Tractatus de Epitaphiis auctore R. P. Francisco Proficio è Societate…

~ Tractatus de Epitaphiis auctore R. P. Francisco Proficio è Societate Iesu. [Northern Italy, c 1600].

Manuscript, 12mo (152 × 100 mm), ff. [66]. Text in Latin in a small italic hand, usually legible but occasionally a little untidy, calligraphic title, headings and ornaments. Light marginal browning, title loose (but holding) and frayed at foot. Contemporary limp vellum, panelled in gilt, tooled with an all-over pattern of spirals, some enclosing urn tools, upper cover with ‘IHS’ device, the lower with tree and paired lion motif, spine with multiple curl tools, traces of green silk ties. Quite rubbed and soiled and the vellum cockled, but still attractive. Several jottings and pen tests to rear pastedown, modern label to front pastedown (comte Le Moyne de Martigny) and his small stamp to rear pastedown

A treatise onclassical Latin epitaphs by an Italian Jesuit. Its chapters include a key to common abbreviations (HSE: Hic sepultus est, here is buried; STTL: Sit Tibi Terra Levis, May the earth rest lightly upon you; HFC: heres faciendum curavit, their heir had [the tombstone] made, etc) and there follow a series of accounts of epitaphs for particular contexts: parents, children, men, women, mothers, spouses and even animals. Another considers satirical epitaphs: ‘salsis et ridiculis’. Of Proficio we have been unable to discover anything more; Tractatus de Epitaphiis was apparently not published in print but another manuscript copy is held by the Biblioteca nazionale Braidense in Milan (dateable to before 1625).

Our copy is almost certainly the Baldassare Boncampagni copy (item 454 in his 1892 catalogue, and 409 in the 1862 edition), described as ‘legato in pergamena ornata di dorature e stemma d. C. de G’. That catalogue gives 55 leaves (rather than 66) an error found also in the old pencil manuscript foliation of the last leaf of the manuscript marked ‘55’ recte 66, but the dimensions given in the catalogue also correspond precisely. Prince Baldassarre Boncompagni-Ludovisi (10 May 1821 – 13 April 1894), was an Italian historian of mathematics and aristocrat. His library contained some 650 manuscripts and 20,000 printed works and was sold in Rome in 1898. Parts of the manuscript collection are now held by the Universitetsbibliotek (Stockholm), Trinity College Library (Dublin), Cornell, as well as the Vatican library, Columbia (NY) and the Biblioteca Comunale in Treviso. Catalogo di manoscritti ora posseduti da D. Baldassare Boncompagni, Rome 1892.

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