8vo (154 x 94 mm). 180 pp.,  leaf (errata). Text in italic types, shoulder notes in roman. Ruled in red throughout. Slight overall discoloration due to paper quality, repaired tears in fol. A6, small abrasion on B1r. Eighteenth-century dark citron morocco, sides with triple gilt fillet borders, spine gold-tooled and -lettered in compartments, gilt edges (a few small stains to covers, joints restored, last two endleaves repaired). Provenance: 4 pages manuscript notes in Latin in a small 17th or early 18th-century French hand on front flyleaves, titled “l’Alcoran de Socin,” commenting on specific passages (citing the page numbers), the corresponding passages in the text with underlinings and occasional marginalia (ink faded in places, further annotations on title-leaf apparently deleted); pen trials on front and rear flyleaves, including the name François and date 24 April 1816.***
First Edition of Sozzini’s unfinished magnum opus, including the kernel of the Racovian Catechism, “the first statement of Socinian principles” (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church). In the Institutio, presented in catechism form as questions and responses, Sozzini sets forth the fundamental tenets of his doctrine. The second part (pp. 137-180) contains a fragment (Part I, chapter II) of his original Catechism. Developed by the Sienese Lelio Sozini (1525-1562) and his nephew and spiritual heir Fausto (who spelled his name differently), Socinianism was a rational and antitrinitarian Christian doctrine which combined aspects of mid-sixteenth-century Italian spiritualism with such heresies as anabaptism and panthiesm and the rationalist approaches of humanism. Its doctrinal influence was far-reaching. Socinanism is notably considered the foundation of Unitarianism, via the Polish Brethren, who began to use that term after their expulsion from Poland in 1658 and their dispersion to Holland, East Prussia and England.
At the time of this publication, however, Socinian theology (which was only so dubbed after Sozzini’s death) was highly heretical, with its refusal of such basic tenets of orthodox Catholic and Lutheran doctrine as the divinity of Christ, original sin, divine omniscience, or the propitiatory view of atonement. Fausto’s peripatetic uncle Lelio had traveled throughout Europe, engaging in disputations with many Reformists, including Calvin, Zwingli, Conrad Gessner, and Melanchthon. Accused of heresy by the Reformist Theodore Beza, Lelio was also deprived of most of his inheritance by the Inquisition (whose persecutions extended to his family). Like his uncle, whose writings he edited and whose doctrines he developed further, Fausto Sozzini would make enemies in both the Catholic and Reformist camps. After youthful travels in France and Switzerland, and a dozen years at the Medici court, he quit Italy and settled in Cracow. He became a sort of emissary between the many different heretical communities who had found protection at the time on the estates of Polish and Transylvanian nobles, and whose only common denominator was antitrinitarianism and opposition to all religious authorities, whether Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran or Anglican. A friend to all and adherent to none of the groups, Fausto was in 1590 completely dispossessed of his property in Italy by the Inquisition, after which he began publishing under his own name (a few earlier works had appeared under pseudonyms). He thence endured the fate of most nonconformists: universal suspicion, and even, in 1598, physical attacks, by a mob who expelled him from Cracow, destroying his house. He died in 1604, leaving a daughter, whose son Andrzej Wiszowaty became a leading member of the Polish Brethren and driving force behind the Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum, the collection of Socinian writings published by the Brethren in Raków in the mid-17th century.
Raków, 55 miles northeast of Cracow, was founded in 1569 by Jan Sieninski, Castellan of Zarnow. “Sieninski, whose wife was a convinced anti-Trinitarian, founded for her sake a new town upon his estates, called it Rakow after the crab (rak) upon his wife’s coat-of-arms, and granted it a charter of incorporation which provided for a wide toleration” (Chadwick). A school was established there, and a printing press which had been operated in Cracow by the first printer of Socinian texts, Alexis Rodecki, was transferred to Rakòw. At about the same time (ca. 1600) Rodecki transferred ownership of the press to his son-in-law Sebastian Sternach, who began printing in 1602, and who would go on to issue Fausto Sozzini’s many unpublished writings posthumously. Press and school were destroyed in 1638 following the arrival of the Jesuits in Raków.*
It was only in the last years of his life that Sozzini attempted to systematize his doctrine, in the present work, but he died before completing it. At the same time he began preparing a new Catechism. He is said to have never completed his “Rakovian Catechism” (but see below); in any case, no complete manuscripts were known, and his disciples Valentin Schmaltz and Johannes Völkel completed it after his death. The Rakovian press issued editions in Polish in 1605, in German in 1608, and in Latin in 1609. Very few copies of each survive. The 1609 Latin edition (or possibly one of later piracies of it), which was dedicated to James I, was publicly burned by order of Parliament in 1614 (cf. Johnson, p. 131 & Swiderska, p. 209).
This is the first edition of both of Sozzini’s unfinished texts, and the last to appear until his complete works were published in 1656 as part of the Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum. The drop-title of the second part, containing the single chapter of Sozzini’s original Catechism, states that it (the manuscript?) disappeared during the pillage of his property in Cracow (”Fragmentum catechismii prioris, Fausti Socini Senensis, qui periit in Cracoviensii rerum ipsius direptione”), and the fragment concludes with the words caetera perierunt: “the rest vanished.”
This copy, with its red ruling and elegant goatskin binding, testifies to the interest of Enlightenment-era bibliophiles in heretical and especially anti-Trinitarian writings. OCLC locates 4 copies in the US (Harvard, Yale, Princeton Theol. Seminary, and Newberry).
Hoskins, Early and rare Polonica of the 15th-17th centuries in American libraries, 1016; H. Swiderska, “Socinian Books with the Raków imprint in the British Library,” British Library Journal 8 (1982), 206-17, no. 42; cf. Delio Cantimori, art. in the Enciclopedia Italiana (1936), online at Treccani; Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd edition (2005), pp. 1370 and 1523; O. Chadwick, The Penguin History of the Church: the Reformation (online); J. Johnson, “John Donne and the Socinian Heresy,” Summers & Pebworth, eds., Fault Lines and Controversies in the Study of Seventeenth-century English Literature (2002), 130-31.
* “The historical evidence demonstrates that the vast majority of Catholics and Protestants were in accord with respect to the condemnation they leveled against the Sociinian heresy. In fact, regardless of their sectarian allegiance to the mainstream confessions, the almost universal response by the Germans, Poles, Dutch, French, and English in challenging and refuting the antitrinitarian beliefs of the Socinians seems to indicate just how critical the religious thinkers of the period believed this heresy to be. The persecution of the Socinians reached a particular height in 1638 when Jesuits entered Rakow, Poland ... By the decree of the `Diet of Warsaw,’ dated May 1, 1638, the Jesuits destroyed the academy and the printing press that the Socinians had established in Rakow, and they sent the teachers, ministers, and laypeople of the Polish Brethren into exile” (Johnson, p. 130). Item #2873