Four Italian Judaica incunabula: Pro Monte Pietatis
IN 1905 PADRE HERIBERT HOLZAPFEL published a book on the origins of
the Monti di Pietà in Italy between 1462 and 1515; and in
1974 Padre Vittorino Meneghin of Venice published a vast book of over 700
pages on Bernardino da Feltre e i Monti di Pietà. A Monte
di Pietà (or mont-de-piété in French) is nowadays
a pawnbroker's shop. These Monti di Pietà originated in Italy
under the patronage of the Papal government in the fifteenth century and
the object in founding them was to counteract the supposedly exorbitant
usurious practices of the Jews. The establishments therefore existed for
advancing money to the poor at a reasonable rate of interest. There is
little doubt that one of the major factors leading to their foundation
was the sermons of Fra Bernardino da Feltre (1439 - 1494, real name Martino
Tomitani), who preached violently against the Jews in Padua, Treviso, Vicenza
and other northern towns.
The full title of the book of c. 1495 is: Pro Monte Pietatis. Consilia sacrorum Theologorum: ac collegiorum Patauii & Perusii. Clarissimorumque doctorum. dd. Ioannisbaptistæ Rozelli & Ioannis Campegii. Cum bulla ac breui datofratri Bernardino Feltrensi Sanctissimi Pape Innocentii Octaui. The theological colleges of Padua and Perugia combined to produce the texts, which include a piece by Giovanni Campeggi of Mantua (1448-1511), a famous professor of law at Padua and Bologna universities. It begins with Questiones due disputate super mutuo iudaico & ciuili & diuino by Giovanni Nanni, or Annio da Viterbo, the Dominican (1432,?-1502) best known for his forgeries; this piece is dated Viterbo, 8 May 1492, and addressed to Pietro Barozzi, Bishop of Padua. It is followed by a contribution from the celebrated Carmelite poet of Mantua, Baptista (Spagnuoli) Mantuanus (1447 - 1516) whom Erasmus called 'the Christian Virgil'. Finally there are the bull and brief from Innocent VIII (1484 - I492) to Fra Bernardino da Feltre.
The whole adds up to an anthology of Catholic doctrine on behalf of the Monti di Pietà and of propaganda against the Jews. It was printed anonymously and undated at one of the most prolific presses of Venice (Joannes Tacuinus de Tridino was active as a printer from 1492 to 1538, an incredibly long period for a printer in those days), and it is believed that the book appeared about 1495. It has 46 printed leaves.
 A full summary of the contents is given in the British Museum's Catalogue of Books Printed in the Xvth Century, Part 5, p. 533.
Catalogue of Books Printed in the XVth Century Now in the British Museum. Parts 4 - 7,12 (London 1916-1935 [reprinted with additions, 1962], 1985) (On Italy).