February 12, 2013

Account of the Composition of the Human Body

Juan Valverde was a Spanish medical anatomist who was born in Amusco, in the present-day province of Palencia, around 1525. He left for Italy around 1542, and later practiced medicine and taught in Rome. He was the great Spanish follower of the new anatomy established by Andreas Vesalius in 1543 with his work De humani corporis fabrica (On the fabric of the human body). Vesalius was responsible for a new vision of the human body in the modern world. Valverde helped to spread this vision through the 16 editions in four languages (Castilian, Latin, Italian, and Greek) of his own work, Historia de la composición del cuerpo humano (Account of the composition of the human body). The text is profusely illustrated with 42 copper engravings, which follow the practice of the anatomy books of the period, pursuing didacticism through practical teaching and visualization. Many of these engravings are reproductions of illustrations by Vesalius; some others, with important scientific advances, are originals attributed to Gaspar Becerra, who clearly was influenced by Michelangelo. Another engraver thought to have contributed to the volume is Nicolas Beatrizet (circa 1507–circa 1570), and the initials N.B. appear on several plates. Valverde’s great achievements are the corrections he made to the classics and even to Vesalius, and his discoveries relating to muscles, organs, and especially the eye. The significance of the work is both scientific and linguistic. The book marked an important step in the use of Castilian as a scientific language, as it increased the anatomical lexicon in Castilian that had begun with Bernardino Montaña and his Libro de la anatomía del hombre (Book on man’s anatomy) of 1551. Valverde is considered the most important Spanish anatomist of the Renaissance.

El melopeo y maestro: Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Music

Pedro (Pietro) Cerone (1566–1625) was born in Bergamo, Italy. After training as a musician, singer, and priest in Italy, he travelled to Spain as a pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela in about 1593. A year later, mired in poverty and living in Madrid, he came under the protection of Santiago Gratii (Caballero de Gracia), in whose music academy he was able to work. Thanks probably to Caballero de Gracia, he was able to serve in the Royal Chapel of Phillip II and later that of Philip III. Around 1603–5 he returned to Naples and in 1610 he entered the chapel of the new viceroy of Naples, the count of Lemus, Pedro Fernández Castro. It was in Naples where he published, in 1609, a treatise on plainsong, and in 1613, in Spanish, El melopeo y maestro, a book that he had written almost entirely in Madrid. The title may derive from the Latin melopeia, meaning the art of producing melodies, and maestro in the sense of an eminent teacher of music. El Melopeo is an encyclopedic work, consisting of 1,160 folio pages in 849 chapters. As the title indicates, the work “describes extensively what one must know to become a perfect musician.” Cerone begins by giving advice on the moral and social behavior of the musician. He then deals with plainsong, measured song, musical dialogue, and composition. He compares the musical training and knowledge in Spain and Italy, pointing out Spanish deficiencies, and presents the most detailed catalog of the instruments used in Spain. The book was widely circulated and was an essential reference tool for Spanish musical theorists of the 17th and 18th centuries. Reviled in the 19th century for its conservatism, it is recognized today as a valuable source of information on the Spanish music of its time.

The Book of Calixto and Melibea and of the Old Whore Celestina

La Celestina is undoubtedly one of the greatest bestsellers in Spanish literature. It is said to have been printed in more than 200 early editions, although fewer than half of these have survived. The work, by Fernando de Rojas (died 1541), began as a comedy in 16 acts, which was extended to 21 acts in the tragicomedy, which became the popular version. In addition to being published throughout Spain, the Spanish text was printed in Lisbon, Rome, Venice, Milan and Antwerp. Early translations into Italian, French, German, English, and Dutch attest to the great popularity of the work. This beautiful illustrated edition, published by the Seville printer Cromberger around 1518–20, is the third of a series of editions by this printer, and the only one entitled Libro de Calixto y Melibea y de la puta vieja Celestina (The book of Calixto and Melibea and of the old whore Celestina) instead of the classic Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea (The tragic-comedy of Calisto and Melibea). The most interesting aspect of Cromberger’s printing is his use, without variation, of a series of woodcut prints in all of his editions of La Celestina, which were probably made from the same printing blocks. They are found at the beginning of each act and are of two types: broad rectangular engravings that represent episodes, and another series of loose engravings showing figures of characters, trees, and buildings. These so-called factotum figures were to become characteristic of Spanish broadsheets well into the 19th century. The book presented here is an extraordinary bibliographic rarity, as it is the only surviving copy of this edition.

Codicil of Queen Isabel the Catholic, Executed at Medina del Campo, on November 23, 1504

On November 23, 1504, three days before her death, Queen Isabella of Spain signed, in Medina del Campo, a codicil before the same notary, Gaspar de Gricio, and five of the seven witnesses who had been present on October 12 for the signing of her last will and testament. In the testament, the queen addressed the fundamental aspects of government by the Catholic monarchs. In the codicil, besides reaffirming what she had stipulated in the testament, she addressed questions directly affecting peninsular government and showed her concern for Spanish policy in America by setting the bases for the Laws of the Indies (the body of law issued by the crown governing Spanish possessions in America and the Philippines). In the last clause of the testament, the queen expressed the wish that the original of the codicil be sent to the Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe, at Extramadura in central Spain, which did not occur. It is known that at some time in 1543–45 the testament was taken to the castle of Simancas, which soon after became the Spanish royal archive. The codicil, which strangely had broken away from the testament, was added to the collections at the Royal Library, becoming part of a collected volume from which it was separated in 1881. The codicil begins with a brief salutation to God and ratifies what was expressed in the testament. The body of the codicil follows with 16 clauses and the queen’s signature with the remains of the royal seal plate. The document ends with the notary’s statement and the signatures and seals of the five witnesses. Written in a courtly classical style on three sheets of parchment with an additional sheet that serves as a cover, the codicil probably was similar in appearance to the testament.

The Seville Bible

Biblia hispalense (The Seville Bible), also known as the Toletanus Codex, is a manuscript from the first half of the tenth century, in Latin written in lower-case Visigothic script by at least four copyists. The titles also appear in Hebrew, and there are notes in Arabic in the margins. The manuscript consists of booklets of eight sheets each, on parchment, with the text in three columns of 63–65 lines. Included are the texts of the Old and New Testaments, with a preface, prologues, and commentaries by Saint Jerome, Saint Isidore, and others. Despite its clearly Christian format and content, the Arab influence of the Moorish occupation of Al-Andalus is notable in the ornamentation, and in the double horseshoe arch with a decorative motif in the form of flowers and leaves typical of Islamic art. The symbols of the Evangelists, Saint Luke and Saint John, are included and there are drawings of the prophets Micah, Nahum, and Zechariah, and some initials with birds and fish. Some capital letters and captions appear in blue and red. The manuscript shows some deterioration, particularly in the early pages. Partial Arabic numbering survives from the 15th and 16th centuries, and a complete set from the 18th century. The final pages contain a fragment of a Latin glossary from a different codex. A note on page 375v states that Servando from Seville gave the book to his friend the bishop of Córdoba, who in 988 gave it to the Church of Saint Mary in Seville. It came to the National Library of Spain with other materials from Toledo Cathedral in 1869.

Beato of Liébana: The Codex of Fernando I and Doña Sancha

Around the year 776, a monk by the name of Beato or Beatus, possibly the abbot of the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, wrote a work entitled Comentarios al Apocalipsis (Commentary on the apocalypse), which had an extraordinary success in the following five centuries. Thanks to his great erudition, Beato combined in this text, as a summa, many commentaries on the topic of the apocalypse by such authors as Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Isidore of Seville, and the 4th-century scholar Ticonius. The genre of apocalyptic literature appeared in the Jewish tradition in the second century BC and had never ceased to be practiced. Obsessed like his contemporaries with the imminent coming of the end of the world, which, according to the calculations of the six ages was to take place in the year 800 (838 in the Spanish era), Beato wrote this work for the edification of his monks. He emphasized that, after the final terrifying catastrophes announced by Saint John the Evangelist, good would triumph over evil. The original codex, which most likely was illuminated, has not been preserved. Even though the dreaded date passed without the world coming to an end, copies of Beato’s work continued to be made in the monasteries of the peninsular north (only one extant manuscript was written abroad). Then came the terrifying year 1000 and other feared dates, so the text, linked to a fixed cycle of illustrations, continued to appeal to readers. Thirty-five manuscript copies dating from the ninth century to the 13th century have survived. By semantic extension, these manuscripts are called beato, and 26 of them are illuminated. Two are preserved at the National Library of Spain. Presented here is one of the most beautiful copies, Codex Vitr/14/2, commissioned in 1047 by King Fernando I of León and Castille and Queen Sancha, and possibly done by Facundo in San Isidoro de León. Its 98 miniatures, endowed with amazing expressiveness, are distributed mostly on colorful horizontal stripes in a unique and unmistakable style that blends the Romanesque with various Mozarab and North African influences. Prominent among them are the Four Horsemen, the vision of celestial Jerusalem, the seven-headed snake, and the destruction of Babylon. The manuscript, owned by the Marquis of Mondéjar in the late 17th century, was confiscated with the rest of his library by Philip V during the War of the Spanish Succession.