Commentary on:
Petition of and Privilege to Tolomeo Veltroni for illustrated edition of the Statutes of the Knights of Malta (1588)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

Identifier: va_1588


Commentary on Sec. Bev. Reg. 138 F. 1040 (1588)

Jane C. Ginsburg


Please cite as:

Ginsburg, J.C. (2022) ‘Commentary on Sec. Bev. Reg. 138 F. 1040 (1588)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


1. The Petition

2. The Privilege 

3. Persons mentioned

3a.  Cardinal Antonio Carafa

3b.  Girolamo Catena

3c. “Grand Master” of the Knighs of Malta

3d.  Hugues de Loubenx de Verdalle

3e.  The Knights Hospitaller/Knights of Malta

3f.  Cardinal Scipione Lancellotti

3g.  Giovanni Angelo Papio

3h.  Tolomeo Veltroni 

1. The Petition

Tolomeo Veltroni’s petition does not mention his contribution of multiple engravings to the by-laws of the Knights of Malta, although the privilege does.  This omission seems particularly curious: while Veltroni copiously illustrated the volume with images of Grand Masters of the Knights of Malta, and other scenes from the history of the Order, he did not author the by-laws.  The privilege, however, includes details specific to prints and engravings.  In addition, as we will see in Sec. Brev. Reg. 145 F. 116 (1589), Tolomeo’s rights in fact were grounded in the illustrations.

The petition on the whole is standard in form, evoking as justifications Tolomeo’s labor and his fear of the rapacious competition that would ensue were a privilege not granted.  The remedies sought also typically figure in petitions (and privileges): major excommunication, confiscation of the infringing books, and a fine of 500 ducats to be paid to the Apostolic Chamber.  Major excommunication, or excommunicatio maior, is the only form of excommunication currently in force, and includes exclusion from various aspects of Catholic Sacraments and parochial life. Boudinhon, Auguste. "Excommunication." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5.". New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909.  Excommunications lata sententia occur automatically upon violation of a law or precept, i.e., “if the law or precept expressly establishes [excommunication as a penalty], . . . it is incurred ipso facto when the delict is committed.”  By contrast, excommunication ferenda sententia does not “bind the guilty party until after [the excommunication] is imposed [as punishment for the delict].”  1983 Code c.1314.

Notable features of the petition include its request that the privilege cover not only Latin versions but also vernacular Italian versions; and its reference to a prior privilege granted to Girolamo Catena.  By the later 16th-century, petitioners increasingly requested exclusive rights not only in the original Latin or Italian versions of a text, but also in a variety of vernaculars, most often Italian, French and Spanish.  For a particularly extensive (but not unrepresentative) example, see Sec. Brev. Reg. 130 F 70 (Aug. 29, 1587) (privilege to Venetian printer Giovanni Giolito Ferrari for a Commentary on the Book of Job): 

We prohibit and forbid that for the next 10 years anyone print or prepare to be printed, the works themselves or another version of them or anything in whole or in part in whatever form or with a change or transposition or even with whatever other additions, scholarly notes, summaries, glossaries and expositions on those materials ventured or these referred and to anything similar, just as in Latin as in Italian or in whatever other language and at the urging of whoever by whatever request, pretext or contrivance without the license and assent of yourself or your heirs.

(“inhibemus et interdicimus ne per Decem annos proxime subsequentes opera ipsa aut eorum alterum vel aliquod in toto vel parte sub quacumque forma vel mutatione aut inversione vel et cum quibusius aliis additionibus scholiis summariis glossiis et interpretationibus ad materias istas accedendas vel illas referendas aut illis similibus tam latino quam italico vel quocumque alio idiomate et ad cuiusvis instantiam quovis quaesito colore vel ingenio alieni absque tui vel tuorum praedictorum expressa licentia et assensu imprimere se imprimi facere”).  

Giolito de’ Ferrari’s privilege is also of particular interest because it revokes a privilege previously granted to a printer from Lyon.

See also Pietro Fetti’s privilege for an Italian translation from the Spanish of the works of St. Teresa of Avila   

With regard to petitions referencing prior privileges, most petitions do not specify prior privileges; the one referenced here is located at Sec. Brev. Reg. 120 F. 261 (June 11, 1586), and, as stated in Tolomeo’s petition, was granted to an author, Girolomo Catena, for his life of Pius V.  A scan of that book, which includes a printed copy of the privilege, can be found at,+%26+le+risposte+con+altri+particolari.&pg=PA224&printsec=frontcover   

(The printed book also includes a 1585 privilege from Henry III of France.)  The penalties are indeed the same as set out in the privilege subsequently awarded to Veltroni.  Catena’s privilege also covers multiple languages: “whether in the original Italian, or also in Spanish or whatsoever other vernacular, or in Latin or Greek, or whatever other language” (“tam ipso Italico, quam etiam Hispanico, aut quovis alio vulgari, seu etiam Latino vel Graeco, aut quodlibet alio idiomate”).

2. The Privilege

The privilege is largely formulaic, but contains some provisions specific to visual works.  Hence, Tolomeo’s exclusive rights extend to reproductions of the work “in whole or in part, neither in small nor in great nor in whatever other volumen, folio, or form, nor on paper or papyrus nor on parchment nor on whatever other material, and also both jointly and divided or separated.”  Privileges for books do not detail different media, and while they would cover shorter or longer versions of the text, they do not mention dividing or separating the sheets, which would not make sense for a written work.  By contrast, engravings would both be bound together in books and sold separately as sheets.  A printed version of Veltroni’s book can be viewed at  Many of its pages consist solely of engravings; one can easily envision their separation from the text portions of the book.

Veltroni’s Statuta was printed without a copy of this privilege, but the frontispiece to the index asserts that it was printed in Rome in 1588 “cum privilegio.” The rest of this frontispiece states the following: “[an] index of the materials which are contained in the entirety of this volume. [As compiled by] Brother Tolomeo Veltroni, a knight of this same order, with figures, and impressions of each, and with images of the Grand Masters recently added.”

3. Persons Mentioned

3a.  Cardinal Antonio Carafa (1538-1591) – A member of a powerful and political Neapolitan clan, Antonio came to Rome following the election of his uncle, Gian Pietro Carafa, as Pope Paul IV in 1555. Carafa’s cousin, Cardinal Alfonso Carafa, paved the way for Antonio to enter the Curia, where he served as privy chamberlain and cupbearer to Paul IV. In 1559, Carafa was forced to leave Rome after Paul IV turned against the Carafas, ordering their execution or exile and stripping them of their titles and property. The election of Pope Pius V in 1566 saw the rehabilitation of the Carafas, and Antonio was able to return to Rome. In 1568, he was made a cardinal. In 1585, he was elected Librarian of the Holy Roman Church. For more on Antonio Carafa, see Cruciani Troncanelli, M. Gabriella. “Carafa, Antonio.” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani – Volume 19 (1976).

3b.  Girolamo Catena (??? –??? ). Noted humanist and author active in Rome in the second half of the 16th century. His most famous work is in the one referenced here, Vita del gloriosissimo papa Pio quinto… (“A Life of the Most Glorious Pope Pius V”).  Published in 1586, the Vita had been commissioned by Pius V’s mentee and current pope, Sixtus V, who wished to promote Pius’ beatification. The Vita enraged the Spanish for its depiction of the relationship between Philip II and Pius, and had to be reissued in 1587 with the offending passages cut out or edited. The 1586 edition of the Vita can be viewed here, and the 1587 edition can be viewed here.  For more on Girolamo Catena, see Giorgio Patrizi, “Catena, Girolamo,” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (Volume 22, 1979). 

3c. “Grand Master” of the Knighs of Malta (Grandis Magister or Magnus Magister), 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 3d, 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,”

3d.  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.”

Hughes was Deacon of the Church of Saint Mary by the Portico, in Campitelli.  The church is located on the Piazza di Campitelli near the site of the Roman Porticus Octaviae, itself initially erected by the Emperor Augustus in the name of his sister, Octavia Minor. It houses an icon of the Virgin Mary and Saints Peter and Paul that, per tradition, appeared miraculously in 524 on the table of a Roman widow named Galla, who founded a hospital and convent.  She was later canonized as Saint Galla.  Pope Alexander VII erected a larger church in the Baroque style, which was completed in 1667.  Carlo Rainaldi was the primary architect of this new church.  See Our Lady of Campitelli, Roman Catholic Saints, (last visited Apr. 23, 2022).

3e.  The Knights Hospitaller/Knights of Malta (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 expelled from 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,”

3f.  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).

3g.  Giovanni Angelo Papio, earlier a jurisconsult and a professor of law at the University of Salerno until 1560 see Henry Heller, Anti-Italianism in Sixteenth-Century France 47 (2003).  He later tutored Damascani Peretti under the direction of Pope Sixtus V; Peretti [relative of Sixtus V] was made a cardinal in 1585.  Salvador Miranda, Consistory of May 13, 1585, The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, (last visited April 18, 2022).

3h.  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 likely a member of the Knights Hospitaller.

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