The second edition of Cistercian abbot Boniface Simonetta's magnum opus, which, if one judges by the title, is a grand history of Christian persecution organized by papacy. But Simonetta has alternated passages of dry Christian history and hagiography with 243 of his letters to contemporaries, who largely comprise a pantheon of Italian humanists: Pico della Mirandola, Alfonso II of Naples, Lorenzo de Medici, and Ludovico Sforza, among many other historians, physicians, jurists, writers, artists, theologians, and military leaders. Our attention is immediately adverted to the fourth part of De christiane fidei, verso of f.CI, where Simonetta's letter to his friend Philippo Jacopo is found. It begins [abbreviations expanded]:
Epistola Duodecima. Bonifacius Symoneta Conru Abbas/Philippo Iacobo fratri aurato interpreti et antistiti foelicitatem. Insulas in mari Hispano cultu: et divitiis inclytas: compertas ab urbe epistola missa legisse: et insuper larvas: et manes quibus dant illusisse visas scribis. Quotidiem insulas inveniri: et terra, ac mari variantibus situ etiam noviter generari: vel larvas aliquod exitium pretendentes non miror videri.
[In the margin]: Insulæ Ignotæ.
[Our amateur translation]:
Bonifazio Simonetta, Abbot of Corno, sends warmest greetings to his brother Philippo Jacopo, a noble translator and priest.
In the letter, which you sent from Rome, you write that you have read that certain islands have most recently been discovered in the Spanish Sea which are noteworthy for their cultivation and riches, and that in addition ghosts and spirits of the dead have been seen which have made a mockery of certain persons. I am unsurprised that every day islands are being found and that on land and sea in a variety of locations discoveries are being newly made, including spectres, which threaten to inflict some sort of death.2
[In the margin]: Unknown islands.
We are unsure who the Philippo Jacopo to whom Simonetta addresses his letter might be, but we postulate Giacomo Filippo Foresti da Bergamo, the Augustinian monk and world chronicler, whose Novissime hystoriarum omnium repercussiones, published at Venice in 1503, mentions Columbus's discoveries.1 Curiously, the unobtainable first edition of Simonetta's De christiane fidei contains the same letter to Philippo Jacopo as our 1509 edition, with the same reference to unknown islands, but the first edition was published at Milan by Albertus di Lissona in January of 1492—a full fourteen months before Columbus's letter was first published. Surely an error, but one not yet adequately explained. In any case, a most compelling reference to the New World, nestled in a signal document of Italian humanism.
Folio, 313 x 227 x 45 mm et infra (binding); 302 x 220 x 32 mm et infra (text block). π6, a-z6, A-B6, C8; , 156,  =164 ff. Bound in original quartersawn limewood boards, overbacked in the 19th century with blonde reverse calf titled and ruled in gilt, the boards covered in green and gold marbled paper, new endpapers. Boards worn, wood exposed at corners, some chipping to fore-corners of upper board, some worming to spine and upper cover, clasps wanting. Binding sturdy and structurally sound. Interior: Twelve small wormholes, mostly marginal, pierce the text block; these dwindle to four wormholes in the center of text block, and then become twelve again at end. No more than four or five wormholes touch the text; the holes goes straight through and do not develop into galleries or tracks; never is legibility compromised. Pale damp passim; some finger-soiling to title and first leaves, otherwise a fine, crisp, unwashed copy with excellent margins and a palpable punch to the type.
This copy sold at the 25 October 2015 Millon sale at Brussels. To head margin of title is a contemporary custodial remark in ink: Collegij S. J. Augusta. On verso of lower pastedown are modern penciled notes in French discussing contents. A scatter of marginal in-text notes and underlinings in a period hand.
Alden Landis 509/10 (finding four copies, though more than 23 are extant worldwide, according to OCLC, VD16, COPAC, and KVK); Adams s1184; Proctor 14078; BM STC German p.846; Panzer, VI, 184, no. 69; VD16 S 6542. Not in Harisse.
1Alden/Landis 503/2 ff 441-442.
2Simonetta's letter continues: When Strabo was surveying Spain and the adjacent islands, he claimed that there existed ten Cassiterides, lying to the north, all close to one another. One, he says, was uninhabited, whilst the rest were inhabited by people of a dark colour. The inhabitants fastened belts tightly around their chests and walked with sticks, while wearing garments which reached down to the ankles. They made a living from cattle, like herdsmen, and traded their abundance of fresh-water and lead with merchants. The Phoenicians, who excelled all others as traders, used to cross secretly from Cadiz to the Tin Islands and refrained from sharing with others the luxury of these islands, and yet when the Romans went on voyages of exploration it was the thriftiness of these obscure peoples that they made well-known. When Alexander landed on the coast of the Indian Ocean with soldiers and his fleet, once he had wearied of the sea he ordered his companions Nearchus and Onesericus, who were the admirals of his fleet, to sail further in exploration. When they returned to the king they reported that they had been affrighted by shoals of tunny-fish which could produce a misty spray by breathing out with great effort, and said that they had been informed by the inhabitants that these fish could give vent to some amazing noises resembling the clatter and loud noise of trumpets. They made a number of other discoveries, and in particular had discovered an island which was rich in gold but without any horses. In addition the sea, they said, was terrifying for its monsters, including whales which were the size of large ships. They related that when these swam under the water they might resemble sunken ships. In respect of the islands spread out over the ocean, and the wonders they present, there exists, my dear Philip, great uncertainty, just like the one, for example, regarding differences in the humours of our bodies.
[In the margin] Types of moisture in the body.
In our bodies various types of moisture of differing kinds are generated in order to keep our bodies moist and well-nourished. Of these some are to be found in our veins, whilst others are said to be dispersed throughout our limbs like dew. These latter coagulate, and take the place of the former, which have been dissolved. An admixture of this kind resembles what has been digested.
Status: On Hold