Juan de Valdés.

Alfabeto christiano, which teaches the true way to acquire the light of the Holy Spirit. From the Italian of 1546; with a notice of Juan de Valdés and Giulia Gonzaga online

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Online LibraryJuan de ValdésAlfabeto christiano, which teaches the true way to acquire the light of the Holy Spirit. From the Italian of 1546; with a notice of Juan de Valdés and Giulia Gonzaga → online text (page 1 of 16)
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BR 75 .V2713 1861
Vald es, Juan de, d. 1541
Alfabeto christians which
teaches the true w^v 1-^


rue way to


^[1 UL^^ ^^'m:^^/^:^/^.

JET. '■'>'>.— MVKXXIV.

OCT 12 1940 '






^yITH A ^'OTICE op juax de valde's axd giulia goxzaga.



VaLDISSIO HlSPAjrrS SCBlfTOnB supebbiat ohbis.

D. Ronen.





Et principio quidem eo te modo docere incipiam, qiw
Solent pueri institui in scholis, hoc est, quoddam tihi

SpIRITUALE tradam AlphABETUM. — Vita D. Joannis
Tavleri. Opera omnia. Paris. 1623.

[The pious layman, instructing Tauler in the way of

Christian perfection, says to him : ]
I will do, then, as schoolmasters are accustomed to do
to their children when they first go to be instructed, —
they set them forward with the alphabet, and so shall
I do to thee. I shall first propose to thee a Spiritual

Alphabet. — Life of JohnTauler, and Alfabeto Christiano, p. 7.

Et voglio sgannarvi in questo, che io non vi do qiiesie
regole, perche stiate legata ad esse, perche la 'ntentione
mia e, che non vi serviate di loro, se non come d^uno
Alfabeto Christiano, per mezzo del quale possiate
venire alia perfettione Christiana. — alfabeto Christiano,

fo. 44y"'-

I wish to undeceive you In this, that I do not give you
these rules that you should be bound to them, because
my intention is that you should use them only as a
Christian Alphabet, by means of which you may come
to Christian perfection. — alfabeto Christiano, p. 125.

(Only lOO copies printed por PUBLICATIo^^)


The Alfabeto Christiano is a book unknown even
to bibliographers for the last three centuries. It
had its origin in an actual conversation between
Juan de Valdes, twin brother to the Latin Secre-
tary of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, and Griulia
G-onzaga, Duchess of Trajetto and Countess of Fondi,
at Naples, about the close of 1535 or the bednnino-
of the follo^\dng year. At her request it was imme-
diately afterwards written down by him in Spanish,
to promote her instruction and refresh her memory.
It now essentially conveys to us the spirit and sub-
stance of the conversation in the precise form and
manner in which it then took place between them.

To whom can I address the English translation of
this interesting dialogue with greater propriety than
to him who, by first directing my thoughts into this
channel of literary research, may almost be considered
to have been its discoverer ? A friendship whose sin-
cerity seeks no compliment and whose freedom asks
no favours save those which advance the common ob-
ject of our pursuit, might of itself afford a sufficient
motive. Yet to these considerations may be super-

a 3


added the fact, that his liberality has furnished the
means also to give the work to the press ; and to
render it at the same time more worthy of acceptance
to the Spanish reader, by accompanying the Italian,
now the only original text, with a careful transla-
tion into Spanish, he has restored it once more to
the language in which it was originally written.* The
Spanish manuscript of this treatise, like that of the
Ciento i cUez Consider aziones, not havino^ been
printed, very early perished, leaving the Italian ver-
sions to serve as the texts for all the succeeding
translations of both these valuable compositions.
You are aware how amply an inquiry directed to
this section of writers has been rewarded by the dis-
covery of other works of their pens, either wholly
forgotten, or of such rare occurrence as to be all but
unique. I may point with pleasure to fresh editions
restoring to them a renewed existence; and readers
may now turn to translations of some of them from
the Latin or Italian into their authors' native tongue,
as in the present instance ; thus giving them another
country and the mind of another people for their
range and perusal. In the first place, for example,

* This alludes to an edition 1860-1 not published, printed
in Spanish, Italian, and English ; whilst his generous liberality
applies equally to the present edition as to the one not pub-

The figures on the margin of the text — /. 2,f. 3, &c.j refer
to the folios of the Italian original.


beside tHe present volume, I may mention those of
Perez, Yalera, and Enzinas ; and in the second place
those of Montes, Sacharles, and Valdes (1). Led
now by the example afforded by the last-named
writer in the form of an epistle, to no one with so
much propriety and pleasure as to yourself could I
inscribe the present translation into English, together
■with such remarks as have arisen upon the original
volume, the dialogue, and the speakers introduced in
it : not, however, that such observations will add to
your information on the subject, but as a convenient
form in which to introduce it to other readers ; be-
cause it must be confessed that much mistake and
confusion are to be found in the notices hitherto
supplied by the best writers respecting the present
author and his works.

Accept, therefore, this offering of secluded labour,
in the course of which I acknowledge to have ga-
thered some grateful lessons of instruction for myself,
and which has softened not a few of the languid
hours of failing years and declining energies.

I selected the original copy of the Alfabeto
Christiano from the " Catalogue " of Giovanni Gancia,
bookseller, of Brighton, in the year 1851, not having
any previous knowledge of the book, and attracted to
it solely by its title. On one of the fairest mornings



of the most charming month of the year, the modern
book-post, that beneficent handmaid of advancing
knowledge, brought and laid the volume upon my
breakfast-table. You will doubtless remember how
freely, while seated beside it, the eye through the
open window expatiates over the beauties of nature,
unrolled like a picture before it, for you also have
looked from the same retreat upon the same delight-
ful landscape. It is spread along the course of a
small valley enriched by the labours of careful hus-
bandry and picturesque with noble woods, church
spires, and cheerful villages. Nestled on the edge of
the woods, at one end of the vale, is seen the native
town, of the translator of your national poet Garcilaso
de la Vega who when returning from the African
expedition in 1535 with Charles the Fifth, made
acquaintance with Juan de Valdes at Naples ; while
at the other extremity of the valley rises the hill
whereon stood the royal mansion at which Henry
the Eighth was domiciled when he received the com-
pliment of the golden rose and the title of '' Defender
of the Faith" from the Pope for his book against
Luther ; and whence he dictated his letter of thanks
to Leo. There, too, Catherine of Aragon, aunt of
Charles the Fifth, was residing when she was sum-
moned to attend the commissioners of divorce at
Dunstable. With these recollections, and with this
scene in view, at the first temperate refection of


the morning, alone, and with nothing to divert my
mind from the quiet examination of the newly-ac-
quired volume, I made my first acquaintance with
its contents. I had completed, the year before, a
transcript of the Cento et died diuine Considera-
Uoni, 1550. This had rendered me familiar with
the style of Valdes and his peculiar mode of think-
ing ; so that the perusal of a few pages convinced me
that this could be no other than a work written by
him and one altogether unknown. It left no doubt
in the mind, moreover, that the real interlocutors
were Giulia Gronzaga and Juan de Valdes himself ;
and I felt a pleasing conviction that whilst it would
assist in clearing up the uncertainty which had
hitherto attached to their personal relations with
each other, it might also furnish some further indi-
cations of their natural characters and dispositions.
A week of agreeable leisure was absorbed in its
perusal, and resulted in the present attempt to make
the English reader a partaker of the gratification it
had afforded me.

When the book first came into my hands it was in
the original vellum wrapper ; half of both covers had
been cut away and supplied by paper. The clean-
ness of the edges showed that it had been preserved
with no inconsiderable care ; my experience, and the
condition of the volume, suggested the conjecture
that it had been preserved, during the three centuries

which had intervened since its publication, in some
southern library, where damp and smoke were com-
paratively unknown. I was told, however, that it
came from the collection of a deceased G-erman
Bishop, sold by his nephew. Bound up with the
Alfabeto Christiano were two other treatises by ano-
ther author, a disciple of Valdes, but of Calvinistic
opinions, — a disciple of Valdes in the sense in which
Ochino and Peter Martyr were his disciples, not in
that of Flaminio and Carnesecchi. The treatises
are: —

1. Opere christlane e catholiche di Messer Hieronymo

Savonese, A gloria cV Iddio, et vtilita de chri-
stiani stampede. Colophon : In Gineura, per
Lorenzo Merlino e Fratelli. Nel MD.XXXXIII.
a li XXII. di Nouemhre Stampata. (124 leaves,
sm. 8vo., Italic letter.) It consists of six doc-
trinal epistles written to individuals from va-
rious cities of Italy which the writer visited —
Milan, Verona, Naples, Bologna, Eome, and
Mantua — between April 1542 and March 1543.

2. Pie et christiane epistole, composte da uno seriio

di Iddio alia consolatione de fedeli frategli in
Christo Giesu Signore, e Saliiatore nostro,
Delia fede, Delia efficacia della fede. Delle
opere. De merit i. Della charita, Impossibile


e senza fe de piacere a IdcUo. Pavlo agli
Ebrei, cap. xi. (Without place or date, thirty-six
leaves, sm. Svo., in Eoman letter.) They com-
prise five doctrinal pastoral epistles, as the title
shows, each having the same exordium : A i di-
letti frategli, in Christo Giesu, il Seruo di
Christo, gratia, e pace dal Signore,

The author of these treatises, according to Ver-
gerio, was Giulio da Milano (2). Before parting
with the volume, I caused it to be bound in green
morocco, adding to it another brochure which came
about the same time, and under nearly similar cir-
cumstances, into my hands.

3. Regola vtile e necessaria a ciascuna persona die
cerchi di uiuere come fedele e buon Christiano.
Kuouamente stampata. Con uno Capitolo
deuotissimo di Messer lesu Christo, Composto
pjer il SignoT Bartolomeo Caroli Nohile
Sanese. Colophon : In Vinegia, per Bartholamio
da Lodrone ditto r Irn,perador, e Francesco
Venetiano, M.D.XXXXIIL (Sixteen leaves,
sm, 8vo., Italic letter.)

This tract professes to describe the " life of a truly
Christian gentleman," as related by himself in the
last hours of his life. It is an alumbrado tracts


conceived in the better sense of the term ; and that
which invests it with peculiar interest is, that it in-
culcates the sentiments of the Alfabeto Christiano ;
not indeed with the lucid eloquence and clearness of
Valdes, for it seems to be rather an imaginary life,
in a form of narrative selected as a vehicle of the
opinions conveyed therein ; and professes to have
been dictated by a desire to point out the true path
to the aspirations of the pious inquirer. As, however,
it embraces general views similar to those of Valdes,
and contains, various passages expressed almost in
his own words, it leaves no doubt on the mind that
the writer of the tract was well acquainted with this
work. And as the Alfabeto Christiano was not
printed until 1546 and the tract was issued in 1543,
three years before, I should infer that its author
must have had access to the manuscript before it
appeared in print. There were several admirers
of Valdes residing at Sienna, — Ochino, Lattanzio
Eangone, Paleario, — and, for another, the name of
Caroli may have been an assumed one, like that of
Hieronymo Savonese. It will be seen, therefore,
that this small volume of original pieces now consists
of four distinct parts ; and I am thus precise in
describing it here, in order that the copy now in my
hands may be identified in future, no other being at
present known ; and that it may be distinguished from
any others which may hereafter be discovered. The


Alfabeto Christiano of Valdes is not to be con-
founded with other books having a similar title ; for
example, the " Alphabetum Christi sen virtutes qiise
adolescentes ornant aEalph. Sadlero: Monacae, 1 6 1 9 ;
Dilingse, 1624;" and another in English, "The
Christian Alphabet: London, 1811 ;" books of a totally
different character ; nor have we any other reason to
suppose that it was translated into Latin than that
the title of Aljphahetum Christianum appears in the
prohibitory indices down to the latest folio one of
Madrid in 1845, whilst the Italian title by which it
has now become known has been suppressed after
the Catalogo drawn up by Giovanni della Casa at
Venice in 1549. It stands in that catalogue, followed
by two tracts, also anonymous, which we know, on
the authority of Vergerio, were written by Valdes, and
must have been published about the same time : —

Alfabeto Christiano,

Modo di tenere nelV insegnare, et nel predicare

cd principio della religione Christiana (3).
Qual maniera si douerebbe tenere in foimare

i figliuoli de Christiani nella Christiana


Here Vergerio merely quotes the titles as they
stood in Della Casa's catalogue, — " La expositione
della Oratione del Signore," and just after "Alfabeto


Christiano," followed by '' Modo di tenere," &c., and
** Qual maniera si douerebbe tenere/' &c., vvithout
any allusion to the author. In his further remarks
in another place he expressly mentions that the two
latter tracts were written by Valdes, giving a descrip-
tion of them ; whilst he is silent about the Alfabeto
Christiano, which he must have known equally with
the others. The cause of this silence was doubtless
that one of the parties to the dialogue was yet living.
With a prudence which in this respect he observed
in other instances, he forbore to draw attention to
a book that would compromise with Valdes so well-
known and high-born a personage as the Duchess
of Trajetto. It was printed at a time when for a few
years the press of Venice was comparatively free, and
when taking advantage of this liberty, then existing
nowhere else in Italy, it multiplied the tracts of the
Reformation by thousands. When the friends of
Valdes were afterwards persecuted at Naples, and
his name condemned by the authority of Eome;
implicating by connection with him one of the most
distinguished members of the noble family of the
<Tonzagas, all parties, friends equally with opponents,
would of course be concerned to observe silence on
the subject, whilst all the friends of the family would
be urged alike by religious sentiment and by family
considerations to destroy silently and irrecoverably
every copy of a book that appeared to cast, by its


association with her name, the shadow of its principles
upon those who were allied to her. It is not then
surprising that no notice of its existence has been
conveyed to us by those who could have given, if it
were only in the way of reprobation, the most certain
knowledge of its contents. We can only wonder that
amongst the few which might have been saved, even
about the period of its issue, any stray copy of a
book devoted by so many motives to destruction,
should have outlived all its hazards, and that, by
circumstances apparently casual, an exceptional copy
should have been preserved to become multiplied
and perpetuated at the present day. The danger of
being known to possess these books of Yaldes and
of other Italian reformers, the manner in which some
of them have been buried for ages, and the circum-
stances under which they were preserved to come
forth as to a resurrection of fresh life, are sho^vn by a
circumstance mentioned by M'Crie, from Fontanini,
who tells us, " on taking do-^m an old house at Ur-
bino, in the year 1728, the workmen disinterred a
copy of Bruccioli's Paraphrase of Paul's Epistles,
with some books of Ochino, Valdes, and others of
the same kind, which had remained in concealment
for more than a century and a half" (4).

If I were to indicate any individual more than
another to whom may be attributed the preservation
of the writings of Juan de Valdes, I should certainly


point to Pietro Carnesecchi as the person to whom
the distinction is due. He held them in the highest
estimation. He had the most favourable opportu-
nities of obtaining and protecting them ; he was the
cherished friend of Cardinals Pole, Sadolet and
Bembo, and of Marcantonio Flaminio. He had been
secretary to Clement the Seventh, and afterwards
Prothonotary to the Apostolic See. One of his pre-
ferments was an abbey at Naples ; he possessed also
an abbey in France, passing between them at his
pleasure, sometimes by way of Florence or Venice,
occasionally by that of Greneva and Lyons. After
the death of Clement he retired from the Eoman
Court to Naples, where he became intimate with
Juan de Valdes. He was in that city in December
1540, the year in which Valdes died; and if he did
not himself receive his last confession, which is very
probable, he at least knew what it was, for his com-
mendation of it formed part of the accusation against
him on his trial in 1567 before the Inquisition at
Eome ; and after the death of Valdes he succeeded
to the confidence of Griulia Gronzaga. His corres-
pondence brought her also under the suspicion of the
Inquisition on two occasions; once in 1545, and
again, a short time before her death, in 1566. He
was at the same time accused of having been in-
doctrinated at Naples from the year 1 540, with princi-
ples adverse to the Romish faith, by Valdes, Ochino,


Flaminio and Galeazzo Caracciolo ; of having had in-
tercourse with them, reading the book of the Bene-
ficio di Christo and the vjritinrjs of Yaldes; and
in the following year, December 1541, at Viterbo,
treating about the same with Flaminio, Yittore
Soranzo, Bishop of Bergamo, with ApoUonio Merenda,
and Luigi Priuli. The accusation further charges
aofainst him that afterwards in Venice he held com-
munication with P. P. Vergerio and mth Lattanzio
Rangone of Sienna, the latter a disciple of Yaldes ;
that he made mention of having at Yenice the hooks
and interdicted ivritings of Yaldes at the house of
an accomplice, who, notwithstanding their prohibi-
tion by the Holy Office, preserved them in order to
circulate them by getting them " printed and pub-
lished, or at least that they might be concealed and
preserved." When Yergerio finally withdrew from
Italy in October 1548, he carried with him the MS.
of the Italian translation of the Cento et dieci diuin^
Considerationi, and got it printed and published
in May 1550 at Basle, with a prefatory commenda-
tion by Celio Secondo Curione. When Carnesecchi
shortly afterwards went to France, going and re-
turning in 1551-2, he passed through Lyons ; in that
city, and at Paris, and in the Court he introduced
from Italy a book by Yaldes, and presented it as a
gift. The French translation of the Consider at loni
was printed at Lyons in 1563, and again in Paris in



1565, for which his previous visits would seem to
have prepared the way by his recommendation and
introduction of copies of the edition in Italian.
Carnesecchi is accused of having received letters from
Lyons and Greneva, and of having in 1564 arranged
with an old friend who was associated with him, as
keeper of the books and writings of Valdes, that
they should be sent to himself by safe conveyance to
Venice, being anxious as well to preserve them as to
deliver that person from the danger which threatened
him from having them in his possession (5). The dis-
tinction made between the ivritmgs and boohs, and
the circumstances respecting them, evidently show
that Carnesecchi had the authorised care and posses-
sion of the manuscripts or " writings," or probably
the Italian translations, and that he diligently pro-
moted the printing of them at Venice; and it is
scarcely to be doubted that he was also concerned in
those editions which issued also at Basle, Lyons and
Paris, and Geneva (6). To him, therefore, we may
fairly attribute the first publication at Venice of the
present work.

We are not certain who was the Italian translator
of the Cento e died Considevationi from the Spanish
of Valdes ; it was probably prepared at Naples, where
at that period the Spanish and Italian languages were
equally cultivated by lettered persons. We should
hardly attribute so calm and patient a work to one


of Vergerio's restless temper, although to him Carne-
secchi might reasonably commit the charge to carry
it into Switzerland and to get it printed there. The
presence at Venice of the Pope's legate, Giovanni
della Casa, who was sent to discover and suppress
such publications, and who was pursuing his enquiries
in order to draw up his prohibitory Catalogue, would
effectually prevent the printing there of other works
of the same class after the year 1546. The dedica-
tion on the reverse of the Italian title of the present
work at least proves that its Italian translator from
the original MS. of Yaldes was Marco Antonio
jNIagno of Naples, who served Griulia Gonzaga in the
capacity of Procuratore, or chief agent ; nor may it
be far from the mark to connect the translations of
the other pieces by Yaldes with him and Carnesecchi.
The Due Dialoghi, by the brothers Yaldes, was also
printed at Yenice in 1545, the year preceding, with
a dedication addressed to Yirgilio Caracciolo, signed
" II Clario " (Isidore Clario). This volume had a
large and rapid circulation, passing through six edi-
tions at the least, which may yet be distinguished
by a careful comparison from each other. Alarm,
however, was early taken by the printer ; the name
of Clario was suppressed, and the signature Gioan
Antonio di Padoua substituted ; afterwards the dedi-
cation was wholly omitted ; in some copies its place
was partially supplied on the first sheet by expanding

b 2


the space of the following pages. While the Due
DicdogJd was rapidly circulating from Venice, the
'^ Alphabeto Christiano " was being printed there,
in the same year that Carnesecchi was the first time
cited to Kome; and this circumstance checked the
printing of the remaining works in that city. Dis-
missing these preliminary remarks, we will now
advert as briefly as may be to the two eminent indi-
viduals whose colloquy forms the substance of the
present volume.

Juan de Valdes.

According to the inconvenient practice of trans-
lating proper names of persons and places into the
form of the language in which they were used, rather
than of retaining them in their native orthography,
the name of Juan de Valdes has been variously
written ; thus, Johannes Valdesius, Lat ; Giovanni
Valdesso, Ital. ; Jan de Val D'Esso, Fr. ; and John
Valdesso, Enrjl.^ were originally simply Juan de
Valdes, Spanish.

Hernando de Valdes was perpetual Regidor of
Cuenca, a city of New Castile, towards the close of
the fifteenth century (7). He was a mayorazgo, or
hereditary proprietor, and if not a personage of
hi^>'h degree, he was an hided go, of liberal fortune,


and independent circumstances. It has been con-
jectured that he took a favourable part with the
Comunidades when they rose to assert their liberties,
but lost them with Padilla on the fatal field of Villa-
lar ; and that the following copla was composed by
him in reference to the independent position he then
held and continued to maintain.

^^ Diez marcos tengo de oro^^ (8).

Ten marks of gold for the telling,

And of silver I have nine score,
Good houses are mine to dwell in,

And I have a rent-roll more ;
My line and lineage please me,

Ten squires I count at my call,
And no lord who flatters or fees me.

Which pleases me more than they all.

He had two sons, born about the end of the cen-
tury, named Alfonso and Juan. They w^ere twin
brothers, who, as they grew up and arrived at middle
life, were so identical in person, mind, and manners,
that they w^ere scarcely to be distinguished unless

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryJuan de ValdésAlfabeto christiano, which teaches the true way to acquire the light of the Holy Spirit. From the Italian of 1546; with a notice of Juan de Valdés and Giulia Gonzaga → online text (page 1 of 16)