Congestorium artificiose memorie v.p.f. Ioannis Romberch de Kyrspe regularis observantie predicatorie, omnium de memoria preceptiones aggregatim complectens: opus omnibus theologis, predicatoribus et confessoribus, iuristis, iudicibus procuratoribus, aduocatis et notariis, medicis, philosophis, artium liberalium professoribus, insuper mercatoribus nuntiis et tabellariis pernecessarium

Autore ROMBERCH DE KYRSPE, Johannes (Johann Host, ca. 1480-1532).
Tipografo Melchiorre Sessa
Dati tipografici Venice, 
Prezzo Venduto/Sold
Congestorium artificiose memorie

Two major early treatises on the art of memory bound together


(bound with:)

TOMASI (o TOMAI), Pietro (Petrus Ravennas, ca. 1448-1508). Foenix domini Petri Ravennatis memoriae magistri. Colophon: Venice, Pietro Nicolini da Sabbio for Melchiorre Sessa, September 1533.

Two works in one volume, 8vo (159x102 mm). I: 104 leaves. With 23 woodcut illustrations in text, mostly full-page. Collation: A-N8. Printer's device, register, and colophon on l. N8r. Leaf N8v is a blank. II: [20] leaves. Collation: A-B8 C4. Leaves C3v and C4 are blank. Large printer's device on title page. Colophon on l. C3r. Contemporary vellum over boards, spine with raised bands and inked title (lacking ties). Manuscript notes on the front flyleaf. On the title page is the date “1573 4 Feb. Ii” and several ownership entries (partly inked out and no longer readable): “Gasparis Jovanelli Gandinensis”, “ex libris Julij Caesaris Lallini [?]”, “Hieronymi de Reverello”. Some light browning and staining. A very good, genuine copy.

I. SECOND EDITION (the first appeared in Venice in 1520). Together with the Florentine Cosimo Rosselli, Johann Host von Romberch here summarizes the scholastic tradition of mnemonic art which had been the prerogative of the Dominican Order for centuries. The Congestorium “was widely read throughout sixteenth-century Europe” (P. Rossi, Logic and the Art of Memory. The Quest for a Universal Language, London, 2000, p. 20).

In the Congestorium artificiosae memoriae, Romberch demonstrates his knowledge of all three classical sources of mnemonic art, not only the Ad Herennium, but also Cicero's De oratore and Quintilian. With frequent quotations from Petrarch, he absorbs the poet into the Dominican tradition. Pietro da Ravenna and others are also brought into the mix. Romberch's main reference, however, is to Thomas Aquinas, whose sentences are quoted on almost every page. The book is divided into four parts: the first is an introduction; the second is dedicated to places; the third, to images; and the fourth outlines an encyclopaedic memory system. Romberch considers three different types of place systems, all belonging to artificial memory. The first type uses the cosmos as a system of places. This type of artificial memory can also be called “Dantesque”. For the second type, Romberch proposes using the zodiac signs to give an order of places that is easy memorize. His third type of place system is the more conventional mnemonic method of memorizing real places on real buildings, as on abbeys and their connected buildings. After dealing with visual alphabets, Romberch, in the final part of the book, sketches an extremely ambitious program to entrust to memory all theological, metaphysical, and moral sciences, as well as the seven liberal arts (cf. F.A. Yates, The Art of Memory, London, 1966, ad indicem).

“Romberch's schemes incorporate what is in the Ad Herennium, but add to it an enormous amount of advice on how to fashion complex grid systems based both on alphabetical and numerical orders. Several of the alphabetical ones involve animal images; in one case, the letters are associated with animals whose names begin with those letters, so that for A one might think of an eagle (aquila), for B an owl (bubo), for N a bat (noctycorax), etc. […] In another case, Romberch suggests using animals or various implements whose figures are bent into shapes of the various letters” (M. Carruthers, The Book of Memory. A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture, Cambridge, 2001, p. 128).

Born in Romberg bei Kierspe in Westphalia, Johann Host entered the Dominican order at the age of sixteen in Cologne, where he remained as a preacher until around 1514. In that year he participated in the trial of Speyer against J. Reuchlin as procurator of the inquisitor Jakob von Hoogstraeten. He then went to Rome where he remained for two years, deepening his study of theology under Silvester Prierias. From 1516 to 1519 he stayed in Bologna, then in 1520 he moved to Venice, where he published his treaty on mnemotechnics. In 1523 he was appointed professor of theology in Cologne, Host sided openly against Luther and took an active part in the fight against the Reformation (cf. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon, II, 1990, cols. 1078-1079).

Edit 16, CNCE22790; Bibliotheca magica. Dalle opere a stampa della Biblioteca Casanatense di Roma (secc. XV-XVIII), Florence, 1985, no. 1071; M.N. Young, Bibliography of Memory, Philadelphia-New York, 1961, p. 164; Durling, 2476.

II. RARE EARLY EDITION of this important treatise on mnemonics which first appeared in Venice in 1491 and was then reprinted several times until the end of the sixteenth century. The work had considerable influence on Giordano Bruno.

Pietro da Ravenna's Phoenix became the best known of all manuals on memory. It underwent several editions in several countries, was translated into many languages, included in Gregor Reisch's widespread general culture encyclopaedia, and copied by enthusiastic admirers from the printed editions. Tomai was a formidable propagandist of himself, and this helped to spread his methods, but his fame as a master of memory was probably due, in large measure, to the fact that he brought mnemonics to the secular world: those who needed an art of memory for practical purposes, and not to remember Hell's circles, could turn to his Phoenix. Pietro gave practical advice. In discussing the rule that memory loci must be formed in quiet places, he proposes the most suitable type of building for this purpose to be an abandoned church. Tomai probably had an excellent natural memory to begin with, and his mastery of classical techniques allowed him to perform quite amazing mnemonic exploits. For the images, Tomai makes use of the classical principle according to which memory images should resemble, if possible, unknown people. Tomai laicized and popularized the art of memory. Many later writers of mnemotehcnics mention him, including the Dominican Romberch, who cites him among the authorities (cf. F.A. Yates, The Art of Memory, London, 1966, ad indicem).

“In Peter of Ravenna's scheme a letter of the alphabet acts as the primary key or locus or file. Then texts are placed in the file by a secondary key, a word beginning with the primary letter… The key words are themselves arranged also by general topic: natural history, sacred subjects, vices and virtues, etc. And the confirmation of his orderly arrangement lies in his ability to replicate his lists. In other words, the memory in this scheme is organized like a subject concordance of texts” (Carruthers, op. cit., pp. 114-115).

Pietro Tomasi (or Tomai) from Ravenna was a jurisconsult and a poet. A pupil of Alessandro Tartagna in Padua, he taught civil and canon law in Italy and in Greifswald, Germany, where he probably died around 1508. “The great fame which this singular figure enjoyed in Italy and throughout Europe was not on account of his (by no means negligible) legal scholarship, but rather because he presented himself as a living example of the validity of an art in which many scholars had invested their hopes and aspirations… As professor of law at Bologna, Ferrara, Pavia, Pistoia and Padua, Pietro Tommai doubtless contributed to the increasing interest in the ars memorativa throughout Italy […] Most of the Italian and German theorists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries owed a considerable debt to the work of Ravenna” (Rossi, op. cit., pp. 20-22).

Edit 16, CNCE32736; L. Carpané, Annali tipografici, Venezia 1521-1551, in: “Il mestier de le stamperie de i libri. Le vicende e i percorsi dei tipografi di Sabbio Chiese tra Cinque e Seicento e l'opera dei Nicolini”, E. Sandal, ed., Brescia, 2002, p. 168, no. 29; Durling, 3609; M.N. Young, Bibliography of Memory, Philadelphia-New York, 1961, p. 276; Bibliotheca magica. Dalle opere a stampa della Biblioteca Casanatense di Roma (secc. XV-XVIII). Florence, 1985, no. 1174; P. Rossi, Clavis universalis. Arti della memoria e logica combinatoria da Lullo a Leibniz, Bologna, 1983, p. 27.

  • Congestorium artificiose memorie
  • Congestorium artificiose memorie
  • Congestorium artificiose memorie
  • Congestorium artificiose memorie
  • Congestorium artificiose memorie