Source: Melita Historica. New Series. 10(1990)3(283-292)

[p.283] Two Short Studies

Arnold Cassola

1. Girolamo Spinola (1686-1721): Last Possessor of the Regole per la Lingua Maltese

The Regole per la lingua maltese [1] , the earliest extant grammar and dictionary of the Maltese language, seems to have been in the possession of at least two persons. In fact, the surnames of two families, whose members regularly joined the Order of St John, appear in the bound manuscript. One of the families is Italian (Spinola) whilst the other can be traced back to the French region of Provence (Fougasse de la Bastie). The writing on f.lv. reads something like “-L-ga-P. Spinule”.

On looking up the lists of members of the Religious Order of St. Philip Neri (the Vallicelliana library is sited in the Chiesa Nuova building, of the Padri Filippini) I found out that a certain “SPINOLA p. Girolamo Nobile genovese, [che] nacque nel 1686, intenditore di musica, fu accolto [nell’Ordine] il 23-II, morì il 17-V-1721”. [2] If a connection between Padre G. Spinola and the Regole could be found, one could go a long way towards solving the Regole dating enigma.

It was Dott.ssa Valentina D’Urso of the Vallicelliana Library who came up with the missing link: “Spinule” (the e is actually prolonged in such a way as to read ae) is the genitive form of “Spinola”, and thus stands for ‘Spinola’s’. Did this volume belong to P. (Padre) Spinola? And was it the only book in his possession? Dott.ssa D’Urso rushed off to the Sala Borromini in the Vallicelliana building and half an hour later came back with the answer to all our queries. There were various other books that had belonged to Padre Spinola, and all of them had the following handwritten script on the inside front cover: “ex legatus P. Spinulae”. What really caught the eye was the script on p.lv of Lorenzo Gracian’s Obras: the hand that had scribbled Spinola’s name on the Regole had done the same on Gracian’s Obras. [3] Now there was no doubt at all: what had seemed to be a scribbled “L-ga-P. Spinulae” on the Regole was actually “ex Legatus P. Spinulae”.

[p.284] Two questions still to be answered were: “How did the Regole end up in his possession?” and “What connection did Padre Girolamo Spinola have with the Knights of the Order of St. John?” Despite consulting various works, no extra biographical information could be obtained about him. [4] As a final resort, I decided I would look up the year 1721 in the register of deaths at the Archivio dei Padri della Congregazione dell’Oratorio di S. Filippo Neri, Rome. Luckily, my hopes were rewarded with the following entry at p. 129:

Notum sit, & pateat omnibus, quod hoc Anno MDCCXXI mense Junio die vero decima septima eiusdem mensis, Genue in Paternis Laribus ex hac Vita decepit R. Pr. Hieronijmus Spinula nre Cong. nii Sacerdos Patritius Januensis, olim Eques Hierosolijmitanus, qui sepulture locum habuit apud Patres Cong. nis Orij Suprad’ Civitatis, a quibus toto infirmitatis curriculo, ex hijdrope contraet Summa charitate usque in finem paterne consolatus, obijt etat annor, 36 cong: nis &; Nra Congrej; ut morijest, Junus non sine omnia mirore & Lacrijmis, prosecum est. [5]

Although the Latin used here is not classical Latin, the words olim Eques Hierosolijmitanus speak out loud and clear: prior to his becoming a priest, Girolamo Spinola had been a Knight of the Order of Jerusalem! What does all this imply? Padre Spinola died in 1721. The Regole formed part of his possessions at the time of death. This means that we can back-date it to 1721, at the latest.

What kind of person was Girolamo Spinola? Judging by the books in his possession, he can certainly be defined a man of culture, whose main interests lay in the humanistic field. [6] His books can be classified into six main categories: drama, literature, history, colections of letters, publications of religious interest and miscellany. I will proceed by listing the books, category by category, together with the Biblioteca Vallicelliana classification mark. Anything which might be of particular interest will be pointed out:

Drama

Tobia de Ferrari, La Rosilda, tragedia, Venetia, appresso Antonio Pinelli, 1625 (S. BORR. Q. IV.266).

[p.285] Monsieur de la Grange, L’Atenaide. Tragedia [...]. Recitata Da’ Signori Cavalieri del Collegio Clementino nelle vacanze del Carnovale dell’Anno 1717, in Roma, Nella Stamperia di Gio. Francesco Buagni, 1717, (S. BORR. Q.IV.282).

written over it) della Congregazione di San Filippo Neri in Roma 1719”. Does this mean that Spinola had spent various years in the convent of the Padri Filippini (at least two) before taking his vows?]

Conte Carlo Dottori, L’Aristodemo. Tragedia [...]. Recitata da’ Signori Cavalieri del Collegio Clementino nelle vacanze del Carnovale dell’Anno 1717, in Roma, nella Stamperia di Gio. Francesco Buagni, 1717 (S.BORR. Q.IV.281).

[Amongst the actors of this play, one finds “Il Sig. March. Giorgio Spinola”, who had acted the part of one of the “MINISTRI DEL TEMPIO”. In La Grange’s tragedy, “Il Sig. March. Giorgio Spinola” had impersonated one of the “STATUE”, whilst a “Signor Francesco Spinola” had acted the part of “Atenaide chiamata Eudossia”. What connection was there between Girolamo and these other members of the Spinola family? And had Girolamo Spinola ever lived in the Collegio Clementino? These questions arise because the pamphlet entitled De Ineffabili Trinitatis Mysterio Oratio, dedicated to Pope Clement II, was published by “Hieronymo Spinula. Patritio Genuensi, Collegii Clementini Convictore, Romae, Typis Rochi Bernabò” in 1733. Was this a posthumous publication of our Girolamo Spinola?]

Sophoclis, Tragoediae Septem cum commentarijs interpretationum argumenti Thebaidos. Fabularum Sophoclis, authore Joachino Camerario quiam recens natis atq; aeditis, Haganoae, ex Officina Seceriana, 1534 (S. BORR. R.III.20).

[A handwritten note on the frontispiece reads “Ad uso Hieronimii Spinulae Franci”. The seven tragedies contained in this volume are Aiax flagellifer, Electra, Oedipus tyrannus, Antigone, Oedipus Coloneus, Trachiniae and Philoctetes. The entire text is in Greek.]

Literature

Claude-Ignace Brugière de Barante, Receuil de plus belles epigrammes des poetes françois, depuis Marot jusqu’a’ present [..], vv. I-II, Paris, chez Nicolas Le Clerc, 1698 (S. BORR. Q.IV.272-273).

[This is the French version of the Latin original. Baronte himself translated his own work from Latin into French].

[p.286] Miguel de Cervantes, Histoire de l’Admirable Don Quichotte de la Manche, vv.I-V, a Lyon, chez Thomas Amaulry, rue Merciere, au Mercure Galant, 1696-1703 (S. BORR. Q.IV.267-271).

[This is a French version of Cervantes’s Don Quixote, in five volumes but of different editions.]

History

Chevalier de Mailly, Histoire de la Republique de Genes, vv.I-III, En Hollande, Aux depends de la Compagnie, 1697 (S. BORR. G.V.175-177).

[On the blank sheet at the end of volume III (after p.304) somebody wrote down by hand in Italian a brief summary of the history of Genoa from 1730-1737. Obviously, it could not have been Girolamo Spinola, who had died in 1721.]

Massimiliano Deza, Istoria della Famiglia Spinola descritta dalla sua origine fino al secolo XVI, Piacenza, Nella Stampa Ducale di Giovanni Bazachi,1694 (S. BORR. G.VII.116).

Saggi Cronologici, o’ sia Genova nelle sue antichita’ ricercata. Di nuovo ristampati con varie gionte. Raccolte in questa quarta Impressione da un sacerdote Genovese. In Genova, Per Gio. Battista Celle, e Benedetto Semino, Con lic. De’ Sup., 1692 (S. BORR. G.V.178).

Collections of Letters

Raccolta di lettere Latine, Greche, Italiane, e Francesi, scritte da Sig.ri Convittori del Seminario Romano, per saggio di quello studio, the essi fanno sopra la maniera di bene scrivere, [...], in Roma, per il Rossi alla Piazza di Ceri, 1703 (S. BORR. Q.IV.283).

[On the frontispiece, at p.2r, one finds handwritten “Ad uso Hieronimi Spinulae Franci”.]

Lettres Choisies Familieres, et autres sur toutes sortes de sujets avec leurs reponses pour tout le Monde etc., Compozées et Augmentées par René Milleran, de Saumur, Chevalier de l’Eperon dOr, Comte du Sacre Palais, et profes. des Langues, Rome, [n.p.], 1706 (S. BORR. Q.IV.280).

[p.287] Publications of Religious Interest

Il Tesoro Sacro, e Riverito, Che si conserva nella Famosa Basilica del Padre Serafico S. FRANCESCO D’ASISI, ristampato ad istanza del P.M. Giuseppe Antonio Marcheselli, in Asisi, et in Bassano, con Licenza de’Superiori, [n.d.] (S. BORR. F.V.353).

Fra. Gio. Michele Pio’ da Bologna Domenicano, Vita, et Morte del Venerabile Padre Maestro Fra Serafino dalla Porretta, in Bologna, appresso Vittorio Benacci, 1615 (S. BORR. F.II.322).

Panegirico in rendimento di grazie a Dio per il felice compimento dell’anno centesimo, dalla fundazione dell’Ordine della Ss.ma ANNUNZIATA, composto dal P. Giuseppe Maria Prola della Compagnia di Giesu’, in Roma, per il Bernabo’, Fanno 1704 (S. BORR. B.V.227).

Miscellaneous

Rutilio Benincasa, Almanacco Perpetuo, in Venetia, presso il Miloco, 1688 (S. BORR. Q.II.218).

Euclides, Elementorum libri XV: Una’ cum scholijs antiquis. A Federico Commandino [...] nuper in Latinum conversi, commentarijsque quibusdam illustrati, Pisauri, apud Camillum Francischinum, 1572 (S. BORR. Q.VII.129).

[This is actually the Stoicheia in Latin.]

G. Miselli, Il Burattino Veridico, ovvero Instruzione Generale per chi viaggia [...], In Roma, Per Michel’Ercole, 1682 (S. BORR. G.V.174).

Francisco Sobrino, Dictionario Nuevo de las Lenguas Española y Francecsa, vv.I-II, en Brusselas, por Francisco Foppens, Mercader de Libros, 1705 (S. BORR. Q.I. 267-268).

The above list of books comprises texts which were written in no less than five languages: Italian, Latin, Greek, French and Spanish. It stands to reason that Girolamo Spinola must have known some of these languages quite well (certainly Italian, probably Latin, Greek and French) and have had at least a working knowledge of others (possibly Spanish). What does transpire is that Spinola was interested in languages. It would therefore come as no surprise if he were also to have an interest in Maltese and a basic knowledge of the language. This would explain his being in possession of the Regole.

[p.288] Back in Malta, at the National Library, I tried to gather more information on Girolamo Spinola. The name is not recorded in the manuscript volumes known as Ruolo Generale of the Order of St. John, i.e. neither in the Lista dei Cavalieri, Cappellani e Serventi d’Arme ricevuti nell’Ordine di S. Giovanni di Gerusalemme dal 1555 al 1797, where names are listed in alphabetical and chronological order (the names of Knights received in the Order between 1686 and 1721, and whose names begin with an S, are listed at ff. 686-691), nor in the Lista dei Cavalieri, Cappellani e Serventi d’Arme ricevuti in minorennita’ nell’Ordine di S. Giovanni di Gerusalemme dal 1571, al 1770, where the list of novices accepted between 1686 and 1721, and whose names start with an S runs from ff. 632-640.

The name Girolamo Spinola is also missing from the volume entitled Cariche in Convento 1500 a1 1779. [7] This volume comprises various lists of Knights, who were entrusted with particular duties in the day to day running of the Order of St. John’s administration. The total absence of Spinola’s name shows that he had never been entrusted with any specific job. Could this indicate that Spinola, who died of hydropsy at the early age of 35, had already contracted this disease during his stay in Malta?

Information on Spinola’s request for admission to the Order, and his subsequent acceptance, is to be found in file ARCH 4720, which is included in the volume catalogued as ARCH 4715-4727 at the National Library of Malta. From the printed form entitled Interrogatorii Per esaminare Testimoni nel fare le prove di Cavaglieri, the vogliono esser ricevuti nella Vener. Lingua d’Italia it transpires that “Sig. Gerolamo Spinola [e’] figlio del Sig. Franco, e Maria Rosolea Spinola Regal [?]”, that his paternal grandmother is Maria Gerolama Cattanea Grilla, while his maternal grandmother is Elena Doria.

Other documents contained in ARCH 4720 point to 1702 as the year of Spinola’s application/acceptance within the Order. In a document dated 22nd March 1702, the Parish Priest of the Church “Sanctae Mariae Vinearum” in Genoa confirms that the “libro Baptizatorum” of his parish records the baptism of “Hieronymus Mathia Maria” on “Anno Mill.mo Sexcent.mo Octuag.mo Sexto Die XXVII Februarii”. The child had been born three days earlier (“natus die XXIV”), son of “M. Francisci Spinulae, et M. Rosoleae coniugum”.

Further proof of Girolamo Spinola’s nobiliar status is provided by Ferdinando Crivelli, in the following letter dated “Milano li 28 agosto 1702” and addressed to “Signori Ammiraglio, e Procuratori della Venerabile Lingua d’Italia, Malta”: “Si sono reviste sotto il dì 14 corrente in questa Venerabile Assemblea le prove di [p.289] Nobiltà del Nobile Signor Gerolamo Spinola Patrizio Genovese, e queste per essere fatte conforme dispongono le Constituzioni di Nostra Sacra Religione, sono state accettate dai Signori Commendatori e Cavaglieri in essa assistenti per buone e valide, onde per debito del mio Ufficio ne porgo alle Signorie Loro Illustrissime la necessaria notitia, alle medesime rassegnando divotamenti li miei rispetti. Milano, li 28 Agosto 1702. Delle Signorie Loro Illustrissime Divotissimo et Obedientissimo Servitore Fra’ Ferdinando Crivelli, loco Secretarii” (ARCH 4720). [8]

One can thus presume that Girolamo Spinola was admitted into the Order of St. John in 1702, at the age of sixteen, that during his stay on the island he could have contracted his illness and that he must have left the Order of St. John (and Malta) some time between 1703-1719, to spend his last days in Rome as a member of the religious Order of St. Philip Neri.

It would certainly be a rewarding task if Maltese scholars were to investigate further into Spinola’s life and interests: the man who has bequeated to the Maltese nation its earliest known grammar and dictionary definitely deserves more attention than has been reserved to him in the past three years or so.

2. An Alternative Meaning for ACHAR in G.F. Bonamico's Sonetto

Meiju giè bl’Uuard, u Zahar
Aadda l bart, e Sceta, u ‘l Beracq
T’ghattiet l’art be nuär u l’Uueracq
Heda e riech, seket el Bachar
Tar e schab men nuecc è Sema
Sa f’l’ e Gebiel neptet el chdura
Regeet t’ghanni col Aasfura
U’ f’ el ferh col cgalb t’ertema
E qaila ferh kien fe di Gesira
li ma Kiensce min i uuennesha
li ma Keinsce min i charisha
Kecu tepki el giuh phal lsira
Enti el ferh, u ‘l hena taana
Cotoner daul to aineina
Tant li e Sema i challic chdeina
Fl’achar bart i colna e schana

(The original text, in Wettinger-Fsadni, 1968, p.34)

G.F. Bonamico’s Meiju giè bl’ Uuard, u Zahar, the second oldest extant literary text in Maltese, first saw the light in 1924 when it was published both in its original transcription1 and in modern Maltese2.

The 1924 Għaqda edition actually reproduces De Soldanis’s re-written version and not Bonamico’s original. Thus the last verse, with achar transcribed as akbar, reads: “Fl’ akbar bart i colna e schana”.3

[p.291] De Soldanis’s transcription is probably a faulty one, but it is still presented to the reader as the original version since most compilers of anthologies have accepted the Għaqda rendering. The verse transcribed as “Fl-akbar bard ikollna s-sħana” was adopted by N. Cremona in 1931, Saydon and Aquilina in 1937, K. Vassallo in 1968 and O. Friggieri in 1987.4

The alternative rendering, with ch and not kb - probably the correct one, it being chronologically the nearest to the author’s will - was adopted by Wettinger-Fsadni in 1968 and D. Fenech in 1977.5 In both cases achar stands for modern agħar [‘worst’] and it would thus convey more forcefully the idea of a very strong antithesis based on the literary-linguistic device known as oxymoron, which was extremely popular with the writers of the Baroque Age.6 Bonamico would be rendering the highest of tributes to Cottoner by attributing to him the power of giving warmth to the Maltese in the fiercest of colds (I am paraphrasing Wettinger-Fsadni).

It is now my intention to suggest an alternative meaning for achar [‘agħar’] which has not, to my knowledge, ever been considered, but which seems to be quite feasable on the basis of internal graphic evidence. An analysis of the original script confirms that the modern digraph has never been transcribed by ch in the text:

BONAMICO MODERN ORTHOGRAPHY
v.2 Aadda Għadda
v.3 T’ghattiet Tgħattiet
v.7 Regeet Reġgħet
v.7 T’ghanni tgħanni
v.7 Aasfura għasfura
v.13 taana tagħna
v.14 aineina għajnejna

Bonamico resorts to the use of aa, gh, ee and ai when transcribing , but never to ch. Closer scrutiny shows that whenever the digraph ch has been made use of in the text, it always stands for modernħ. Excluding achar, one comes along the following eight words:

[p.292]

BONAMICO MODERN ORTHOGRAPHY
v.4. riech riħ
v.4 Bachar Baħar
v.5 chab sħab
v.6 chdura ħdura
v.11 charisha ħarisha
v.15 challic ħallik
v.15 chdeina Hdejna
v.16 schana sħana7

On the strength of the above evidence, it would seem more logical to transcribe achar as aħħar. Thus, the last verse of the poem would read: “Fl’aħħar bart i colna e schana”, and this would stand for: ‘At the end of the cold season, the warm one arrives’.

This suggested interpretation of the verse would fit in well with the general context of the poem which harps on the contrast between, on the one hand, the wintry season that is now departed (Aadda) with its “bart”, “Sceta”, “Beracq”, strong “riech” and stormy “Bachar” and “schab” and, on the other, the “Uuard”, “Zahar”, “nuar”, “Uueracq” and “chdura” which Spring brings (giè) along with it.

The ellipsis of tal- [‘of the’] between achar and bart could be given a mechanical explanation. Bonamico was quite a prolific writer of Latin verse.8 According to De Soldanis he even published an entire volume of poems in Latin, the Laureae Cotoneriae (1672), in honour of Niccolò Cottoner. The habitual use of Latin in his poetical works might have led him to reproduce on the page Fl’ achar bart under the influence of the Latin form in ultimo frigore.

However, the ellipsis of a preposition before a noun seems to be readily acceptable to Bonamico as a stylistic device.9 In fact, at v.12 we have kecu tepki el giuh [‘she would cry hunger’] for “kecu tepki bel giuh” [‘she would cry because of hunger’]. Thus, Fl’ achar Bart instead of “Fl’ achar tal bart” seems to be justified not only from a semantic point of view but also from a stylistic one.


[1] On the recovery and contents of this manuscript, see A. Cassola, Regole per la lingua maltese, Malta, Ministry of Education, 1988.

[2] C. Gasbarri, L’Oratorio Romano dal Cinquecento al Novecento, Roma, [n.p.], 1962, p.186.

[3] See L. Gracian, Obras, Amberes, 1702, tomo. II, p. lv. The catalogue classification of this volume is Q.II.205.

[4] See, for example, N. Battilana, Genealogie delle famiglie nobili di Genova, Bologna, Forni Editore, 1971, ristampa anastatica dell’edizione 1825-33; V. Spreti, Enciclopedia storico-nobiliare italiana, Milano, Ed. Enciclopedia storico-nobiliare italiana, v.VI, 1932, s.v. Spinola; E. Pinto, La Biblioteca Vallicelliana in Roma, Roma, nella sede della Società alla Biblioteca Vallicelliana, 1932.

[5] See Libbro de’ Morti del Anno 1645 sino...,Archivio dei Padri della Congregazione dell’Oratorio di S. Filippo Neri, Roma, catalogue classification C.130., f.129.

[6] The books that had belonged to Girolamo Spinola all have the handwritten insertion “ex Legatus P. Spinulae” or “ex legato P. Spinulae”. These entries were obviously inserted after Spinola’s death.

[7] See Cariche in Convento 1500 al 1779, ms., National Library of Malta, ARCH 6430.

[8] For this and other transcriptions of manuscript documents, I am indebted to Dott. Francesco Vergara, of the Assessorato ai Beni Culturali, Regione Sicilia.

1 This poem has come down to us via G.P.F. Agius de Soldanis who transcribed it in his Nuova Scuola dell’Antica Lingua Punica Scoperta nel Moderno Parlare Maltese Gozitano, NLM, ms 144, pp.108-109. There are two versions of this poem in De Soldanis’s manuscript: one reproducing Bonamico’s orthography and the other re-written according to the Gozitan scholar’s orthographic rules.

2 Cf. Għagda Kittieba tal-Malti, Tagħrif fuq il-kitba Maltija, Malta, Stamperija tal-Gvem, 1924, pp. 119-120.

3 On this and other differences between Bonanico’s original version and De Soldanis’s re-written one, cf. D. Fenech, Wirt il-Muża, Malta, Edizzjoni P.A.M., 1977, p.20.

4 Cf., respectively, N. Cremona, Leħen il-Malti, a. I, n.7, Settembru 1931, p.3; P.P. Saydon, G. Aquilina, Ward ta Qari Malti, v. II, Malta, A.C. Aquilina and Co., 1937, p.209; K. Vassallo, Vatum Consortium jew il-Poeżija bil-Malti, Malta, Dar ta’ San Ġuzepp, 1968, p.13; O. Friggieri, Il-Ktieb tal-Poeżija Maltija, v.I, Malta, Klabb Kotba Maltin, 1987, p.39.

5 Cf. G. Wettinger, M. Fsadni, Peter Caxaro’s Cantilena, Malta, Lux Press, 1968, p.34; D. Fenech, op. cit., p.19.

6 Cf., e.g., G.B. Marino in Italy, Gongora in Spain and in late 16th Century England, John Lyly.

7 Ħ is also rendered by h, but only in one syllable words and, with one exception, at the end of the word. Cf. v.8.ferh; v.9 ferh; v.12 giuh; v.12 phal; v.13 ferh.

8 Cf. R. Mifsud Bonnici, Dizzjunarju Bio-Bibljograjiku Nazzjonali, Malta, Dipartiment ta’ l-Informazzjoni, 1960, pp. 35-36.

9 The ellipsis of ta’ before nouns is quite a common feature of Maltese toponymy. Cf., e.g., Għain Dwieli, Andar Xewk, Bir Siġra, etc.