From my diary

Happy new year, everybody, in a few hours.

I’ve acquired some volumes of “The Saints of Cornwall”, by G. Doble.  I think there may be six in all.  Canon Doble was a Cornish antiquarian of the first half of the 20th century.  He issued individual pamphlets on Cornish saints – I think there might have been 48 of these or more.  These were then collected into volumes after his death.

I read through volume one last night, the saints of the Land’s End district.  It’s clear that the good canon was extremely learned.  Unfortunately his book is unreadable.  Each entry is a wodge of verbiage, full of information of various sorts, but the eyes just close.

We all remember the university textbooks with which we had to struggle!  I owned quite a lot of textbooks, some out of print, but I read many fewer.  Doble’s volume brought back memories of these.  I’m not sure quite why they are so bad, but bad they are.

It seems very clear that the history of Cornwall is largely lost.  It is obscure in the Roman period, and altogether vague in the sub-Roman and dark ages period.  All we have to work with is place-names, and largely later saints’ Lives.  These Lives are often late, stuffed with padding – Mr Doble is not hesitant in condemning this – and in many cases entirely fictional.

Some of this must be owing to the small population of Cornwall.  The county is long and thin and must always have been sparsely populated.

An old college friend of mine is a vicar in the west of Cornwall.  On my last visit to him, many years ago, he took me for a drive around the Land’s End district.  Everywhere there were deserted houses and villages.  This is something unthinkable in England.  But there is no work.  The tin mines are closed, and only so many can work in the tourism industry.  So the young people must leave, and the population remains thin even today in some areas.

This must have been far worse in the sub-Roman period.  If nobody lives there, then no history will be written, for history is largely about kings and cities and peoples.

However a couple of factors come to our aid.  It seems that many of the local Cornish saints are also recorded in Brittany.  Indeed often their cults are larger and more important there.  The Lives of these saints, and the presence of their cult, confirm the movement of people from Cornwall into Armorica at the end of the Roman period.  So there is information there, of sorts.

There are also links with Welsh legends, although less important, and even Irish legends.

All the same, it’s a poor record to have to sift through for something resembling real history.

It’s clear that Mr Doble was very well informed on all these sources.  It is a pity that he had no editor, and was obliged to self-publish.  All the same, his volumes are still an important source.

Fortunately Nicholas Orme published in 2000 The Saints of Cornwall through Oxford, which is a modern handbook of great value.  Less fortunately it is out of print and can only be obtained for hundreds of dollars.  Oh well.


An 18th century drawing of the Meta Sudans from the Spanish National Library

Here is a nice drawing from the 18th century of the Meta Sudans, the Roman fountain that used to stand outside the Colosseum until Mussolini decided to demolish it.  This one is from the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, the Spanish National Library.

Two things make this drawing interesting.  First, it’s close enough that we can see some detail of the Meta Sudans, including that gaping hole at the top.  Secondly, it shows the full height of the monument as it was in 1800, unlike the 19th century photographs.  The upper half was removed at some point before any of those could be taken.

H/t Rubén Montoya (@rubsmontoya).


Christmas Eve

I would like to wish a very Merry Christmas to everyone who reads this blog.

It is Christmas Eve here, and everything is quiet.  It has rained heavily today, and then turned cold.  Ice is predicted, and probably truly, for I went out for a walk late this afternoon, and it was very cold indeed.  The endless rumble of commerce has ceased, for one day.  The silence on Christmas Eve can be very eerie if you are on your own, as so many are.

I don’t know if I shall feel like blogging tomorrow.  I hope that we all have something nice to do, to celebrate the best of days.

Happy Christmas, everyone.

PS.  Apologies to those who accidentally got emailed the start of a draft post on Christmas trees – I pressed publish instead of save.  I discovered more research was needed!


Did Mithras say “He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood…”?

In 1999 two journalists named Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy published a book called The Jesus Mysteries:  Was the “original Jesus” a pagan god?  The book appealed to a “new atheist” demographic, and material from it could be found online throughout the 2000’s.

On p.49 they made the following claim, in the middle of a series of claims about similarities between Mithras and Jesus:

An inscription reads: He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.[183]

The footnotes reads “Godwin J. (1981), 28”.  Freke and Gandy liked this so much that they repeated it in abbreviated form on the first page of their book.

The claim is actually false.  In 2007 in a now defunct message forum, the question was explored.  Dr Andrew Criddle did most of the work, and posted his findings.[1]  I wrote up a page of notes which somehow vanished from the web.  I have restored it here, but it’s rather dense, and disappears into various rabbit holes.  So let’s go through the key points.


Our first port of call is the reference, which turns out to J. Godwin, Mystery Religions of the Ancient World, 1981.  It seems that Freke and Gandy did not trouble to read carefully, for Godwin’s words are:

A Persian Mithraic text, amazingly reminiscent of Jesus’s words, states that ‘he who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.’

But there is no footnote.

The Actual Source – Vermaseren

The actual source is a publication by the Mithraic scholar, M. Vermaseren, The Secret God, London (1963).  On p.103-4 appears the following claim:

Justin records that on the occasion of the meal the participants used certain formulae (μετ’ ἐπιλόγων τινῶν) comparable with the ritual of the Eucharist, and in this connection mention may be made of a medieval text, published by Cumont, in which of Christ is set beside the sayings of Zarathushtra. The Zardasht speaks to his pupils in these words: ‘He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation….’ Compare this with Christ’s words to his disciples: ‘He who eats of my body and drinks of my blood shall have eternal life.’ In this important Persian text lies the source of the conflict between the Christians and their opponents, and though of later date it seems to confirm Justin’s assertion.

There is no footnote.

This is a poor English translation of the original Dutch text, a popular paperback, Mithras de geheimzinnige god, Elsevier (1959), which on pp.82-3 reads:

Justinus vermeldt dat de maaltijd gepaard ging met enige formules (met’ epilogoon tinon).” Ook deze kunnen veel gelijkenis vertoond hebben met die van het Avondmaal. Een middeleeuwse tekst, welke door Cumont werd gepubliceerd, is in dit verband bijzonder interessant. Want hierin wordt de waarheid van Christus gesteld tegenover het woord van Zarathustra; deze Zardasht sprak nog tot zijn leerlingen: ‘Wie niet van mijn lichaam zal eten en van mijn bloed zal drinken, zodat hij zich met mij vermengt en ik mij met hem vermeng, die zal het heil niet hebben…’. Maar Christus sprak tot zijn leerlingen: ‘Wie Mijn Lichaam eet en Mijn bloed drinkt, zal het eeuwig leven hebben.’ Deze belangrijke tekst plaatst ons midden in de strijd tussen de Christenen en hun tegenstanders en kan, hoewel laat in datum, misschien de bewering van Justinus bevestigen.

Note how the original Dutch speaks of “this Zardasht” (“deze Zardasht”), where the English translation reads “the Zardasht”, which makes it sound like a book, perhaps the Zardusht-nama; and “this important text” (“Deze belangrijke tekst”), not “this important Persian text”.  There are other errors to mislead the reader.

The Cumont Article

Andrew Criddle discovered that the unnamed article used by Vermaseren was F. Cumont, “Un Bas-Relief Mithriaque du Louvre”, Revue Archeologique 25 (1946), 183-195.   At the end, on p.193-5, he refers to an Arabic manuscript in Syriac characters (Garshuni) in the Mingana collection in Birmingham:[2]

Un passage étrange d’une œuvre tardive vient peut-être suppléer à la réticence de Justin, qui s’est fait scrupule de reproduire les formules païennes. Un manuscrit arabe en caractères syriaques (karshounî) de la Bibliothèque de Birmingham [3] contient une homélie ou une lettre pastorale, dont le thème est de mettre en parallèle les prétentions fausses des Juifs et des Mages et la puissance véritable du christianisme. Le motif qui y est reproduit avec une rigueur monotone est que le démon a fait accomplir aux infidèles une série de prodiges, mais qu’à ces faux miracles, Dieu en a opposé de vrais.

Venait à parler des Mages, l’auteur inconnu assure que Zoroastre ayant fondé des pyrées, exhorta ses sectateurs à se jeter dans le feu, et qu’ils semblèrent y périr dans les flammes; puis qu’en étant sortis sains et saufs, ils parurent ressusciter, mais ce n’était là qu’une illusion produite par des sortilèges. Or le Christ se mesura avec Zoroastre et, en ressuscitant réellement les morts, rendit vaine la propagande des Mages dans le monde entier.

Puis l’écrivain chrétien ajoute : « Ce Zardasht dit encore à ses disciples : Qui ne mangera pas de mon corps et ne boira pas de mon sang, de manière qu’il se mélange à moi et que je me mélange à lui, celui-là n’aura pas le salut… Mais le Christ dit à ses disciples : Qui « mange mon corps et boit mon sang, aura la vie éternelle. »

3. A. Mingana, Catalogue of the Mingana collection of manuscripts (Birmingham. Selley Oak colleges library) Cambridge. 1933. Ms. Mingana, n° 142, ff. 48 à 61. — Notre attention a été attirée sur ce manuscrit par le Père Vosté, dont l’érudition d’orientaliste nous a une fois de plus fait profiter de ses découvertes. Notre ami M. Levi délia Vida a bien voulu se charger de traduire pour nous, avec sa compétence éprouvée, l’ouvrage Karsunî qui nous intéressait, et qu’il s’est réservé d’étudier plus en détail au point de vue de ses sources et de sa date. La guerre a malheureusement interrompu ses recherches ; provisoirement, espérons-le.
1. Nous reproduisons ici la traduction de ce que dit des Mages cette œuvre difficilement accessible, et parfois peu compréhensible ; F. 158 b : …

In English:

A strange passage in a late work may perhaps compensate for the reticence of Justin, who scrupled to reproduce the pagan formulae. An Arab manuscript in Syriac characters (Karshuni) of the Library of Birmingham [3] containing a homily or pastoral letter, the theme of which is to put side by side the false pretentions of the Jews and Magians and the true wisdom of Christianity. The motif which is repeated with monotonous rigour, is that the devil has accomplished a series of miracles among the unbelievers, but, to these false miracles, God has opposed true ones.

Speaking about the Magi, the unknown author asserts that Zoroaster, having built pyres, exhorted his followers to throw themselves into the fire, and that they would seem to perish in the flames; and then coming out safe and well, they would appear to have come back from the dead, but this was only an illusion produced by magic spells. But Christ measured himself against Zoroaster, and by really bringing people back from the dead, made the propaganda of the Magi in the whole world pointless.

Then the Christian writer adds: “This Zardasht again says to his disciples: whoever does not eat of my body and does not drink of my blood, so that he mixes with me and I mix with him, he will not have salvation… But Christ says to his disciples: Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood will have eternal life.

3. A. Mingana, Catalogue of the Mingana collection of manuscripts (Birmingham, Selley Oak colleges library) Cambridge, 1933. Ms. Mingana, n° 142, ff. 48 – 61. — Our attention was drawn to this manuscript by Fr. Vosé, whose erudition as an orientalist has again allowed us to profit from his discoveries. Our friend Mr. Levi della Vida agreed to undertake to translate the Karshuni work which interested us, with his proven competence, and he proposed to study in it more detail and determine its sources and date. The war has unfortunately halted his research; let us hope, only temporarily.

I have highlighted the important bits.

The source – Ms. Mingana Syr. 142, ff.48-61

Cumont tells us nothing much about the text other than that it is a) Christian, b) written in Arabic.  This is because he doesn’t know.  He is reliant on Giorgio Levi della Vida for his information.  In fact della Vida did send him a typewritten translation, on 6 pages, of which the first 4 pages are preserved among Cumont’s papers at the Academia Belgica in Rome.  The other two pages – the interesting ones – were no doubt tucked into a book by Cumont and are now lost.

The Mingana catalogue tells us that the manuscript itself was written around 1690, but that tells us nothing about the date of the text.  It also tells us that the text contains apocryphal quotations from Aristotle.

Back in 2008 I contacted the Mingana library, and obtained a copy of the text, and a translation was made for us by Martin Zammit.  Here are the materials:

Since we have an English translation, we can look at it.  Here is the relevant section:

As regards the sect of the Magians, we also mention to you what Zoroaster did in the days of ‘Adyūn (sic), the eighty-second king since Adam. He opened the temples of fire and made manifest miracles which attracted souls to obey him. Among his signs (he used to do the following): he used to be where the people were, so that they find themselves in the temples of fire, and those who look on think that they got burnt. All that was an act of magic. After (some) time the people were seeing that they (f. 59a) were at fault when they were in their temples, as attested in the Book of ZBHR and in other books of the Magians. Zoroaster also said this to his disciples: “Whoever does not eat my body and drink my blood, and mixes with me and I mix with him, he shall not have salvation.” When his deeds became great and his call spread throughout existence, they boiled him and drank his brew (?). Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world, opposed them with the true resuscitation of the dead, the healing of sicknesses and diseases, the cleaning of the lepers and the evildoers, the healing of the chronically ill and the disarticulated, the expulsion of demons and the annulment of the works of Zoroaster from all existence. At the end, our Lord said to his disciples: “Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood, he shall have perpetual life.”

This is all very weird stuff.  But we can certainly see that none of this has anything to do with Mithras.

The only question remaining is what on earth this quotation from “Zoroaster”, found in a medieval Arabic Christian text, actually is.

A related Cumont Article

By 1946 Franz Cumont was a very old man.  In fact his last article was published posthumously, and Andrew Criddle discovered that, just like the previous article, it contains material about strange Arabic Christian texts.  This illuminates what we are dealing with.

The article is F. Cumont, “The Dura Mithraeum”, in: J. R. Hinnels, Mithraic Studies 1 (1971), p.151 ff.  On page 181, note 171, Cumont refers back to his 1946 article above:

171.  Justin, Apol. 1.66 (cf. TMMMM 1, p.230). On this parody of the Eucharist see my article in RA 1946 pps 183f, especially 194, where I discuss a Syriac text in which certain Magi have apparently substituted the body of Zoroaster for the flesh of the bull in their sacrificial feast. The text in question is entitled The Book of the Elements (στοιχεῖα) of the World note that precisely these elements are represented in the Mithraic versions of the banquet.

I mentioned earlier that I wrote to the Academia Belgica to locate the translation by Giorgio Levi della Vida.  But they also found a letter written by orientalist P. J. de Menasce to Franz Cumont.  It was where he had left it, tucked inside his own offprint of the 1946 RA article.  Here it is, and I’ll give a translation in a moment.


After reading the fine article in the Revue Archaeologique which you had the great kindness to send me, for which I thank you very much, I dug out some photocopies of some Mingana manuscripts which I had made in 1938, and I found a letter of yours of 3rd December 1938 where, concerning Mingana Ms. 142, you already outlined the parallel with the famous text of Justin.

Please permit me two observations:

1. One relates to the translation (of Mr. Levi della Vida) quoted in your note 1 on page 194: with the text before me, I think that it should be translated:

“After some time, the people believed that they were resurrected, and that they were found in their houses.”  The text does not say ‘house of fire’ as it says it in the phrase where the expression is, quite rightly, translated by ‘pyrée’. This signifies, I think, that, by a magical operation they were made to come back to them. However this is of no importance… No more important is the detail that numbered the folios of the manuscript 158b and 159a instead of 58b and 59a, where, for the first letter of the name of the king contemporary with Zardasht, a ‘c’ has been substituted for the ‘ (ayin).

2. The second relates to another Karshuni text of the Mingana collection, Ms. Syr. 481, which contains a parallel text which I translate for you here:

folio 225b lines 17-20: “And Zardusht the Mage says, in the Book of the Elements of the World, to his disciples: He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I remain in him.”

This mention of the book of “stoixeia” is more suggestive than the mysterious “z b h r” of manuscript 142, but may help explain the latter.

The Greek word passed into Syriac and into Arabic (istaqis or istuqus) and remains in the language of classical philosophy down to Avicenna. It is very interesting to see these texts of such late origin throw some light on the archaeology of Mithraic monuments and connect them to the literary tradition of Hellenised mages. I hope, this winter, to go to Rome and to have the opportunity to visit the Mithraea of which you speak in your article of the Academie des Inscriptions.

In offering you my thoughts here once again, I hope that you find here, Sir, assurance of my most profound respect.

Fr. P. J. de Menasce O. P.

I cannot read Cumont’s scribble, but the reference to “the book of elements” in Ms. Mingana 481 is clear enough.

This, then, is the source for Cumont’s vague statement in the 1971 “Dura Mithraeum” article.

The second Mingana manuscript – Ms. Syr. 481, ff. 221v-225v

From all this we learn that we have a second Mingana manuscript, containing much the same idea. Maybe this could clarify what we are dealing with?

The Mingana collection catalogue (page 890) tells us that there are various items in the manuscript, which is not dated.  Ours is described as follows:

Again I contacted the Mingana collection at Birmingham University, and obtained images of the relevant pages of the manuscript.  From this a transliteration and translation was kindly made by Sasha Trieger.

Here’s a short bit:

Aristotle said also in his letter to Alexander the king: Be earnest, o king, in the pursuit of the water of life. You shall not find water of life except in a Man (225v) who is to appear in the world, clothed in this world’s clothes. If you find Him, you will find the water of life with Him. He will feed you with His food from the eternal Tree of Life. Water of life will be flowing from His hands.

He said in his treatise entitled the Book of Treasures: The treasure of life is the God Adonai, who is to appear in the universe. Those in the graves will hear His voice and will rise.

Yanfus the wise said: Glory (?) to you, o thrice-blessed, who is God the eternal (?), who shall die and abolish death clearly, when He will rise after three days.

Plato the wise said: No, by Him who sent me, verily they do not know what they speak, nor what they do. By this he means the priests of the sons of Israel who deny his words cited above.

Zoroaster the Magian said to his disciples in the Book of the Elements of Science:[3] Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, will remain in me and I in him.

To the Awesome Father, and to the Son who helped and assisted, and to the Holy Spirit who perfected may there be Glory now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.

This, no doubt, is the source for the material in Ms. Syr. 142, which, as the Mingana catalogue noted incorporates “apocryphal sayings” of Aristotle.  Clearly the words of “Zoroaster” are likewise taken from a collection of apocryphal sayings, just like this one.

About Sayings of the Pagan Philosophers concerning the coming of Christ

“Sayings” literature is a very specialist interest.  Some medieval Greek manuscripts that have come down to us contain collections of “sayings” of “wise men” of the past.  These collections, or different ones, also exist in Syriac, Coptic and Christian Arabic.  These “sayings” are known as “gnomologia” and much of the material in the past was printed in German.  Both the subject name and the language of scholarship have probably ensured obscurity.  The collections belong, not to the literary elite but to vulgar Greek culture.  The names of the authors on each saying could be changed, or lost.  The closest modern parallel is perhaps the joke book, where every saying tends to be attributed to Winston Churchill or Oscar Wilde after a while.  Authenticity is of no importance compared to impact.

Now part of the proof of the Christian gospel in the middle ages was that Jewish writers predicted the coming of Christ.  During this period, however, a second line of prophecy develops, from pagan philosophers.  Consequently there are collections of sayings, specifically for this purpose.  Sadly the “quotations” are all bogus.  But naturally these find their way into contemporary literature, and this seems to be exactly what has happened here.

This is already a long post, so it would not be useful here to discuss the gnomologia much further.  However there is a catalogue of unpublished Arabic Christian gnomologia in the standard handbook of Arabic Christian litterature, Georg Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, vol. 1, on pp.483-6, which I placed online and translated here.  This he introduces with the following words (translation mine):

The apologetical literature of the Christian orient used the doubtful evidence of falsified statements of ancient pagan authors and invented oracular sayings to confirm the divinity of Christianity and the truth of its teaching, as was also done to an almost indeterminable extent by Greek and late antique apologists.  Collections of such proofs of differing extent and with changing text also were taken into the Arabic language in theological works, where they appear both among collections of quotations and patristic citations or separately in the manuscripts.

He then lists the manuscripts that contain some of the collections.  Among these is …. Ms. Mingana Syr. 481, as given above.

Graf also gives other authors who make use of these collections.  Among these is John ibn Saba, The precious pearl, who also gives the Zoroaster quote.  Fortunately John has been printed in the Patrologia Orientalis 16.4, with a French translation.

Here’s the relevant bit, from chapter 19

Similarly, the spirit of Saturn (Zohal) appeared to a man named Zoroaster (Zarâdacht). His doctrine has been spread for one thousand five hundred years. He sent out on a mission seventy men on whom seventy spirits coming from the spirit of Saturn had come down and who invited the people to the worship of this star. Zoroaster said to them in the hour of his death: “If you do not eat my body and do not drink my blood, you will have no part in salvation.” After his demise, his disciples did therefore boil his body and drank of this turbid fluid. He thus obtained the accomplishment of what he had said to them.

It’s the same quote, transplanted into yet another unrelated work.


The claim made by Freke and Gandy is false.  No source ever suggested that Mithras uttered any such words.

Instead what we have is a medieval saying, falsely attributed to Zoroaster, preserved in Arabic.  The saying originates from a process where “quotations” were copied, edited, and “improved”, and, in the end, created a collection of sayings of pagan philosophers apparently predicting the coming of Christ.  There is no reason to attribute these words to anybody other than a too-credulous medieval Christian.  They originate in the gospel, not precede it.

UPDATE: I have just discovered a review by H.-C. Puesch, in Revue de l’histoire de religions 134 (1947), 242-244 online here, in which he makes many of the same points about this “saying”.  Puesch says that he received a letter from … Fr. P.J. de Menasce!  De Menasce apparently told Cumont about this in 1938.  He offers various corrections to the text printed by Cumont from Ms. Mingana Syr. 142, and states that the “lost Mazdaean text” referred to by Cumont was none other than the “Book of the elements” in Ms. Syr. 481.

  1. [1]The thread is archived here:
  2. [2]I have overparagraphed this for ease of reference.

Christmas trees in Livonia? Balthasar Russow (1579) in the Livonian Chronicle

It’s time for a Christmas post.  This may be out of period for us, but we can do a little digging into an obscure modern legend.

Europe became Christian around 400 AD, and Christmas itself originates in Rome in 336 AD.  But the first documented example of a Christmas tree at Christmas is in a register in the town hall of Séléstat in deeply Catholic Alsace, dated 1521.

However there is a low-visibility rumour going around that prior to this, in the 1400s, there was a Christmas tree used in Livonia, in the city of Reval.  Today, after the 1945 deportation of the Baltic Germans, Reval is called Talinn, and Livonia is called Estonia.

This claim may be found presently in the Wikipedia article:

Customs of erecting decorated trees in wintertime can be traced to Christmas celebrations in Renaissance-era guilds in Northern Germany and Livonia. The first evidence of decorated trees associated with Christmas Day are trees in guildhalls decorated with sweets to be enjoyed by the apprentices and children. In Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia), in 1441, 1442, 1510, and 1514, the Brotherhood of Blackheads erected a tree for the holidays in their guild houses in Reval (now Tallinn) and Riga. On the last night of the celebrations leading up to the holidays, the tree was taken to the Town Hall Square, where the members of the brotherhood danced around it.

This is backed by a “reference” which, as is too common, does not say all this: “Amelung, Friedrich (1885). Geschichte der Revaler Schwarzenhäupter: von ihrem Ursprung an bis auf die Gegenwart: nach den urkundenmäßigen Quellen des Revaler Schwarzenhäupter-Archivs 1, Die erste Blütezeit von 1399–1557. This may be found here, in a PDF with nice OCR.

It doesn’t take much searching to find an article at NPR where someone more informed than any of us are likely to be pours cold water on the claim.  But I thought it might be fun to look at the sources.

Amelung in fact directs the reader to something called the “Livonian Chronicle” by a certain Balthasar Rüssow, who published a Chronica der Provinz Lyfflandt in low German in1578.  A revised edition appeared in 1584, and may be found here.

Fortunately for the rest of us, it was translated into standard German and printed in 1845, and is available here and here, under the revised title of 
Livländische Chronik: Aus dem Plattdeutschen übertragen und mit kurzen Anmerkungen versehen durch Eduard Pabst

The work does seem to be  known most generally as Balthasar Rüssow’s “Livländlische chronik” or “Livonian Chronicle”.  No English translation exists.

P. 68 has two chapters of dated events, to 1547.  P. 69 has chapter 48 dated to 1549-51.  So there is some chronological order to this.  But we are interested in the next chapter.

Chapter 49 bears the heading, “Die alte gute Zeit in Livland”, “The good old days in Livonia”.  It is this that contains the words “Tannenbaum” and “Weihnachtsbaum”, in the following short section on p.82-3.  The context is a discussion of celebrations at various times of the year.

I will give the German, then a slightly revised version of Google Translate, as most of this doesn’t matter much.  I don’t guarantee the translation: I haven’t much time this evening, and German is not my language.  But we can get an idea.  The author was a Lutheran clergyman, as is perhaps clear from some of what he says.

… Und wenn sie den halben Lag über den Vogel geschossen und ihn herunter gebracht hatten, da wurde stracks dem neuen Könige mit großem Frohlocken von Jedermann Glück und Heil gewünscht. Da war dann keine geringe Freude bei des Königs Freunden und auch bei Denen, die auf ihn gewettet und gewonnen hatten. Nicht lange darnach wurde derselbige neue König mit Posaunen und mit der vorigen Procession aller Gildenbrüder zwischen den zweien Aeltesten der Gemeine durch die Stadt nach der Gildenstube begleitet. Da stund es vor allen Thüren voll Volks von Männern, Frauen, Jungfern, Kindern und allerlei Gesinde, welche den neuen König mit großer Verwunderung und Freude anschauten. Da mußte der König einen silbernen Vogel auf einer Stange in seiner Hand tragen, und sein stählerner Bogen samt dem Bolzen, da er den Vogel mit herunter geschossen hatte, wurde hoch vor ihm her getragen. Und wenn sie in die Gildenstube kamen, da Alles herrlich und wohl zugerichtet war, dann find da ihre Frauen und Töchter zu demselbigen Bankett auch vor-Handen gewesen. Da hat man dem Könige von den schmuckesten Jungfern eine Königinn erwählt, die bei ihm allein stets sitzen und tanzen mußte, unangesehen daß er eine Frau hatte. Und solch ein Fest der Vogelstange hat drei der nächsten Sonntage nach Ostern gewährt, weshalb die Prediger diese drei Sonntage Nachmittags gemeinlich gefeiert haben, dieweil sich Jedermann lieber bei der Vogelstange als in der Kirche finden ließ.

Auf Pfingsten sind die Bürger und Gesellen in den Mai geritten und haben dar einen Maigrasen, der am Beßten ein herrlich Bankett auszurichten 1) vermöchte, unter sich erwählt und mit großem Pompe eingeführt.2) Solche Maigrafschaften sind darnach von Jedermann und auch von dem gemeinen Pöbel den ganzen Sommer durch alle Sonntage gehalten worden, nicht ohne vielfältige Leichtfertigkeit. So waren auch noch sonderliche Vogelstangen etlicherwegen an lustigen Oertern aufgerichtet, dar die jungen Ordensherren, Bürger und Gesellen alle Sonntage den ganzen Sommer durch den Vogel um ein Kleinod geschossen haben, da denn viel Volks, jung und alt, bei Haufen sich hin verfügt, solche Kurzweil anzuschauen, und den Sonntag also zugebracht hat.

Dieweil solch Vogelschießen bei den jungen Ordensherren, Bürgern und Kaufgesellen in hohem Preise war, da begannen die vom Adel etlicherwegen solcher Kurzweil sich auch zu befleißigen und Vogelstangen bei ihren Pfarrkirchen kurz vor der Livländischen Veränderung aufzurichten, dahin denn Viele gegen das Pfingstsest über zehn Meilen Wegs um der Vogelstange willen gekommen sind, und sich mehr um das Vogelschießen als um Gottes Wort bekümmert haben. Mittlerweile, wenn sie über dem Vogel schössen, wurde ein herrlich Bankett in des Pastors Hause zugerichtet, wo sie sich über ihr Vogelschießen lustig und guter Dinge machten.

So haben auch die Bürger bei Wintertagen in Weihnachten und Fastnacht auf ihren Gildenstuben, und die Gesellen 3) in ihren Companieen eine nicht geringe Wollust 4) geübt. Und wenn der Kaufgesellen Trunk 5) ein Ende hatte, haben sie einen großen hohen Tannenbaum, mit vielen Rosen behängen, in den Fasten auf dem Markte aufgerichtet und sich gegen den Abend gar spät mit einem Haufen Frauen und Jungfrauen dahin verfügt, erstlich gesungen und geschlungen und darnach den Baum angezündet, welcher im Düstern gewaltig geflammt hat. Da haben die Gesellen sich unter einander bei der Hand gefaßt und bei Paaren um den Baum und um das Feuer her gehüpft und getanzt, dar auch die Feuerwerker Raketen zur Pralerei schießen mußten. Und wiewol Solches von den Predigern gestraft, ist doch solche Strafe gar nichts geachtet worden. Zudem ist dar auch mit dem Ringfahren 6) mit Frauen und Jungfern weder Maß noch Ende gewesen, beides Tag und Nacht und oftmals den Predigern, die Solches gestraft, zu Trotze und zu Leide.

Diese vorerwähnte große Wollust der Livländer ist dem Muskowiter sehr zuträglich gewesen; denn in solchem Wesen hat er auf seine rechte Zeit, Anschläge und Vortheil gedacht und sich auf Geschütz, Kraut und Loth 7) und auf allerlei Kriegsmunition gewaltig und überflüssig geschickt und den einen Büchsenmeister nach dem andern aus den Deutschen und Welschen Landen erlangt. Und wiewol die Livländer Solches alle- wol wußten, so waren sie doch in großer Wollust und Sicherheit so ganz ersoffen, daß sie es nicht achten konnten, sondern ihm noch Kupfer, Blei und allerlei Waare, so zu seinem Vornehmen wider Livland gedient, ganz überflüssig zugeführt, heimlich und öffentlich, wie Solches aller Welt bewußt ist.

Which comes out as:

And when they had shot half the lag at the bird and brought it down, everyone wished luck and salvation to the new king with great joy. There was then no small joy among the king’s friends and also among those who had bet and won on him. Not long afterwards the same new king was accompanied with trumpets and with the previous procession of all guild brothers between the two elders of the community through the city to the guild room. There was a crowd of men, women, maidens, children, and all kinds of servants at every door, who looked at the new king with great astonishment and joy. Then the king had to carry a silver bird on a pole in his hand, and his steel bow with the bolt, which he had shot down the bird with, was carried high in front of him. And when they came to the guild room, since everything was splendidly and well prepared, then their wives and daughters were also there for the same banquet. A queen was chosen for the king from the finest maidens, who always had to sit and dance with him alone, regardless of the fact that he had a wife. And such a feast of the birdpole happened for three of the next Sundays after Easter, which is why the preachers celebrated these three Sundays in the afternoons, as everyone preferred to be found at the birdpole than in church.

At Pentecost, the citizens and journeymen rode into May and chose a “May meadow”, where they could be able best to hold a glorious banquet among themselves and introduced it with great pomp. Such May festivities were kept by everyone, and also by the common people, all summer, every Sundays, not without a variety of levity. So there were also special bird poles set up at places of amusement, so that the young knights of the order, citizens and journeymen shot at the bird for a reward every Sunday throughout the summer, because a lot of people, young and old, wanted to have a go at this for a short time, and so they spent the Sunday.

Because such bird shooting was so prized among the young monks, burghers and merchants, the nobility began to work hard because of such entertainment and to set up bird poles in their parish churches shortly before the Livonian change, there because many at Pentecost over ten miles away came for the sake of the birdpole, caring more about bird-shooting than about God’s word. Meanwhile, when they shot at the bird, a wonderful banquet was set up in the pastor’s house, where they celebrated their bird shooting and in good spirits.

The citizens, too, have exercised considerable fun in their guild rooms on winter days in Christmas and Shrovetide, and the journeymen in their companies. And when the journeyman drinks had finished, they would set up a tall, tall Christmas tree, hung with many roses, in the market during the fasting and, late in the evening, arranged to go there with a bunch of wives and girls, first of all singing and dancing around it and afterwards set fire to the tree, which in the gloom flamed mightily. Then the journeymen took each other by the hand and jumped and danced around the tree and around the fire with couples, and let off firework rockets to celebrate. And however much the preachers preached against such things, such preaching was not at all respected. In addition, there was neither measure nor an end to the ring dancing with wives and girls, both day and night and often to defy and ignore the preachers who criticised such things.

This great celebration of the Livonians, mentioned above, was very beneficial to the Muscovite; for in such a manner he thought this was the right time, to plan attacks and advantages and he made great use of guns, kraut and loth, and all kinds of ammunition, and obtained one gunsmith after the other from the German and French lands. And although the Livonians knew this, they were so completely drowned in their great amusements and security that they could not pay attention to it; and he brought in the copper, lead and all sorts of materials, used in his campaign against Livonia, quite superfluously, secretly and publicly, as all the world knows.

Here’s the same material from the 1584 edition in low German:

So this “Christmas tree” (Tannenbaum – Dannenbaum in low German) as Russow calls it was set up in the winter days of Christmas and also at the start of Lent (Fastnacht), decorated with roses, and then burned as part of the festivities.   He is writing much later, at a time when Christmas trees are widespread.  It would be interesting to know what it was actually called at the time.

But burning Christmas trees and dancing around them isn’t really what we do, or not intentionally so.  So, on the face of it, this is a related idea, from the same period, and the same culture; a cousin of the Christmas tree, rather than its origin.


Finereader 15 includes Fraktur OCR! Finally!

Excellent news this afternoon.  It seems that the new version of Abbyy Finereader, version 15 (which for some reason they have renamed Finereader PDF 15) incorporates their excellent Fraktur recognition engine for the first time.

And it works!  I tried it out on some 19th century German text.

That is pretty darned good.  That’s exactly what comes out, without any editing!

This has been an awful long time coming.   Back in 2003 a “European Union” (i.e. German) project commissioned Russian software firm Abbyy to adapt their excellent OCR engine to handle Fraktur.  They did so, and the results were good.  But then somehow it all went wrong.  Instead of being added to Finereader, which we all were buying, they created a standalone version purely for Fraktur, at a price that only universities could afford.  The result is that for 17 years we have been denied the use of something paid for by taxpayers.  But no longer.

The addition feels a bit bodged in.  You turn on Fraktur recognition by selecting one of 6 languages.  Instead of the language being “German (Fraktur)”, it is “Old German”, so you don’t see it in the list of languages next to “German”.  But once you know, it’s fine.  That’s all you have to do; just select “Old German”.

Myself I can barely read texts printed in Fraktur, and German is not my best language anyway.  But with the help of this, and dear old Google Translate, we can see what these authors have to say!


Early 16th century maps of Rome and the Baths of Constantine

This is the last in our little series of posts of renaissance images of the Baths of Constantine in Rome.  The final group of witnesses are not strictly drawings at all.  They are views taken from maps of Rome produced in this period.[1]  The fashion was for aerial views, which means that monuments had to be depicted.  How accurate these are is another matter.  Nor are they always very easy to access online.

The first possible witness is from the 1493 Nuremberg chronicle, which includes a view of Rome.  I found a viewer for it here.  In the bottom left corner, there are some items of interest.

There are a set of statues in yellow, facing left.  These are plainly the horses of the Dioscuri, which stand today in the piazza outside the Quirinal Palace.  To their right is a reclining statue – possibly the Oceanus who was found in the same area.  To the left of these is an area of ruins or rock, and then two domed buildings.  The very well-researched Andrea Pollett website suggests that these rotundas were part of the Baths of Constantine.  But I do not know whether the area of ruins or rock is in fact intended to represent the edge of the Quirinal hill, in which case these are too far toward the Colosseum to be part of the Baths.

The same two rotundas appear in the map in Münster’s Cosmographia, again viewable at BLR Antique Maps:

This is a 1560 reprint – the original was 1544.  Here they are much closer to the horses.

Next we have the Duchetti map of 1572, also viewable at BLR Antique Maps, here.

The triangular temple fragment still stands, and the Disocuri, and some kind of structure “Ther. Constantini”.

Also interesting is the Mario Cartaro, Novissimae urbis Romae accuratissima descriptio, an etching of 1576, although I was unable to find this online.  This excerpt from it (from the Andrea Pollett site here) shows the opposite side of the wall in the Peruzzi drawing, as it ran along the street:

Below the “Thermae Constantina” is the raised triangle remains of the Temple of the Sun / Serapis of which I wrote elsewhere.  In the square to the left are perhaps the two statues of the Dioscuri.

But … here is the same view, from a different angle, in another map, Veduta di Roma, also by Mario Cartaro printed in 1579, only three years later (via here):

The statues in the Quirinale piazza face a brand new building.  The Baths of Constantine label appears to point to the structure below them, facing the church of S. Silvester.

Next in 1577 is the La pianta di Roma of Du Pérac-Lafréry.  I know my knowledge of this to this Italian site.

There is a rotunda, a collapsed mass of rubble against it, and above the lettering “Ther. Constan” there is a wall with an exedra.  The Dioscuri stand in the Piazza del Quirinale, here called “Monte Cavallo”, the hill of the horsemen.  The triangular temple is at the top, marked “Templum Solis”, temple of the sun.

And that’s our lot.  For by 1625 the Quirinal Hill looks quite different, in this plate by Giovanni Maggi:

The horsemen still stand on “Monte Cavallo”, now also Monte Quirinale.  The triangular temple is still there, although not for long, and the church of S. Silvester is down the hill.  But opposite stands the new “Palazzo Papale”, the papal palace (today the Presidential Palace), and next to it a massive new “Palazzo de Bentivogli” occupies the whole space where the Baths of Constantine once stood.  They are gone.

  1. [1]There is a mass of these online here, reproductions from a 1962 volume, A.P. Frutaz: Le piante di Roma.

Lanciani on the Baths of Constantine and some references

In this series of posts on the now-lost Baths of Constantine in Rome, I’ve posted renaissance drawings of what then remained.  The list of these I took from Platner & Ashby’s Topographical Dictionary of Rome (1929), 525-6, which I accessed via the excellent Lacus Curtius site here.  This states:

 Enough of the structure was standing at the beginning of the sixteenth century to permit of plans and drawings by the architects of that period, and these are the chief sources of our knowledge of the building (see especially Serlio, Architettura III.92; Palladio, Le Terme, pl. XIV; Dupérac, Vestigii, pl. 32; LS III.196‑197; Ant. van den Wyngaerde, BC 1895, pls. VI‑XIIIHJ 439, n131). The remains were almost entirely destroyed in 1605‑1621, when the Palazzo Rospigliosi was built, but some traces were found a century later (BC 895, 88; HJ 440, n133), and since 1870 (NS 1876, 55, 99; 1877, 204, 267; 1878, 233, 340).

We are fortunate that so many of these are online.  “BC” is the “Bulletino Comunale”, older volumes of which can be accessed online.  Via the key to the page, I find that “HJ” is H. Jordan, Topographie der Stadt Rom in Altertum. Vol. I, Part 3 (by Ch. Hülsen). Berlin 1906; and “LS” is R. Lanciani, Storia degli Scavi di Roma. vols. I-IV. Rome 1902‑12.  Volume 3 can be found at here, and pages 195-6 contain no illustrations but a useful list of those who made them, and other sources.  In particular:

Hanno studiato gli avanzi delle terme Fra Giocondo, B. Peruzzi, du Perac e seguaci, Wingaerde, Palladio, Grimaldi, e Alò Giovannoli. La scheda Uffizi 1535 del Giocondo, contiene molti particolari di basi fregi e cornici sopracariche d’intagli. …

Most of these we have looked at, but I might see what can be accessed from the rest.

Lanciani actually made some diggings in the area of the Baths of Constantine, so his opinions about the site deserve respect.  He included it in his plan of ancient Rome, the Forma Urbis Romanae, which can be accessed via here.  Here’s an excerpt:

Black is ancient, red is renaissance, green is modern.  Brown I think may be reconstruction?  The debt to the plan of Palladio is obvious.  I don’t intend to delve deeper into Lanciani’s work on the site, but I will post the photograph of the boxer found in his excavations and preserved in his papers at Stanford.  A larger image is available around the web.

I wonder where exactly this is?

Lanciani himself is now a long time ago, and archaeology has moved on since those days.  Surely there are more up-to-date sources?

The text of the old RealEncyclopädie article is actually online here, which gives a few references to articles.

I was also able to find a number of modern sources which I have not been able to consult from home.  I’d like to give a list, purely in case someone later comes along.  Via here and here I get these:

  • S. Vilucchi, “Le Terme di Costantino sul Quirinale e gli edifici privati di età precedente”, Bull. Comm. 91 (1986), 350-355.
  • I. Nielsen, Thermae et balnea.  The architecture and cultural history of Roman public baths, Aarhus (1990) vol. 1, fig. 62 C13.
  • S. Vilucci, “Thermae Constantinianae”, in: E. M. Steinby (ed), Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae (=LTUR), (1999), vol. 5, p.49-51; fig. 30-32 ad 89.  This is the modern replacement for Platner & Ashby, I gather; naturally it is out of print.
  • A. Carandini, Atlas of Ancient Rome, Princeton (revised ed. 2017).  This must contain a really modern overview, and is naturally impossibly expensive.

The building of the Palazzo Rospigliosi at the end of the 16th century did not destroy every remnant of this monstrous structure, and I gather that some material at foundation level may still be seen in the palazzo, if you have the right connections.[1]  More was visible before the construction of the Via Nazionale around 1900, as part of the process of transforming sleepy old papal Rome into a modern capital city.  The following engraving of “the remains of the baths of Constantine” was made by Luigi Rossini in 1817, on copper.[2]

Avanzi delle terme di Costantino su Quirinale – Luigi Rossini – 1817

I don’t know where this might be situated, however.

  1. [1]See the Trecani article linked above, which seems to rely on the LTUR article.
  2. [2]Image and information from the Galleria Trincia, here.

Serlio’s 1540 plan of the Baths of Constantine

The next item in our little series on the now-vanished Baths of Constantine in Rome is a plan, drawn by Sebastiano Serlio in the third volume of his Architettura and printed in 1540.  A hard-to-use copy is here, with the illustration on p.92 (“spread 49”).   The 1544 reprint is at the Digital Library in Heidelberg, and again on p.92.  Here is a reduced version:

The text at the top merely gives measurements for the rooms where the letters appear, but nothing about what the rooms are.  I wonder if the drawing was made by an assistant, with measurements?  It doesn’t sound as if Serlio has ever seen it.

This plan seems to differ a lot from the others.  I suspect that the problem is that all of them are largely guesswork, and that little was to be seen above-ground, even in 1540, without digging.

The text also calls this the “Baths of Titus”.  I include this drawing because it is listed as a plan of the Baths of Constantine in Platner and Ashby’s Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1929),  (online at Lacus Curtius here) as “Serlio, Architettura III.92″ with the curious footnote, “Ed. 1550; in those of 1544 and 1562 the reference is III.88. In all these the thermae are wrongly ascribed to Titus.”  But in fact the illustration in the 1544 is III.92 also.

Serlio was apparently the first renaissance architect to realise that a manual of architecture in the vernacular with copious illustrations might form the basis of a successful professional career.  Previous architects had issued tomes in Latin with no pictures and directed mainly at litterateurs.  Volume 3 of his book was devoted to Roman antiquities, which is why the plan is here.


What on earth is Palladio’s “Le terme dei Romani”?

When I started this little series on the Baths of Constantine, one of my references (from Wikipedia) was “Palladio, Le Terme, pl.XIV”.  A quick search revealed that this was Le terme dei Romani disegnate da Andrea Palladio e ripubblicate con la giunta di alcune osservazioni da Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi giusta l’esemplare del lord co. di Burlingthon impresso in Londra l’anno 1732, Vicenza: Francesco Modena, 1785; or a reprint thereof.

The 1785 edition can be viewed online here, but not downloaded.  This example is a double volume, first in Italian and then in French, with the plates at the end.  A version scanned by the Getty – the plates were done badly – may be found at here.  Some useful notes on the volume are at the Soane Collection here.

But Palladio lived in the 16th century.  One web page suggested that his plan of the baths should be dated “after 1570”.  He certainly wasn’t publishing material in 1785.  So what on earth was this volume?  Was it really Palladio’s material?

To add confusion, this volume is also sometimes listed as “volume 5” of Le fabbriche e i designi di Andrea Palladio, as for instance in this 1843 edition at here.

So what do we have here?

 Palladio based himself in the Venice area, so he did not live in Rome.  Instead he made visits at various points in his career to sketch monuments.  He produced ground plans, and also reconstructed elevations and sections.  The latter are not archaeologically accurate.  The buildings were in ruins, and his reconstructions are just that.  The plans vary.  While many are based on Palladio’s own survey of the remains, at least some are based on previous drawings, earlier sources that Palladio studied and copied in the studio.[1]

Palladio himself worked in three stages.  Firstly he sketched the building freehand on the site, with measurements.  Secondly the field sketch was transcribed back in the studio to produce a clean copy.  Finally this preparatory drawing was translated into a reconstructed plan of the complex.  Alterations could take place at each stage, as Palladio studied what he had.  Not all of these stages are preserved.  The freehand sketch of the Baths of Constantine has not survived, for instance.

The sketches, plans, elevations and sections of the Roman baths were something that Palladio worked on throughout his career, with the intention of publishing.  But he never did.  A four volume set of works on architecture did appear, the I Quattro Libri dell’Achitettura (Venice, 1570).  These were translated into English and French, and did much to help those who wanted to build in the classical style.  Interestingly he had little influence in Germany; a translation into German only completed two volumes before being abandoned.[2]

Meanwhile unpublished material by Palladio still circulated.  In 1613 architect-to-be Inigo Jones visited Italy for several months, carrying with him a 1601 reprint of Palladio’s book.  During the tour, he acquired a large number of drawings by Palladio.  Some he acquired from Palladio’s pupil, Vincenzo Scammozzi, others from Palladio’s surviving son Silla.   These passed through a series of hands until they were purchased by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1721 as part of a purchase of drawings and books for which he paid £170.

But Burlington had already gone to Venice himself in 1719, when he acquired a group of drawings by Palladio from someone.  These came, directly or otherwise, from Barnardo Trevisan, who owned the Villa Barbaro at Maser, believed to be the place where Palladio died.

Burlington then pasted these into seventeen albums.  When he died in 1753 they passed by marriage into the family of the Dukes of Devonshire.  In 1892 the 8th Duke lent them to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and in 1894 converted that to a gift in trust.  Curiously the deed specified that, if the RIBA ceased to exist within 25 years of the death of the last surviving great-grandchild of Queen Victoria, then the drawings should revert to the Devonshire family.  The last descendant, born in 1916, turned out to be Count Carl Johan Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg, who died in 2012.

A few drawings were overlooked and still remain at Chatsworth.  Another drawing from the Inigo Jones set, which Burlington accidentally did not purchase, has been in the library of Westminster Abbey since 1939.  The Burlington volume are held by the RIBA, who number the drawings using a Roman number for the volume and an Arabic number for the drawing within that volume.  I was unable to find a list of the drawings with their numbers, however.[3]

Burlington did more than just collect the drawings.  He published them.  The volume bears the title, Fabbriche antiche, disegnate da Andrea Palladio Vicentino; e date in luce da Riccardo Conte’ di Burlington (London, 1730), with an Italian preface by his lordship.  An excellent scanned copy can be downloaded in PDF from the ETH-Bibliotek in Switzerland here.[4]  The Baths of Constantine are on p.41-42 of the PDF.

The volume bears the date 1730, but it is unclear when it actually appeared, or how many copies were produced.  The Soane Collection suggest that it was privately printed in 1735 and copies from a print run of 20-100 copies were given as gifts by Lord Burlington.[5]

What the volume did NOT contain were any notes by Palladio, any explanation of the items, any key to the letters that Palladio had placed on the drawings.  These seem to be lost.

The next stage of the creation of Le Terme was taken by a Scottish adventurer and occasional charlatan named Charles Cameron.  In 1772 he self-published a handsome volume entitled The baths of the Romans explained and illustrated. With the restorations of Palladio corrected and improved. To which is prefixed, an introductory preface, pointing out the nature of the work. And a dissertation upon the state of the arts during the different periods of the Roman empire.  This may be found at here. This reprinted only 25 of the plates of Lord Burlington’s volume, as well as much other material, and added text in English and French, giving a key for Palladio’s annotations.[6]  The volume was not a commercial success, but it did establish Cameron’s reputation as an architect – he had been refused admittance to the Architects Club in London because of his dodgy financial dealings -, and he ended up building perfectly good, if cold, Palladian buildings in the colder Russian climate for Catherine the Great.

During the same period, between 1776-1783, an Italian neo-Palladian named Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi – he took the last name as a condition of a legacy left by Palladio’s pupil of that name – was issuing a “rationalised” version of Palladio in four volumes.[7]  It was he who created the “fifth volume”, our book Le Terme, in 1785.  He seems to have used Burlington’s book for the plates – the elevations are printed the same way round.  He refers a lot to “Signor Chameron”, gives the French title of his book, and Bertotti Scammozi’s key to the plan of the Baths of Constantine is a translation of Cameron’s.

And there we have it.  Bertotti’s 1785 book is where we started, with its curious title, and its curious contents.  The plates are indeed from Palladio; the text is guesswork two centuries later.

There is one further question that I came across, while reading, which I will mention here.  How accurate are Palladio’s drawings?

The study by La Follette that I have footnoted already states that his measurements are very accurate.  But there is an interesting article at the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art which discussed ways in which Palladio’s drawings fell short.  Calder Loth, “Can we Trust Palladio? Antoine Desgodetz Details Palladio’s Inaccuracies”, here, details the way in which a subsequent architect, Antoine Desgodetz, demonstrated that not all of Palladio’s drawings of column capitals were exact – in some cases he gave a standard form while the monument itself deviated from the norm.  Loth suggests that perhaps the use of assistants is to blame, and ends up by recommending the use of Desgodetz instead.   I did come across an article somewhere which recounts that similar criticism was levelled at Desgodetz by those who came after!  But I think we can leave that question to others.

  1. [1]For this and much else I am indebted to Laetitia La Follette, “A contribution of Andrea Palladio to the study of Roman thermae”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 52 (1993), 189-198.  JSTOR.
  2. [2]Many more details of editions and translations  and adaptations may be found in Deborah Howard, “Four centuries of literature on Palladio”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 39 (1980), 224-241.
  3. [3]These details I owe to the fascinating preface, “Provenance of the Palladio drawings in the British Architectural Library of the Royal Institute of British Architects” in Charles Hind & Irena Murray (ed.), Palladio and His Legacy: A Transatlantic Journey, an English translation from the Italian (2010), ISBN 978-88-317-0652.  Parts online here.
  4. [4]I only came across this copy while writing this very article.  The scanned copy accessible to me earlier, which has a letter at the front, is at the Hathi site here.  Sadly that scan comes from the Getty and once again the plates have been done badly.
  5. [5]See notes to the Soane Collection copy of the 1730 volume here.
  6. [6]See the Soane collection’s notes on its copy of Cameron here.
  7. [7]See Howard, “Four centuries”, 231.