A unique surviving copy of a banned book

Trattato ultissimo del beneficio di Gieso Christo crocifisso verso i Christiani.

Trattato ultissimo del beneficio di Gieso Christo crocifisso verso i Christiani.

This is a unique copy of a spiritual work, attributed to Benedetto da Mantova and Marcantonio Flaminio, printed in Venice in 1543. It was hugely popular. Pietro Paolo Vergerio declared that 40,000 copies were sold in Venice alone, and King Edward VI is said to have kept a copy beside his bed. In 1549, however, it was proscribed by the Index librorum prohibitorum, the list of books prohibited by the Roman Catholic Church, and was so ruthlessly exterminated by the Roman Inquisition that no examplar was thought to have survived, until this copy was catalogued in 1843, and subsequently reproduced in facsimile in 1855. The volume came to the College from Domenico Antonio Ferrari (1685-1744), a Doctor of Law from Naples, who left 51 volumes containing some 98 works to the College, in recognition of time spent at St John's from 1710.

Ferrari's bookplate


The books given by Ferrari bear a book label detailing his bequest. In translation it reads:

In witness of a grateful heart, for many acts of kindness conferred by the College of St John the Evangelist in Cambridge, did the most illustrious Domenico Antonio Ferrari, Doctor of Law of Naples, bequeath to the said College this book among others most choice, 1744. Witness J. Creyk.

Ferrari was librarian to Thomas Coke, later Viscount Coke of Holkham and Earl of Leicester. Besides his bequest to St John's, Ferrari left a valuable library to the Earl, and some 170 books bearing his provenance may be found in the library at Holkham Hall.



This Special Collections Spotlight article was contributed on 22 July 2013 by Kathryn McKee, Special Collections Librarian.