Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

Identifier: va_1589_b


Commentary on Sec. Bev. Reg. 145 Sec. Brev. Reg. F. 116 (1589)

Jane C. Ginsburg


Please cite as:

Ginsburg, J.C. (2022) ‘Commentary on Sec. Bev. Reg. 145 Sec. Brev. Reg. F. 116 (1589)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


1. The Privilege

2. Persons Mentioned

2a. Giacomo Bosio

2b. “Grand Master”

2c. Hugues de Loubenx de Verdalle

2d. The Knights Hospitaller

2e. Cardinal Scipione Lancellotti

2f. Pope Sixtus V

2g. Tolomeo Veltroni

2h. Marcello Vestrio Barbiani


1. The Privilege

This privilege covers the by-laws of the Knights of Malta, for a second time. For the privilege that issued a year earlier, see Both privileges were endorsed by the Grand Master; the earlier one, to the artist Tolomeo Veltroni, covered the by-laws in Latin and contained many engravings; the later one, to a different member of the Order, concerned an Italian translation, and expressly excluded Veltroni’s images. Thus, Bosio’s privilege, while derogating from Veltroni’s to the extent that Veltroni’s encompassed Italian versions as well as the original Latin, in fact preserves the exclusivity of Veltroni’s rights over his images. Moreover, Veltroni’s privilege incorporated the potential for its subsequent limitation: it provided that “no other person—except he [Tolomeo] himself or one holding the right from him or unless they have the express permission of our dear son Hugo, . . . the Grandmaster of the aforementioned order [Knights of Malta].” The privilege tells us that it comes within that express permission, for Bosio, “from the order of the Grandmaster Cardinal himself he [Bosio] translated into the vernacular Italian speech for the common [use] of the brothers of the Hospitaller Order, and particularly for those who do not possess the exact skill of the Latin language.” While ordained clerics might be expected to have mastered at least rudimentary Latin, the Knights of Malta included lay brothers, whose literacy may have been confined to the vernacular.

The privilege illustrates the increasing nexus, in the course of the 16th century, between the Pope’s grant of exclusive rights and authorship. Veltroni’s rights persist in the images that he created, and Bosio’s in his translation. Of course, publishers continued to receive privileges in works they did not create, but by the end of the sixteenth century, petitions from printers seeking to publish works by living or recently deceased authors advert specifically to the authorization of the authors or their heirs. Thus, for example, in 1593 the painter Cesare Ripa sought a privilege for an iconology, but before the privilege issued it appears that Ripa authorized the heirs of the printer Giovanni Gioliti to publish the work. The ensuing breve grants the privilege to the printer’s heirs “as far as they have the cause of action from the same Cesare” (“eisdem Haeredibus Joannis Giliotti Impressoribus quatinus tamen ab ipso Caesare causam habeant”), Sec. Brev. Reg. 199 F 172r (Jan. 26, 1593).

Similarly, in 1599, engraver Philippe Thomassin petitioned for a new ten-year privilege following the grant of a privilege to engraver Aliprando Capriolo: 

Said Aliprando having died, his heirs sold to the petitioner all the plates and prints engraved and designed [by Aliprando] of the Story of the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, engraved in four and half sheets, and subrogated the petitioner in all their claims and actions.

(“Morto d[ettt]o Aliprando li heredi hanno vender al ore [oratore] della Sta V tutti li intagli et stampe sculpte et dipisi l’Historia del Matrimonio di Issac et Rebeccha scolpita in quatro fogli e mezzo, surrogandolo in tutti loro raggioni et actioni.”).

And in 1604, Prospero Farinacci’s Venetian printers, seeking a privilege in a new volume of Farinacci’s treatise on criminal practice not only state in their petition that the “author’s consent supports” their request (“concorrendoci però [perciò] il consento dell’auttore”)Sec. Brev. Reg. 347 F 13r(petition from publisher) (July 1, 1604), but also solicit from Farinacci a letter of endorsement to accompany their petition. Farinacci wrote: 

The person who delivers this letter will be the agent of the Giunti, printers and booksellers in Venice, who have printed my most recent work. They have petitioned Our Lord [the Pope] for the Privilege and I have been told that their request has been sent to Your Illustriousness [the Cardinal having jurisdiction over the issuance of brevi]. I beg that the Breve be issued as soon as possible, for which I not only give my consent by this letter but also I would be much obliged [were the Breve granted]. 

(“Il Renditor di questa sarà L’Agente degli Giunti stamp[ato]ri e Librari in Venetia che han stampato L’Ultima mia opera. Han supp[lica]to NS/re per il Privilegio et per quel che mi si dice Il mem[?] SS/ter l’ha’ mandato a SS Ill/ma La Supp[li]co gli sia spedito q[ua]nto p[rim]a il Breve che non solo io ne dò il mio consenzo con questa ma anco mi gli resterò obbligato . . . .”).


2. Persons Mentioned

2a. Giacomo Bosio (1544 – 1627) – Born in Turin, Bosio moved to Rome at a young age and quickly became involved with the Knights Hospitaller where he worked as a historian for the Order. During his time as historian, Bosio compiled a general history of the Knights Hospitaller, as well as a collection of papal privileges granted to the Order, and this translation of the statutes into Italian, among others. “Giacomo Bosio” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (Volume 13) (1971). Antonio Tempesta dedicated his 1593 map of Rome to Giacomo Bosio.

2b. “Grand Master” (Grandis Magister or Magnus Magister) was the title given to the leader of the Knights Hospitaller (official name: Order of Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem), who was elected for life. Hugues Loubenx de Verdalle (see note 11, below), the Grand Master referenced in this petition, was a Cardinal, but a Grand Master could also be a lay person. Order of Malta, “The Grand Masters,”

2c. Hugues de Loubenx de Verdalle (1531-1595) – Born into a noble family in southern France, Hugues joined the Knights when he was 16 and rose through the ranks to become the order’s 51st Grand Master in 1582, which position he held until his death in 1595. The hunting lodge he built in south-western Malta is now the summer residence of the Republic’s presidents. For more on Hugues, see “Loubenx de Verdalle, O.S.Io.Hieros., Hughes de.”

2d. The Knights Hospitaller (official name: Order of Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem) were a lay religious order established in Jerusalem in the mid- to late-11th century. The Order originally devoted itself to protecting and caring for the pilgrims who came through Jerusalem as well as those wounded as a result of the ongoing Crusades; in pursuit of this goal, the Order acquired both land and power and supplemented their medical work with actively defending the lands captured by the Crusaders. In 1291, the Order was forced to leave Jerusalem when the Crusaders were kicked out of the Holy Land; they continued their work on Cyprus, then Rhodes, and finally Malta. Now known as the Knights of Malta (official name: Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta), the Order continues its charitable and medical work out of its headquarters in Rome. For more on the history of the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights of Malta, see Order of Malta, “History,”

2e. Cardinal Scipione Lancellotti (1527-1598). Born in Rome to an upwardly mobile family (his grandfather was one of Pope Julius III’s physicians), Lancellotti studied at Bologna; at 18, he was appointed a consistorial lawyer by Pope Paul III. This auspicious start marked the beginning of a long and fruitful career working as ambassador of sorts for the papacy, which often sent him to deal with foreign powers on its behalf. His efforts did not go unrewarded, and in 1583 he was made a cardinal by Pope Gregory XIII. As a symbol of his and his family’s power, Lancellotti embarked on an ambitious building project in the early 1590s, combining the buildings around his family home on the Via dei Coronari into a grand palazzo. For more on Lancellotti and his career, see Teodori, Raissa. “Lancellotti, Scipione.” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (Volume 63) (2004). 

2f. Pope Sixtus V (1521 – 1590) – Born Felice Peretti in Ancona, Sixtus V left a life of rural poverty to join a Franciscan monastery at the age of twelve. He came to Rome in 1552, where his career was advanced by both Pius IV and Pius V. He became a Cardinal in 1570, but retreated from public life after the 1572 election of Gregory XIII, whom he disliked. Despite his absence from public life during the 13 years of Gregory’s papacy, Sixtus was elected Pope in 1585, thanks in part to the support of powerful allies like Ferdinando de Medici, the Duke of Tuscany. Although he ruled for only five years, Sixtus V is remembered as a particularly active pontiff: he introduced harsher penalties on crime, reorganized the Curia and limited the number of Cardinals, brought the Papal State out of debt, and embarked on an ambitious building program in Rome. He died in 1590 of a malarial fever. Ott, M. (1912). Pope Sixtus V. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

2g. Tolomeo Veltroni (???-???). There is little biographical information about Veltroni, who published under the name Ptolomaeus Veltronius. This edition of Statuta Hospitalis Hierusalem seems to be his only published book. From this context, one can conclude that he was active in the 16th century and was a member of the Knights Hospitaller.

2h. Marcello Vestrio Barbiani (??? –1606). Cardinal-Secretary of Brevi (papal letters). The son of a famous lawyer, Barbiani joined the Papal court after his wife, a Roman noblewoman, passed away. In 1596, he was granted a canonicate in the Vatican Basilica. Barbiani served in various capacities under Gregory XIV, Clement VIII, and Paul V, before passing at a very old age shortly before July 9th, 1606. See Giammaria Mazzuchelli, Gli scrittori d’Italia. Vol. 2,1 at 178 (1758).