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Posted on Thursday September 7, 2017

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

Incunabula from the National Library of Malta

The National Library of Malta possesses a small but interesting collection of sixty incunabula, among them Ptolemy’s Cosmographia (Rome, 1490) which contains an engraved map of the Mediterranean showing Malta in the centre.

The collection grew over the years. An eighteenth-century Library catalogue lists seven items. Two others, Plautus’ Comœdiæ (Venice, 1499) and Quintilianus’ Institutiones Oratoriæ (Milan, 1476), were left to the Order by one of its members, Cardinal Joachin Portocarrero, who died in Rome in 1760. Guillaume Caoursin’s well-known work Rhodiorum Historia (Ulm, 1496) belonged to another knight, Fra’ Sabba di Castiglione who died in 1554. The books bears Fra’ Sabba’s signature as well as an autograph note by the historiographer Fra’ Giacomo Bosio. Only a few incunabula concern the Order of St. John, mainly the extremely rare Privilegia Ordinis Sancti Joannis Hierosolymitani a Summis Pont. concessa (Cologne, 1495) and Caoursin’s Obsidionis Rhodiae urbis descriptio (Venice, 1480).