8vo, in sheets (sheet size 372 x 460 mm). Two and a half sheets ([A]8 B8 C4), paginated 39, . Woodcut title vignette and headpiece. Foxing to title, first sheet dust-soiled along folds and edges, a few tiny perforations at folds. The sheets untrimmed, folded in a modern cloth case. ***
Probable First Edition of a succinct description of the Order of Saint John (also known as the Knights Hospitaller, or the Knights of Malta), of the island itself and its unique social structure, and of the Order’s hospitals and good works. The anonymous author emphasizes throughout the Order’s historical links to the German-speaking lands, pointing out, for example, that it was thanks to the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Charles V that the former Knights of Rhodes, who had wandered homeless for seven years after the Ottomans’ successful siege of Rhodes, were able to settle in Malta in 1530.
Following a brief history of the Order, which mentions St. Paul’s shipwreck and miracles, the writer turns to the island and its towns, filled with fine international hostels, plentiful food from Sicily (the island of Malta being barren), and gleaming hospitals, “the most beautiful in the world... more heavenly than earthly,” for the Order, notes the author, is equally devoted to war and healing. This most interesting part of the monograph describes the functioning of the hospitals and notes that health care is provided to all inhabitants, not only the Knights and their entourages, and that those who cannot pay are treated for free (p. 21). The rest of the pamphlet lauds the magnificent palace of the Grand Master and reviews the various knightly ranks and their entry requirements (which included proof of at least 200 years of nobility). An Addendum describes the order’s German seat, in Heitersheim, and other continental branches (Castilian, Provencal, French, Welsh, etc.), and lists the other chapters, confusingly known as “langues” or tongues (Zunge), and the languages and nationalities each represented; the German langue, for example, included Hungarian, Croatian, Dalmatian, Polish, Bohemian, Danish and Swedish. The author notes (p. 32-33) that the English had not been admitted since 1537, which he finds irrational given the acceptance not only of Lutheran and Calvinist branches but even of a “Schismatic” Russian branch.
Three copies located, all in Germany (SB Berlin, Bavarian SB, and Goettingen). VD18 10680292 (this edition only); cf. Hellwald, Bibliographie Méthodique de L'Ordre Souv. de St Jean de Jérusalem (Rome, 1885). pp. 27 & 280, listing a different edition, with imprint Regensburg: Montag, 1782, of which I locate no copies. Item #2968