifon Gabriele and Sperone Speroni and poetry written by poets such as Torquato Tasso, Bernardo Tasso, Giulio Coccapani, Ridolfo Arlotti, Francesco Ambrosio/ Ambrogio, Gabriele Falloppia, Alessandro Melani and Gasparo Bernuzzi Parmigiano.   Some of the quires are part of a planned edition of poets from Castelvetro’s home town, Modena. On the covers of the quires we find the following handwritten notes:   f. 276r: Volume secondo delle poesie de poeti modonesi   f. 335v: VII vol. Delle opere de poeti modonesi   f. 336v; 3º vol. Dell’opere de poeti modonesi   f. 353: X volume dell’opre de poeti modonesi   In the last part of the manuscript there is a long discourse by Sperone Speroni, “Oratione del Sr. Sperone, fatta in morte della S.ra Giulia Varana Duchessa d’Urbino”, followed by a discourse on the soul by Paulus Manutius.   Finally, among the satirical texts we find quotes (in Latin) from the Psalms used as lines by different members of the French court in a humoristic dialogue, and a selection of graffiti from the walls of Padua during the conflict between the city council and the students in 1580. On fol. 383v there is a ”Memoriale d’alcuni epitafi ridiculosi”, and in the very last part of the manuscript there is a certain number of pasquinate.   When Castelvetro was arrested in Venice in 1611, the ambassador Dudley Carleton described Castelvetro’s utter luck in a letter to Sir Robert Cecil, stating that if he, Carleton, had not been able to remove the most compromising texts from his dwelling, Giacomo Castelvetro would inevitably have lost his life:   “It was my good fortune to recover his books and papers a little before the Officers of the Inquisition went to his lodging to seize them, for I caused them to be brought unto me upon the first news of his apprehension, under cover of some writings of mine which he had in his hands. And this indeed was the poore man’s safetie, for if they had made themselves masters of that Magazine, wherein was store and provision of all sorts of pasquins, libels, relations, layde up for many years together against their master the Pope, nothing could have saved him”   Parts of GKS 2057 4º fit well into this description of Castelvetro’s papers. A proper and detailed description of the manuscript can now be found in Fund og Forskning Online.       Provenance   GKS 2052 4ºon the one side, and on the other side, GKS 2053 4º and GKS 2057 4º have entered The Royal Library by two different routes. None of the three manuscripts are found in the oldest list of manuscripts in the Royal Library, called Schumacher’s list, dating from 1665. All three of them are included in Jon Erichsen’s “View over the old Manuscript Collection” published in 1786, so they must have entered the collections between 1660 and 1786.   Both GKS 2053 4º and GKS 2057 4º have entered The Royal Library from Christian Reitzer’s library in 1721. In the handwritten catalogue of Reitzer’s library (The Royal Library’s archive, E 15, vol. 1, a catalogue with very detailed entries), they bear the numbers 5744 and 5748.   If one were to proceed, one would have to identify the library from which these two manuscripts have entered Reitzer’s library. On the spine of GKS 2053 4º there is a label saying “Castelvetro / sopra Dante vol 326” and on f. 2r the same number is repeated: “v. 326”. On the spine of GKS 2057 4º, there is a label saying “Poesie italiane, vol. 241”, and on the end sheet the same number is repeated: “v. 241”. These two manuscripts would thus seem to have belonged to the same former library. Many of the Royal Library’s manuscripts with relazioni derive from Christian Reitzer’s library, and a wide range of Italian manuscripts which have entered the Royal Library through Reitzer’s library have a similar numbering on spine and title page. Comparing these numbers with library catalogues from the 17th century, one might be able to identify the library from which these manuscripts entered Reitzer’s library, and I hope to be able to proceed in this direction.       Conclusion   Giacomo Castelvetro was not a major Italian Renaissance writer, but a nephew of one of the lesser-known writers in Italian literature, Ludovico Castelvetro. He delivered yet another Italian contribution to the history of Christian IV, and his presence could be seen as a sign of a budding Italianism in Denmark in the era of Christian IV. The collection of Italian proverbs that he offered to Niels Krag, makes him a predecessor of the Frenchman Daniel Matras (1598–1689), who as a teacher of French and Italian at the Academy in Sorø in 1633 published a parallel edition of French, Danish, Italian and German proverbs.   The two manuscripts that are being dealt with in this article are two very different manuscripts. GKS 2052 4º is a perfectly completed work that was hitherto unknown and now joins the short list of known completed works by Giacomo Castelvetro. GKS 2057 4º is a collection of variegated texts that have attracted Giacomo Castelvetro for many different reasons. Together the two manuscripts testify to the varied use of manuscripts in Renaissance Italy and Europe.   A typical formulation of Giacomo Castelvetro’s is “Riscritto”. He copies texts in order to give them a new life in a new context. Giacomo Castelvetro is in the word’s finest sense a disseminator of Italian humanism and European Renaissance culture. He disseminated it in a geographical sense, by his teaching in Northern Europe, and in a temporal sense through his preservation of texts for posterity under the motto: “Perhaps even this distress it will some day be a joy to recall”.  
Toftgaard, A. (2015). “Måske vil vi engang glædes ved at mindes dette”. Om Giacomo Castelvetros håndskrifter i Det Kongelige Bibliotek. Fund Og Forskning I Det Kongelige Biblioteks Samlinger, 50. https://doi.org/10.7146/fof.v50i0.41247