THE LIVES OF THE GRAND MASTERS OF THE KNIGHTS HOSPITALLER, 1636 FIRST EDITION
MARULLI, Girolamo. Vite de Gran Maestri della Sacra Religione di S. Giovanni Gierosolimatano. Napoli: Ottavio Beltrano, 1636. Folio (9 by 12 inches), contemporary full vellum, manuscript title to spine. $7000.
First edition of this definitive early study of the lives of the Grand Masters of the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (the Knights Hospitaller) from their foundation in Jerusalem to their establishment on the Island of Malta, composed in Italian and published in Naples. A handsome copy in contemporary vellum, with engraved title page.
Following the author's dedication to the then-Grand Master Giovanni Paolo Lascaris, this work commences with the life of Blessed Gerard de Martigues, the Benedictine lay brother who was appointed as Rector of the Hospice at Jerusalem by the Abbot of the Church of Saint Mary of the Latins between 1080 and the first Crusade. During the tumult of the last decade of the 11th century, and following the successes of the Papal sponsored military expedition that culminated in the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, Gerard continued to tend the sick within the hospice, achieved independence from his earlier commissioners at the Church of Saint Mary, secured funding and privileges from the new Christian leadership, and acquired lands throughout the newly established Kingdom. This de facto foundation of what was to become the first medieval military order was followed, by official Papal acts of recognition in 1110 (by Baldwin I), 1112-3 (by Paschall II), 1119 (by Calliztus II) of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, by which time the order had established daughter hospitals in modern-day French and Italian cities along the pilgrim route to the Holy Lands.
The Rule of the Order established by Gerard's successor Raymond du Puy established three classes of membership; 'frates milites,' 'fratres capellani' and 'fratres servientes armigeri'; a sign of the Knights' evolution into a more militarily defensive and protective role. This included the construction of castles and outposts which secured vital routes between Christian cities in the Holy Lands. Involvement of the Order in military affairs was only to increase; their Grand Masters, for example, were heavily involved in and responsible for substantial encouragement of subsequent Crusades. The biographies of the subsequent Grand Masters of this remarkable Order, naturally, relate the wider history of an order that was perhaps more involved than any other in the medieval struggles between Christianity and Islam in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The elaborately decorated extra-engraved title, for example features, in addition to numerous armorial bearings, three small views of the locations of the main headquarters of the organization: Jerusalem (until 1291), Rhodes (1310-1522) and Malta (1530-1798). Following the loss of Acre in 1291, the Order was for a short interlude located in Cyprus (then ruled by the titular King of Jerusalem, Henry II) before completing a successful conquest of Byzantine-held Rhodes. Their rule over the island, which was marked by yet further militarization, skirmishes with Barbary pirates, the defense of nearby Smyrna and fortification on the peninsula of Halicarnassus (using part of the ruined Mausoleum, now one of the seven wonders of the world), continued for over two centuries. After successfully repelling two 15th-century Islamic invasions, the arrival of an enormous fleet under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and subsequent six-month siege in 1522 resulted, despite the efforts of the 43rd Grand Master Phillipe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, in the Knight's withdrawal to Sicily. Following the involvement of Pope Clement VII, himself a Knight of the Order, De Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, whose biography completes the work, secured what was for the purposes of this volume to be the final permanent home of the Order; on the Islands of Malta and Gozo. The final leaf of text proper ('Fine del Primo Libro') closes with what appears to be a promise by the author Girolami Marulli (1580-1650), himself a Knight of the Order, to chronicle the lives of subsequent Grand Masters; however, no subsequent volume was ever completed. Text in Italian. Armorial bookplate.
Leaves Nn3-4 detached from stitching, small paper flaw to the margin of engraved title, internally generally quite clean and crisp; contemporary vellum with only minor age-wear. A desirable, well-margined copy.