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I. Gregorio Leti’s Life in Context: The ‘Long’ Seventeenth Century
The seventeenth century was a century of many changes: economically, socially and politically. “All across Europe, rulers sought ways to gain firmer control of their countries, and of the fractious nobilities whose religious and factional fights had produced so much disorder” While Italy and many other European countries struggled during the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic was thriving. This historical context is important in order to understand Gregorio Leti’s journey from Italy, Switzerland, England and France, to the final destination: Amsterdam, where he would spend the remainder of his life, and to better comprehend society’s response to Leti’s work and religious views.
Italy in the seventeenth century
The seventeenth century in Italy is often called the ‘iron century’: a period of struggles that put Italy on his knees. The paper will define Italy as a country, although during that period it was a conglomerate of multiple independent city states and Vatican lands. The causes were many. Italy was divided into multiple small states that were dominated by foreign powers, such as the Habsburg Empire and France. This geographical division. There also was a demographic decline. After 1585, Italy suffered from famine and plagues. Major cities like Milan, Naples, and Genoa, lost half of their population. The mortality rates instilled fear in the population, leading to witch hunts and the persecution of Jews, who were accused of causing the calamities and plagues. Economically, the situation was dire as countries in North-Western Europe such as England and the Dutch Republic now were the main manufacturers of textiles, which undermined the position of the Mediterranean ports Moreover, the country was drained by the constant conflicts, both at home and abroad. The multiple wars in Europe, such as the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) and the conflict between the Ottomans and Iranians (1623-1639) ruined Italy’s export markets. Between 1628 and 1659 Spanish, German, French, and Piedmont armies battled each other in the north of Italy. The period between 1628 and 1631 was particularly marked by war, political unrest, and famine. While an outbreak of the plague was taking over the country, internals wars started, such as disagreements over the succession in Mantua and Monferrato. In 1647, revolts broke in Palermo and Naples against the Spanish feudal lords who were colonizing the area. As the colonizers wanted to expand their territory and have more power and wealth in Italy, the Spanish soldiers raided the villages, causing the population to abandon their farms which in turn led to a famine.
While the country was faced with deep social troubles, the economy was also degrading quickly. In the decade between 1611 and 1620, the agricultural production and urban industries went into a crisis. In the south, the soil was exhausted because of extensive wheat production and deforestation. The north was facing an overexpansion of unproductive land, as intensive agriculture was needed to support the large cities, again causing soil depletion. On the other hand, in the cities, wool manufacturing fell by 50%, in some places coming to a complete standstill, while silk was the only product that still was making some profit for the population. The early industrial lead created during the Renaissance was lost because of competition coming from manufacturers North-Western Europe, as their products were cheaper and started to gain dominance in the Italian markets. Moreover, the Italian guilds opposed technological changes and increased taxes, nor were they willing to accept higher labour costs, creating a long-term crisis. The only region that managed to escape the negative trend was Lombardy. While the economic regression favoured the nobles and reinforced the stagnant social hierarchy, the Church was still in charge. It controlled every aspect of social life, owned vast areas of land, and controlled the education of the ruling class. With this economic crisis, the division between rich and poor widened, adding another problem in a country that was already in shambles. The peasants were forced by the landowning aristocracy into a state of slavery without any rights. The agricultural crisis led to heavy taxes, raised in order to restore the economy, the result of which were revolts by the peasants who refused to pay. The failing economy also created a monetary crisis, which had its effects all over Europe. Only the Dutch Republic and the British Isles were able to escape the consequences.
Geneva in the seventeenth century
The seventeenth century in Geneva was also a century of “misfortune” faced with famine, plague and political issues with the Duke of Savoy and the Sun king. It was century of transition: the economy developed from crises and economic slumps to a new industrial economy, from a focus on the Mediterranean economies towards the Atlantic economies. Culturally, Geneva went a from a scholastic protestant focus onto the acceptance of rationalism and a shift towards the Enlightenment. Geneva was following the Calvinist orthodoxy and pastors and ministers were educating the population.
As the century begins, the Republic of Geneva was caught between war and peace. The Protestant side of the city was constantly thorn in Catholicism’s side and becomes, even though not directly named as such, under the protection of the king of France after the 1601 treaty of Lyons which ended the war between France and the Duchy of Savoy. In the night of 11th of December, 1602, the forces of Savoy attempted to invade Geneva without any prior declaration of war. This failed attempt consolidated the status of the city as a Sacred City. With the help of its allies (Zurich and France) and the possibility of a new war between Henry IV and Savoy, Geneva managed to obtain a Treaty of Independence from the Duke of Savoy which solved a century of wars.
Hitherto bipolar, the external relations of Geneva changed as France became its protector. Starting with a form of preferred assistance under Henry IV, this relationship evolved into a form of protectorate and satellite state under Louis XIV who assigned a permanent French Resident in Geneva, sign of a dreaded reunion into the French territory. This was a direct consequence of the birth of absolutism under Louis XIV which required a strong renewal of Catholicism and an expansionist external policy which was a direct threat to Geneva. The Resident was meant to be a direct influence on the city, which would then comply with France on interior as well as exterior matters. This influence was however directly limited by the Duchy of Savoy which would not have Geneva fall into the hands of France but most importantly by the Helvetic allies of Geneva: the Bern and Zurich cantons. This form of double protectorate between France and the Helvets ended up in Geneva being first a recognized friendly territory of the Helvets and, shortly after, the 14th cantons of the Helvetic Confederation. Although France was an important ally against the Duchy of Savoy, Louis XIV was nonetheless a formidable threat who also had his eyes on the Republic. Diplomacy and steadiness allowed Geneva to survive and even gain recognition as a Swiss canton. The Republic of Geneva signed a peace treaty in 1603 with the Duchy of Savoy. The failed invasion did not reduce the claims from Savoy and simply shifted a century-old open war into a form of cold war.
The previously mentioned failed invasion by the Savoy lead to tumultuous internal political life, where the society lead a witch hunt against anyone responsible for the invasion, and this culminated in arrests and death sentences. Geneva was torn in a power struggle between councils which made it a highly oligarchic regime despite some efforts towards a more democratic approach. This power struggle was also exemplified by the gradual reduction of the Ministers’ power towards the Magistrates, though the former still managed to keep a role of counter power against the latter.
Socially and economically, Geneva was facing a demographic crisis throughout the century with plague and famine. Economically, the first half of the century (from 1620 until 1650s) was a dark period faced with unemployment after the silk manufacture fell. This coincided with the Thirty Years’ War. After the Thirty Years’ War, the economy became prosperous as trade boomed with Germany, the Dutch Republic and England. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV which led to Geneva putting on a Refuge status. The refugees were small bourgeois, often specialized in trade or craft. This boom in the demography led a favourable addition to the already present workforce.
France in the seventeenth century
As previously mentioned, Italy was not the only European country facing multiple changes and facing economic, political, and social uncertainty. Mostly between 1630 and 1750, France was faced with depression. The seventeenth century was tumultuous and full of violence such as the atrocities of 1675 in Bretagne and peasants uprising in 1636-1639). Moreover, the society faced profound changes (Jansenist, Piety, harlotry) followed by an era of zenith for the absolute monarchy by Louis XIV which lead to the decline.
Economically, the century is marked by a slump. In the countryside, feudality still existed but required so much bookkeeping the noble families started migrating towards a more bourgeois class while making their agrarian possessions survive from the trade accidents. Depending directly or indirectly from agriculture, they were sensitive to production and thus to farming techniques which were still limited. Peasants work remained very tedious and exhausting. They were almost in famine during agricultural crises, barely made it otherwise as the prices fell but the taxes remained the same. They often had to get in debt or sell their lands. It is important to make the distinction that feudality in this context did referred to a land-based economy dominated by a class but legally free and generally owners of the land on which they work. The population was always on the brink of insurrection, sometime against feudality, sometimes against monarchy, but always against taxes. The population’s unhappiness was mostly fuelled by under-eating caused by the falling of wages and inflation, which caused multiple revolts during this century, some incited by the lords. Moreover, the country spent lots of money during the Thirty Years War. There was a front Monarchy-Nobles-Bourgeois keeping in check the popular masses. Capitalism was limited to cities by monarchy and bourgeois only reached the higher classes by mixing themselves into nobles. Sometimes, the lords incited the peasants to refuse paying the taxes and were the cause of revolts: there was not a perfect relationship between feudal lords and monarchy.
Moreover, regions were independent and fractured: similarly to the Italian cities, the French regions spoke different lifestyles, languages and traditions. France could almost be considered a federal state during the seventeenth century. Intellectual elites supported unity of the country under the monarchy. This support grew into a notion of an absolute monarchy, which was compared to the sun, divinely chosen, with undividable and total power. The monarchy changed and evolved during this century: from 1610 to 1661, the government was under Louis XIII control, with a Prime minister holding absolute power but always responding to the king. During that period, the government was composed of ministers, secretaries, and officers. From 1661 to 1715, the power was held only by the king, which was seen as half king half god, only constrained by Christianity. Every decision was only final when the king accepted it. This strong administration grew into a technocratic machine, anonymous, complex, which risked subduing power from the king by controlling what information could reach him. The monarchy under Louis XIV was very similar to a religion with it god (the king), its priests (dignitaries, the court), its dogma (absolute monarchy), its temple (Versailles), and the believers (the subjects). This was made possible by many variables such as the support of the Bourgeoisie, the support of a renewed Catholicism, but mostly the presence of a permanent army needed to deal with the quasi-constant state of insurrection in the countryside as well as the protection of borders against wars with neighbours. The power was concentrated into a city: the state would move from castles to castles before settling in Versailles. This absolute monarchy was welcomed in times of absolute mayhem between the insecurity all over the territory, a treacherous nobility, and famines. This was a response to a crisis of faith in the people who didn’t trust ministers anymore. At the beginning, those who disapproved did it in silence as the public opinion was in favour of the king. However, the failures of the regime fractured the image of absolutism and started the decline of the absolute monarchy.
Religiously, there was a Protestant minority which was not recognised any rights before Henry IV’s Edict of Nantes, in 1598. This edict granted the Huguenots the right to practice their religious in public areas in specific areas of the country. Moreover, they became eligible to attend school and university, The Edict of Nantes began a truce and gave some space for the Protestant minority. Unfortunately, this did not last long, as Louis XIV revoked the Edict in 1685, forcing the Huguenots to emigrate to the Dutch Republic.
England in the seventeenth century
During this century, England’s politics were mayhem. The first reign was from 1603 until 1642. James I wanted to unite Scotland and England but he failed to do so and remained the King of the three distinct kingdoms: England, Scotland, and Ireland. This quest for unity is sometimes seen as a trigger of Civil War in 1642. As for unity, England was already the best example of united nation of the century, using local elites to rule and fused into a nation around the King, the Parliament, the common law, the religious unity as well as free trade among the counties. Such unity was still under threat during the Thirty Years’ War where the puritans of England could not understand the measure and calm of their moderate counterparts. For the former, the division of faith and politics is a heresy.
The King, stuck between Puritanism and Papism, chose a moderate Protestantism to keep the peace (translation of the bible in English, the King James Bible). This first reign is marked by a constant conflict between the King and his royal prerogative against the Parliament.
After James I, his son Charles I became King and after some conflict with the Parliament, he achieved to have a personal reign, often dubbed as the “Eleven years of tyranny”. This change comes after the Parliament, refusing to honour a tradition which grants the king right for life over customs tax, refused the notion of tax being imposed without their consent. This revealed a divergence of opinion as to whether the king is dissociable from the law. Associated to a profound divide between the three kingdoms, an era of revolution arrived, leading to the English Civil War.
Between 1642 and 1660, as the Scottish rose against England, Charles I assembled a parliament he dissolved quickly (Short Parliament) and then another one (Long Parliament). This parliament started a long work of reform, religious and political, assuming a clear anti-papism and attacking, if not the king, his advisors. These reform started a papist backlash from Ireland alarming Charles I. As the conflict grew, the Parliament got more moderate though fractured between those who dreamt of a united national church and those who believed in independent congregations.
The army, unpaid and radicalised, scared the parliament as General Oliver Cromwell general rose. A second Civil War was started where the army purges parliament, king, monarchy, and proclaims the Republic. The first written constitution was created under the command of Lord Protector Cromwell who refused the crown twice. His death in 1658 marks the end of this reign after Charles II, son of Charles I, came back from exile to reign on his kingdoms. After the civil war, there was a relative unanimity from the people in front of generosity and pardon from the returning king, even though the situation never returned to what it was before 1640 as the power the parliament earned would not be taken away. However, society was still religiously divided. No national religion was established, and there was an anti-papism idea still alive. This was a major problem to Charles II who had, secretly and to have an ally in the war against Holland, accepted money from Louis XIV to bring England back to Catholicism. The aggressive anti-papism still present in the country spoiled those plans and forced the government to install discriminatory measures.
The decade between 1678 and 1688 started with an air of paranoia: rumours of Catholic and Jesuit conspiracies lead to dozens of executions. Those rumours then become true, leading to exiles of Protestants to Holland like John Locke who got inspired for the Glorious Revolution. As the Prince of Orange invaded the country, James II, who had succeeded to his brother, fled to France. Wilhelm of Orange and his wife were offered the crown of the three kingdoms provided they signed a Bill of Rights placing the king under the law. Simultaneously, a religious compromise was found to reconcile non-conformists and Anglicans. Unpopular, Wilhelm became William III, and he recognized by France which was still protecting James II. During William III’s reign, Parliament installed the House of Hannover and finished the dynasty of Stuarts with Queen Anne, daughter of James II.
The Golden Age of the Dutch Republic
While in this period many European countries faced deep economic, demographic, political and social issues, the Dutch Republic witnessed a veritable Golden Age. The country saw an unprecedented economic success, largely thanks to its mercantile fleet which became the biggest of Europe. The seventeenth century also was the period when the country became the centre of the book trade.
The Dutch Golden Age was the result of multiple factors, among which one of the most relevant was the immigration of skilful workers. Most of the newcomers came as religious and political refugees from the Southern Netherlands, what now is Belgium. For eighty years the Dutch fought to become an independent nation, until 1648 they finally achieved recognition and independence from Spain. The decline of Antwerp, which was taken by the Spanish in 1585, was a major factor in the flourishing of Amsterdam. Other immigrants came from France, Germany, the British Isles, the Iberian Peninsula, and Eastern Europe because of the religious tolerance that existed in the young state. When in 1685 the French king Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, this again resulted in waves of refugees, better known as the Huguenots, coming to Holland. They too played an important role in the economic success of the Republic, including that of the Dutch book trade.
The Dutch Republic, moreover, was a federal state: the Seven Provinces created by the Union of Utrecht of 1579 were largely independent and, as a result, central power which resided with the States General in The Hague was weak. This means that the country was more tolerant towards different cultures and religions, and immigrants were welcomed. The Dutch economy received a boost from these immigrants, who brought new knowledge and skills in trade and industry. Rich merchants and financial insurers established themselves in Amsterdam, pushing the production of finished goods for export and creating a staple market. The Dutch Republic also had a maritime superiority, making it a trading centre for a wide variety of goods from all over the world. This position was strengthened by a good infrastructures of roads, rivers and waterways which allowed a quick and reliable transport of goods to the hinterland. The North Sea also gave easy access to European markets.
With a booming economy the country furthermore witnessed a flourishing in other spheres. Literacy was high as primary and secondary education were available to many middle class citizens. But even in the countryside, schools could be found. By the middle of the seventeenth century, most provinces had their own universities. Leiden, the University of Holland, was the oldest, having been founded in 1575. The intellectual climate also benefitted from the diverse cultures and religions cohabiting in the country.
The factors mentioned above resulted in the Dutch Golden Age. And as the Dutch Republic was the centre of an economic boom, it also became the centre of the book trade in this century. According to the English historian Graham Gibbs, the Dutch Republic was the “unquestioned intellectual entrepot of Europe.” It attracted cultured people to produce books without being much censored and controlled by the government or the church. As mentioned before, the immigrants were skilful workers, and that also included the art of printing, publishing and bookselling. Publishers such as Willem Jansz Blaeu in Amsterdam even produced Catholic Church books both for the Catholics in the country and abroad. Although the Dutch Reformed Church in Amsterdam did not agree with the production of such material, the city magistrates did nothing to prevent this activity, since it was very profitable for both the printer and the city. Dutch printers also produced cheap Bibles in multiple languages such as English, French and Hungarian for export only, in order to satisfy demand elsewhere in Europe, where bibles were much more expensive. The books printed were produced in very large quantities in small format, in which the Dutch publishers were experts. Printing and publishing became such an important part of the Dutch economy, that as many as 270 booksellers and printers could make a living in the last quarter of the century.
So, while most other European countries were struggling in the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic thrived, economically, politically, socially, culturally, and intellectually. It made the country an ideal haven for refugees and immigrants such as Gregorio Leti, as the following chapters on Gregorio Leti’s life, his work and his library aim to demonstrate.
II. Gregorio Leti
Gregorio Leti was born in Milan in 1630, and he was the nephew of the Bishop of Acquapendente, a city in Umbria. He was raised by Jesuits in Cosenza for five years after his father died (a city in Calabria, in the South of Italy and quite far from Leti’s birthplace). His life was shaped by Catholicism, which historians believe is the reason for his deep hatred of the religion and his decision to leave Italy in order to purse fame in France.
Leti’s life is shaped by drama and controversy, a historian who loved to spice up his novels and history books with personal anecdotes and scandals that plagued the subjects of his manuscripts. Exiled from three different countries (Switzerla006Ed, France and England), he finally settled in Amsterdam, the city that welcomed refugees from all nationalities and religions. As discussed previously in this paper, Amsterdam became the centre of the book trade after Antwerp was colonized by the Spanish; it also became the refugees’ place for the Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. To this time, the research on Gregorio Leti is conflicting; historians such as Luigi Fassò describe him as a character who made a lot of enemies, and yet managed to connect with the highest institutions, such as King Louis XIV and King Charles, who both recognized Leti’s writing power and the danger he posed to their reputations. There are multiple accounts on his life. For example, (name) states that Leti did not speak French, although he lived in Geneva for most of his life and he published manuscripts in French such as the “Critique… sur les lotteries”. The general conclusion on Leti’s character is that Gregorio Leti was a charismatic writer who knew how to rise up in society and make powerful friends.
Before analysing Leti’s library, and his eventful life, it is important to note his childhood and the role Catholicism had in his life. After being raised by Jesuits, he went to live with his uncle in Rome. The uncle started to push him into becoming a judge, and later a priest like himself. The pressure from his uncle to follow his footsteps led Leti to go live with his mother again in Milan, until her death in 1646. After her death, Leti was forced to go back to his uncle, who by then became a vicar in Orvieto and started educating him quite harshly. Historians believe that the uncle is the reason for Leti’s intolerance towards Catholicism since he was a teenager, and the need for Leti to travel. He went to Naples, Milan and Rome, all the major capitals in Italy at the time. Around 1654, his uncle finally realized Leti’s intolerance for Catholicism was not going to lessen and decided to let him free to travel.
After 1654, Leti’s life is quite unclear. It is know that between 1653 and 1657 he started his writing career in Bologna, but his dream was to find fortune in Paris. On his way to Paris, he stopped in Turin to be a publicist and made it to Geneva where, in 1660, he married the daughter of Jean-Antoine Guérin, a Genevan doctor. It was in Geneva that Gregorio Leti officially became a Calvinist and his fame grew. Geneva was Leti’s introduction to Calvinism and where his satirical and pseudo-political manuscripts started to receive interest from the population. His writings went on people’s radar with his first novel “L’amore di Carlo Gonzaga duca di Mantova e della contessa Margarita della Rovere” gaining popularity. He achieved more visibility with “Vita di donna Olimpia Maldachini”. As described by historian Fassò, Leti cared about becoming famous with his writing, and Geneva was the first step of Leti creating a reputation, although it was not always positive. During his writing career, Fassò describes that he published 23 works in 12 years. However, it is impossible to determine Leti’s full bibliography. Some of his books had been censored, while some of the books attributed to him were written by two different authors: Tommaso Tomasi and Giovanni Girolamo Arconati Lamberti. In fact, (author) states that he wrote around 30 books on Italian courts, pseudo-political, as well as against the Pope. Nonetheless, Gregorio Leti spent most of his life writing about historical events and biography of powerful people, still chasing fame.
Gregorio Leti in Geneva
On his way to France, Leti decided to expand his stay in Geneva in 1660, where he stayed until his eviction in 1679. In Geneva, he married the daughter of Jean-Antoine Guérin, a Genevan doctor that helped Leti settle down in Geneva, as well as convert to Calvinism. Here, he had five children: four daughters and one son; the oldest daughter married Jean Le Clerc, a famous theologian that lived in Geneva but died in Amsterdam. It was in Geneva that most of Gregorio Leti’s writing was done, while he was teaching language and history to the nobles of the city in order to make more money and conquer the favour of important students. Some of the students were the Prince of Curlan, a Solms that was the English ambassador in Turin. His time as a private teacher brought him money, since nobles paid very well, but he also became well-known and started profiting more on his books. The Church did not agree with his writing and his statements, believing his description of the Church was anti-papal and his statements inaccurate. On the other hand, the government liked Gregorio Leti and his teachings helped him gain the favour of the higher society in Geneva.
This favour, however, was lost in July of 1979, when he was forced to leave Geneva in secret because of the book “Vita di Filippo II”. The book was a biography of Philip II, the King of Spain between 1527 and 1598. In the preface of the book, Leti wrote about a disease he had, which almost killed him. Although it is unclear what disease it was, Leti mentions that Pastors visited him to prepare him for his death, and mentioned how Pastor Benedetto Calandrini tried to prevent his colleagues from visiting Leti. This information was seen poorly by the Catholics: the Spanish ambassador in Switzerland, Alsonso Casati, sent an anonymous letter to the Swiss government asking for the book to be censored from the market and banned completely from being sold. Leti explained to the Council of Two Hundred (Consiglio dei Duecento) that his book did not contain any information against the Spanish, using his charm and the respect he gained to prevent himself from being expelled, although making his enemies even bitter until the Council had to expel the Leti from the country. This event lead to the writing of one of his most voluminous work, “L’Historia Ginevrina” (the Genevian History) in 1686. Gregorio Leti’s dream to go to Paris came back, and that’s were Leti and his family head to.
Gregorio Leti in France
Leti’s dream was always to go to France. Firstly, when Leti got exiled from Geneva, he decided to move to the Dutch Republic or England, but he decided to go to France in order to be seen as haunted by the Genevian Calvinists. In France, Leti stayed for two months after the Genevian scandal. Leti had settled with his family at Gex, and he spent those two months trying to create contacts with multiple public figures, mostly with the adviser and secretary of the king, Henry Justel. This connection became important, and King Louis XIV took Leti under his protection, mostly as he believed he would receive positive reception by the population by protecting a reformed persecuted for religious reasons. This was advised by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the Minister of Finances for the King during the seventeenth century. Protecting Gregorio Leti would have been a good political move for the King, as he had not revoked the Edict of Nantes yet. Leti was entrusted to become the official historian of Louis XIV in the Italian language. Leti thought he had finally achieved his dream, however this was short-lived: the sovereign was expecting Leti to convert back to Catholicism in order to stay
Gregorio Leti in England
After officially leaving France, Leti moved to England in 1680 where he thought he could be accepted as a Calvinist. There is not much information of the period he was in England. The only evidence of his stay comes from ten letters that Leti sent to his friend Antonio Magliabechi, a scholar and librarian who was an important figure in the literary world in Florence. Many scholars corresponded with him, including Gregorio Leti. Leti arrived in England during a tumultuous time, making it harder for Gregorio Leti to settle in this country. Between 1679 and 1681, England faced the Exclusion Crisis; three Exclusion bills were created in order to prevent the Duke of York (and brother of King Charles II) from becoming King since he was a Roman Catholic. These bills forced King Charles II to dissolve the Parliament twice, which lead to the creation of two parties: the Tories and the Whigs, with the latter supporting the bill against the Duke. The three bills never passed, but the tumultuous period made it more difficult for Gregorio Leti to find support in this country, because of all the political divide during the crisis. Nonetheless, Leti was accepted at the Court in Oxford, although it wasn’t because of his charming personality. Known as a pamphleteer and someone who could spark controversy and satirical works, the diplomats of the Court wanted to keep Leti happy. From the moment he arrived in England, he became close with Francesco Terriesi, an Italian diplomat from Florence who moved to England in 1668. Terriesi first moved to England as a merchant, and his Florentine House made him the centre of commerce between England and Florence, and made him popular in the English court. Because of his social ability, he became a very important connection for Gregorio Leti, who believed he could find protection under King Charles II, since Leti had dedicated one of his books to the King’s brother. Leti had a method for each country he visited: he hoped that, by making the right friends, he would be able to join the court and be protected even if his writings were scandalous. Leti’s connection expanded, as he would dine with Gilbert Burnet, Isaac Vossius and John Pearson, important figures in the 17th century England, and would make contacts with multiple nobles and reformed ecclesiastical. Although Leti did not speak English, he still got introduced to Charles II and he presented “Panegirico in lode” in 1681, hoping King Charles II would give him pecuniary compensation, and the task of writing the history of England and become his official historiographer. He moved on the Thames in Chelsea with his family and started writing “Il Teatro Britannico”, the history of England that was going to give him money and protection. Unfortunately, this was not the case and Leti was ordered to leave Britain because of his comments against the English domestic politics. In fact, the book was dedicated to the secret marriage of the Duke of York with Anna Hyde, and mentioned the way Charles II would mistreat his wife, Queen Catherine of Braganza. He also alluded to the private life of nobles and dignitaries. The book sparked outrage in the Royal Society, and the secret Council ordered the confiscation and destruction of all the copies of the book, and forced Leti to leave the country. There was no other place for Leti but Amsterdam, the city known for accepting refugees.
The final destination: Amsterdam
The Dutch Republic was seen by Leti as the ‘arc of fugitives’, since French refugees would arrive in Amsterdam from 1681 and receive citizenship and right to work. He arrived in Holland in 1683, where he was received well, mostly by the Italian community that lived in the country. He received the citizenship on May 3rd: he taught French and Latin (the most popular languages at the time) to Borgomastri twice a week, for the 36 councillors, governors and children of noble people. In addition, he became professor of history and politics, and he would do a conference on various topics such as history. During his stay, he was introduced to Pierre Bayle in 1684: Pierre Bayle was a French refugee who had to flee his country because of his religion, since he was a Calvinist Protestant. Moreover, he was a philosopher, and he became the first encyclopaedist. Bayle was introduced to Leti by Jean Le Clerc who, has mentioned previously, had married Leti’s older daughter. Through these social connections, Leti was able to become an official Historian of Amsterdam and citizen in 1685; this title gave him the prestige and time to write freely and try to guarantee himself subsidy sources and new protections by recovering his relations with the countries he had previously angered.
Firstly, he created a second edition of “Il Teatro Britannico” in 1684, making it five volumes and changing the first volumes in order to delete the sections that caused his expulsion from the country. Moreover, he wrote “William III of Orange, The prodigy of nature and gratitude” in 1695: this was a poem in octave dedicated to William of Orange’s conquest of England. Leti had written this poem in order to re-establish relations with the English court and reinstate his connections within the country. Furthermore, he wrote a second edition of “Historia Ginevrina”, retracing the events in his favour and showing how the government poorly treated him. Before writing this second edition, Leti tried to blackmail the government of Geneva: he would renounce his publication in exchange for generous compensation. This attempt failed, and the second edition of “Historia Ginevrina” was published in 1686. Lastly, after dreaming of France since his youth, Leti decided to distance himself from Louis XIV after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and the war against the League of Augsburg in 1886. He took this decision in order to preserve the role he had conquered in the Dutch Republic, as Leti believed that the Dutch Republic’s democratic system was superior to monarchy. The Dutch culture influenced Gregorio Leti greatly: he abandoned the theory of Imago Dei in order to praise the Republican and Democratic princes that had given him such a good position in the Netherlands.
Lastly, before his death, he published “Critique sur les lotteries” around 1697, which interrupted the calm years he had spent in Amsterdam, as he was greatly criticised and lead to the excommunication from Calvinism. This manuscript stated Leti’s idea that existence is random and precarious, negating that institutions and man’s actions have any effects. Theology student Pierre Ricotier strongly discredited Leti by responding with “Considérations sur la Critique sur les lotteries de mr. L”. Leti had to defend himself once again, by describing his religious fidelity and retracing some incriminated statements.
Gregorio Leti died on 9 June 1701 for an apoplectic attack in Amsterdam, and he was buried in the local church. All of his books were given to his daughters.
Gregorio Leti Works and Reputation
Gregorio Leti was an influential writer and Calvinist during the seventeenth century; however, he has mostly been forgotten by modern historians. He is now just remembered by historians as someone who liked to write about gossip, and based his writings on unreliable sources and hearsay. Philip Major describes Leti has someone who put together anecdotes and gossip in a coherent narrative, which lead to a mislead description of events and people in his works. According to Major, Leti’s works should not be used to base any new research on, but simply a resource to integrate anecdotes. He believes that Leti’s work can be foreshadowing a new writing style for history (such as Marchamont Nedham’s writings), where the narrative is based on newsbook sources, rather than a more classical style of historical writing.
Leti was described by historians as outspoken, even reaching the level of being obscene against the Church and Europe’s principal states. He was full of wit, and wrote biographies of Popes and monarchs that were written well, but nonetheless unreliable.
The most known manuscripts written by Gregorio Leti that have created discontent and have been mentioned, and will be further analysed in this thesis, are the following: “Teatro Britannico”, “Historia Genevrina”, “Vita di Elisabetta”, “L’amore di Carlo Gonza”, ” Vita di Sisto V”. Gregorio Leti was a controversial figure, full of contradictions; this thesis will attempt to further clear his religious and political beliefs by understanding what he read and the manuscripts owned in his library in the following chapters.
III. Book Catalogues and Database Methodology
“Studies of book ownership and reading among different classes of society help to understand the economic and social development of society as a whole, ways of people’s communication and spread ideas.
Inventories of books from private owners, libraries or bookshops can be valuable in understanding society. Books are important material objects, however there has been very limited effort in the past years to analyse book lists and inventories. By analysing the books owned by a person, we can learn about their political and religious views, and the life of the library owner. This paper is attempting to analyse Gregorio Leti’s book catalogue from 1701, the year of his death, and conclude whether the few biographies on the author are decisive in his religious views and personal life. By analysis his book ownership, the thesis will attempt to understand in more depth Leti’s personality, while also touching upon the reading preferences and book trade in the seventeenth century. The chapter will describe book catalogues, and the methodology behind the database created on Excel from the original sale catalogue from 1701.
Book catalogues: variety and use
Before describing the methodology behind creating Leti’s book catalogue database, book catalogues need to be defined. There are a variety of book catalogues which have been used in previous library analysis. During the seventeenth century, there were two main reasons to creating catalogues: for sale or private ownership. The catalogue for sale was “an unattractive quarto with tightly printed pages containing poorly described and carelessly arranged titles.” Under this category lie the subdivision of probate inventories, book trade lists or sales catalogues. Probate inventories, or post mortem inventories, were the most common type of book list, which was created after a collector’s death and included books which could be appraised by a local bookseller. The books were listed alongside the treasured possessions of the departed. Sales catalogue were also common in the second half of the seventeenth century where the books were sold after the owner’s death. This is the type of catalogue that was created for Gregorio Leti, which was drafted for the book action in Amsterdam on October 17, 1701, four months after Leti’s death. Finally, booktrade lists were written after all of the book trade’s members, such as printers, booksellers and binders, died. The owner’s list, on the other hand, was usually printed in folio with every title being attentively described and classified. Dutch catalogues from the seventeenth and eighteenth century have been acclaimed by bibliographers, and book auctions became an established procedure in the Dutch Republic.
Although book auctions were popular, these catalogues still contain multiple errors caused my multiple factors. Some errors were caused by inexperienced transcribers, or the lack of knowledge of the book, or the need to transcribe quickly in order to sell the volumes as fast as possible. Some of the mistakes led to misleading information that could make the identification of a book impossible. Most commonly, the title of the books were not perfectly transcribed, with abbreviated titles, or a keyword or short phrase to identify the volume. Moreover, the publication dates were either wrong or omitted, making the identification of a specific edition more difficult. Historians might try to find the title and attribute the date to the nearest edition, making research unreliable. Book titles were also commonly translated into Latin or vernacular language if the book was in a foreign language. Books, mostly in the 17th century, were widely circulated. All of these issues could make the analysis of book lists complicated.
Gregorio Leti’s Book Catalogue and Database
Gregorio Leti’s book catalogue was printed on 17/10/1701 but according to advertisements in newspapers the sale took place 25/10/1701. The catalogue was transcribed in Amsterdam by Dirk Bruyn & Hendrik, Bruyn & Jean Louis de Lorme. The original catalogue was 24 pages, divided in bound and unbound books, and further divided in the number of folios. Moreover, there were subsections for the languages: Latin, Italian, French and Miscellaneous languages (including English, Spanish and Dutch).
The first step to analyse his catalogue was to digitalise it, in order to make the research of authors or titles easier. To do so, I have created a document on Excel divided by language. I have chosen to divide it by language in order to understand not only Leti’s preference in vernacular language, but also to make the search of authors from a certain nationality easier. In the Excel, there are different columns for folding, language, date of publication, title, genre and city of publication. When digitalising the original catalogue, I have encountered multiple difficulties. Some of the information was missing, such as the date of publication of the manuscript, the original location of publishing. The titles of the books contained multiple mistakes or were incomplete, which was a common mistake for a sales catalogue of the seventeenth century. Hence, I had to research on WorldCat.org and Google Scholar from the small fragments of titles, or research the author for a bibliography stating his published books. Unfortunately, there are missing the date of publication for eight manuscripts in the database, as I was incapable of cross checking on different databases.
Moreover, I have included a description of the genre based on how the manuscript was described on WordCat or on online research of book fragments to better understand the topic of the manuscript. In the seventeenth century, there was a reading revolution. From manuscripts and books written in Latin, new types of books were introduced as reading became an activity for everyone, including women and children, not only scholars. Because of the shift in activity, different genres of books became popular, such as periodicals, music, theatre and fine arts. This shift is visible in Gregorio Leti’s library, as the catalogue includes manuscripts with multiple book genres, which are shown in Figure 2 below.
Architecture Economy Language Nature
Art Epistles (didactic letter) Law Novel
Astrology Essay Letter Opera
Biography Etiquette Letters and Treaty Painting
Biology Gardening Literary Criticism Philosophy
Chemistry Geography Literature Play
Commentary Grammar Math Poems
Commercial Law Historical biography Medicine Poetry
Conference Transcript History Medieval Canon Law Politics
Cooking Journal Memoir Religion
Dictionary Journal: Periodicals Treaty Religion Law
Speech Sermon Music Religion pamphlet
Tale Theatre Satire Rhetoric
Zoology Theology Travel
Figure 2: Gregorio Leti’s Catalogue
To the modern reader, the choice of categories might look arbitrary but the distinctions made reflect careful considerations regarding history of these fields and genres. For example, astronomy was a well-established field in the 17th century with a rich literature whereas biology was at its infancy with the microscope appearing at the end of the century.8 Moreover, Essays and Letters shouldn’t be counted as book genres, however it was unclear what the subject of these essays were hence I have chosen to include them as a genre to show the diversity of works present in Leti’s library. During the seventeenth century, self-help books were introduced as a new genre. I have chosen to subdivide it into ‘Cooking’, ‘Gardening’ and ‘Etiquette’ as self-help books is too general. It is important to be detailed as self-help books can say a lot about the personality of the owner. Some examples would be ‘Pio V Chef’s works’ by Bartolomeo Scappi under ‘Cooking’ while ‘Instructions for the Gardens’ by Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie is a self-book that would be under ‘Gardening’. Hence, to better understand Leti’s hobbies and interests, I have decided to include as much detail as possible. The same process was used for ‘Theatre’ and ‘Play’: the former relates to a performance that a person attended, while the latter can be just a written script but non-performed. For example, ‘Annibale trionfante in Capua’ by Ippolito Bentivoglio was performed while ‘A collection of plays about the history of Henry III’ is part of ‘Play’ as they were not all performed during the time period. Furthermore, ‘Theology’ and ‘Religion’ have been divided as ‘Theology’ can show an interest in the concept of religion, while ‘Religion’ shows an interest to faith. For example, “The Genesis and Exodes” by Louis de Sacy was put under ‘Religion’ while ‘Opinion of some theologians from Holland’ by Richard Simon would fall under ‘Theology’ as it is an analysis of the Bible. All these distinctions should be considered in the following analysis.
This thesis will focus on the books owned by Gregorio Leti at the time of his death in 1702. A book auction catalogue was created right after his death, of all the manuscripts owned by Leti at the time of his death. In order to analyze it, and describe how Leti’s life and the book trade during the 17th century affected the books he owned, the catalogue had to be digitalized and analyzed. It is important to note that Gregorio Leti travelled around Europe multiple times, with quick expulsion from Switzerland, France and England which caused him to run to different countries in order to be saved from persecution and prosecution. This could mean that his library in Amsterdam was incomplete. Although his family might have helped him carry his books, it seems more logical that Leti only carried his manuscripts and managed to find new manuscripts in Amsterdam, the center of the book trade at the time of Leti’s residence. Keeping this in mind, this thesis attempts to analyze the book that survived Leti’s multiple travels. In order to do so, a database was created.