Italian Paleography


Chicago, Newberry Wing MS ZW 1 .575
Copies of Venetian Documents in Latin and Vernacular
Venice, around 1570

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The Doge of Venice, Alvise Mocenigo (1570-77) issued this ducale, or a set of official instructions, to the Procurator Hieronymus Amulius, probably in 1570 at the time of his election.  A ducale, also known as a promissione, was a sworn oath of office.  It contained a vow of allegiance and detailed the procurator’s duties.  Promissioni were at first copied on vellum by hand, like the Newberry’s example, and were later printed.  Eventually, by the eighteenth century, they grew in length and sometimes could run hundreds of pages long.

Amulius was the latinized form of “Da Mula”, a family which entered the Venetian noble class in 1297.  In the sixteenth century, the Da Mula family operated widely in the Venetian administration, and several of its members held the office of procurator. 
The office of Procurator of St. Mark’s was the second most prestigious appointment in the Republic of Venice after that of the Doge.  The post originated in the ninth century and was bestowed upon the city’s foremost patricians.  Procurators held office for life and were paid no salary; doges were often elected from their number.  The procurator’s original duties were to attend to the maintenance and administration of St. Mark’s Basilica.  Originally, there was one procurator, but their numbers increased to nine by the mid-fifteenth century and their work expanded to include the protection of orphans, care for the sick, and the execution of wills.  This ducale, for instance, contains the decree that houses be donated to poor sailors who had sailed at least three times beyond the Greek island of Corfu.  Procurators’ offices and apartments, the procuratie, form the connected buildings that wrap around the three sides of St. Mark’s Square at the ceremonial heart of the city.

Elaborately decorated, each chapter of this 87-folio ducale has a large gold-filigree calligraphic initial.  The text is written in a fine Italian chancery cursive hand, with red chapter headings, numbers, and folio numbers (at the top right of the text block on each recto) by the same scribe.  Perhaps most notable among the decorative elements of this ducale is its binding.  Bound in its original gilt and lacquered cover in a Persian style, the lion of St. Mark adorns the center of its front cover and the coat of arms of Hieronymus Amulius (Da Mula) the back.  It includes a wealth of sunken panelwork, gold decoration, arabesques, and floral ornament.  Its doublure or the internal lining of its cover, also in a Persian style, is similar in design to several other contemporary bindings, suggesting that it is original.


Italica mista di elementi provenienti dalla gotica soprattutto nel tracciato spezzato e leggermente contrastato (v. gli occhielli di a e d, 65v, r. 1: Avogadori).
Da notare: la c sovramodulata (65v, r. 19: Conseglio); (le tre diverse forme di s: minuscola che scende sotto il rigo curvandosi a sinistra oppure diritta con tratto di completamento inferiore (65v, r. 4: esser), o anche maiuscola (65v, r. 7: essa).

Selected Bibliography:

Item fully digitized here.