Italian Paleography


Chicago, Newberry Wing ZW 5351.72
Orders of the Society of St. Ambrose
Milan, ca. 1572

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This book is a manuscript on vellum, written in Italic in both Italian and Latin. The book itself is small and slim, with leather board covers covered in ornate gold leaf foliage. There is a centered profile portrait in gold of Carlo Borromeo facing a crucifix on both the front and back. The book has ribbon ties around the outside edges, most too frayed or broken off to keep the book closed. There are almost twenty blank pages before the text begins, and a similar number of blank pages afterwards - nothing seems to have ever been added to the original text to take away from the specific purpose of recording the orders of the Ambrosians. All the pages are relatively pristine. The hand is beautifully clear, straight, and deliberate.

The text details the Orders of the Brothers of the company of Saint Ambrose, six in all. On page 6r the language changes from Italian to Latin. The purpose of the brotherhood is described as giving secular persons an opportunity to avoid sin and to honor God - those who are inspired by the Holy Spirit may enter into these orders and live in a Christian way. Archbishop Carlo Borromeo’s signature and seal are affixed to the final page of text, which ends with exhortations to the brothers to uphold the Catholic church, keep the peace and union among Christian princes, extirpate heresy, and to persevere against the Turks, heretics, and infidels. As Milan’s archbishop, Carlo Borromeo reformed the discipline of the original Ambrosians - the brothers and nuns of St. Ambrose had existed since the fourteenth century. He also founded a separate order, the Oblates of St. Ambrose, in 1578, as part of his ongoing commitment to instituting Tridentine reforms in and around his diocese. The Oblates took a simple vow of obedience to their bishop, and Borromeo himself directed their activities. They grew in number and were very active for the next few hundred years until Napoleon dispersed them in the early nineteenth century.


Italica professionale fluida e regolare.
Da notare: i bottoni ornamentali che completano f e s (1r, r. 2: Ambrosio); il legamento ss (1r, r. 13: osservar); il falso legamento st (1r, r. 17: manifesta).

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Item fully digitized here.