Epistolae principum, rerumpublicarum ac sapientium virorum. Ex antiquis & recentioribus, tam Graecis, quam Latinis Historijs & annalibus collectae. Opus ad rerum cognitionem, & ad prudentiam comparandam apprime utile, apophtegmatum & gravium responsorum, innumeram & auream copiam continens. Numquam antea editum

Autore: DONZELLINI, Girolamo, ed. (ca. 1513-1587)

Tipografo: Giordano Ziletti

Dati tipografici: Venezia, 1574

8vo. (28), 418, (2) pp. ?8, a6, A-Z8, Aa-Cc8, Dd2. With the printer's device on the title-page, on leaf a6v and at the end. Contemporary vellum, manuscript title on spine and lower edge. Ownership entry on the title-page (dated 1728) of the cloister of Santa Maria del Gesù in Montefortino (today Artena).

Edit 16, CNCE 18174.


FIRST EDITION (reprinted at Basle/Strassburg in 1593, Amsterdam 1644, and Venice 1724) of this collection of letters mainly by ancient Greek and Latin, medieval and 15th century rulers, philosophers and humanists, edited by Girolamo Donzellini. It is however presumable that many letters are fictitious, being the work of Donzellini himself.

In the dedication to Nicolao Barbarigo, praetor of Verona (Venice, August 1, 1574), the editor/author says that he gathered these letters with the intention to show the commitment required to kings, emperors, popes, and governors in carrying out their functions and thus the respect they deserve from their subjects.

Among the senders and the recipients of the 306 letters (the majority is quite short) appear the names of ancient, medieval and Renaissance rulers and leaders like Alexander the Great, Darius of Persia, Belizarius, Alfonso of Aragon, the Emperor Constantine, James Stuart of Scotland, Marcus Aurelius, Narses, Galla Placidia, Richard I of England, Theodoric, Piero de' Medici, Francesco Sforza Duke of Milan, Theodosius, Charles VIII of France, Emperor Charles V, Julius Caesar, Justinian, Pietro Fregoso Duke of Genua, Saladinus, Caesar Augustus, Charles Martel, Leonello d'Este, etc; popes and prelates like Clemens III, Pius II, Celestine III, Urban II, Gregory II, Gregory III, Bessarion, etc; ancient authors like Isocrates, Libanius, Vergil, Pythagoras, Diogenes, Plutarch, Plato, etc; as well as humanists like Lorenzo Valla, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Coluccio Salutati, Leonardo Bruni, Poggio Bracciolini, Francesco Filelfo, Guarino Veronese, etc.

Girolamo Donzellini, a native of Orzinuovi near Brescia, was a scion of an illustrious family of Verona. He made his first studies at Brescia and then matriculated at Padua University obtaining a degree in medicine in 1541. In the same year he started to teach theoretical medicine at Padua, where his colleagues were Giovanni Battista da Monte and Andreas Vesalius. In 1543 he moved to Rome serving Giulio Della Rovere and Durante Duranti. Here Donzellini got involved with persons suspected of heresy and frequented the circles of Pietro Antonio di Capua and Diego de Enzinas. After warnings from friends, he left the service of Cardinal Durante and went to Venice. The atmosphere of that city proved to be more responsive to Donzellini's Protestant beliefs. He practised medicine, what allowed him to communicate his religious convictions for a while before beginning to evoke suspicion. He then fled from Venice in 1553 before he could be questioned by the Inquisitional tribunal, first stopping at Ferrara to visit the duchess Renée, and then proceeding to Germany where he met Pier Paolo Vergerio in Tübingen (cf. M.L. Portmann, Der Venezianer Arzt Girolamo Donzellini etwa 1527-1587 und seine Beziehungen zu Basler Gelehrten, in: “Gesnerus”, 30/1-2, 1973, pp. 1-6).

Serious family matters brought him back to Brescia in 1560. He appeared spontaneously before the Holy Office in Venice in November of the same year, and in February 1561 abjured his errors. He was condemned to a year of imprisonment, but most of the sentence was suspended. He moved to Verona and became a member of the local medical college. However, the Inquisition brought him to trial a second time in 1574, and this trial, much more than the first, revealed the extent of his involvement with heretics and heretical doctrines. He abjured for a second time in 1575 and remained in the Inquisition's prison until 1577, when he was released after the plague ravaged in Venice. Donzellini was then allowed to practice medicine again, and he pursued his career until his final encounter with the Holy Office in 1587, when prohibited books were found in his home. Shortly afterwards he was sentenced to death and executed by drowning.

Donzellini's numerous relations abroad as well as in Italy are indicative of the breath of his contacts and his general reputation as a physician and author of medical writings. He sometimes disguised himself under the pseudonym of Eudoxus Philaletes (cf. C.L. Redmond, Girolamo Donzellino, Medical Science and Protestantism in the Veneto, Stanford, CT, 1984, passim; see also R. Palmer, Physicians and the Inquisition in 16th Century Venice, in: “Medicine and the Reformation”, O. P. Grell & A. Cunningham, eds., London, 1993, pp. 122-125; and E.A. Rivoire, Eresia e Riforma a Brescia, in: “Bolletino della Società di Studi Valdesi”, CV-CVI, 1959, pp. 33-90).