A Roman binding for Gaspar de La Hoz View larger

A Roman binding for Gaspar de La Hoz

This binding covering the 1535 Aldine edition of Lactantius and Tertullianus features the name of its owner, Gas De La Hoz,” within a roundel on the upper cover. The name of the author, “Lectantii Firmiani,” is lettered in gold up the spine. The binding is evidence of how the new fashion for shelving books upright, side-by-side, with backs facing out, was then spreading across Rome. This practice had probably originated with Hernando Colón (Ferdinand Columbus), whose large library in Seville was organised in this way, and who mandated the continuance of the arrangement in his testament (3 July 1539).1 Several Spaniards residing in Rome, notably Luis de Torres and Fernando de Torres (see the entries in this Notabilia file, link and link), and the diplomat Cardinal Giovanni Salviati, who commuted between Rome and the court in Toledo and Seville, promptly adopted it, but with a particular innovation: gilt spine titles. Their Roman bindings are the earliest anywhere to have titles tooled in gilt on the spine.2 This binding for Gaspar de la Hoz, the only known survivor of his library, is probably a decade later.

Gaspar de la Hoz’s parentage and date of birth are unknown. He perhaps is a relation of Esteban de la Hoz, descended from an illustrious line of Segovianos, a papal notary and Scriptor cancellarie, said to be a familiar of Pope Alexander VI, who died in Rome in 1496.3 Gaspar is first recorded in Rome in 1526, practising as a municipal notary.4 By 1542, he was working for the Curia, as a Scriptor cancellarie; he still held that office in 1550.5 In 1549, he became a clerk of the College of Cardinals.6 Along the way, Gaspar accumulated honours and rewards. In 1534, he took an oath of fealty to St Peter and to his vicar the pope, becoming Miles Sancti Petri, an honorary knight in the papal militia. By 1548, he had acquired an ecclesiastical benefice in the diocese of Segovia. In that year, Andrés Laguna, a physician of Segovian origin, published Epitomes omnium Galeni Pergami operum (Venice: Girolamo Scoto, 1548), in five volumes, each with a different dedicatee: Cardinal Francisco di Mendoza y Bobadilla, Pope Paul III, Cosimo de’ Medici, Cardinal Pedro Pacheco, and Juan Hurtado de Mendoza, in whose house in Venice Laguna had completed the work. Laguna appended to the fourth volume his tract “De ponderibus & mensuris medicinalibus commentarius”, giving it a separate dedication to Gaspar de la Hoz, whom he addresses as canonico Segobiensi: “Ad Ornatissimum virum, D.D. Gasparem de la Hoz, Canonicum Secobiensem, Scriptorem Apostolicum, ac bonarum literum cultorem máximum” (subscribed “Venetijs iii. Idus April M.D. XLVIII”). At its close, Laguna asks Gaspar to greet two mutual friends, both from noble Segovian families, “D. Berrocalem, Scriptorem Apostolicum” and “D. Falconaeum à Gueuara, Iuris prudentiae licentiatum absolutissimum”.7

As an untonsured layman, a Segovian ecclesiastical benefice could have been granted to Gaspar only with a papal dispensation. Gaspar possibly was supported in his request for the canonry by Alfonso de Villareal, Clericus Segobien. Arriving in Rome about 1511, Villareal held multiple offices in the papal chancery, including Procurator penitentiarie, Scriptor cancellarie, and Abbreviator de parco maiore.8 Of these, the first and last were especially remunerative, as their holders collected fees for drafting privileges, dispensations, absolutions, and licenses in various kinds of matters. Villareal accumulated further wealth through benefices,9 and in the census of 1526/1527, he is recorded as living in Rione di Parione in a large house.10 When Villareal died suddenly, apparently murdered by his servants, Gaspar established a memorial to him in the church of S. Agostino.11

Left & centre Roundels on Gaspar de la Hoz’s binding. Right Detail from a binding for Pope Paul III (1534-1549)12

The book was bound in an as yet unidentified Vatican bindery. It shares no tools with bindings made for Salviati and Torres (Brooker).The repeated trefoil (a long-stemmed clover leaf) tool framing the roundels appears on two bindings executed for Paul III, one in 1546, and the other in the late 1530s or early 1540s.13 Patrick King suggested that it might be an early binding of Nicolò Franzese.14

1. Hernando had specified wall-mounted bookcases, in which the books were to be shelved “just as [they] are now arranged in them, on end [de canto] each of them with their title, name and number [showing outward]”; see José María Pérez Fernández & Edward Wilson-Lee, Hernando Colón's New World of Books: Toward a Cartography of Knowledge (New Haven 2021), pp.42-43, 229 (excerpt from Hernando’s testament, translated from the text established by José Hernández Díaz y Antonio Muro Orejón, El Testamento de Don Hernando Colón y otros documentos para su biografía, Seville 1941).

T. Kimball Brooker, Upright works: The Emergence of the vertical library in the sixteenth century, Thesis (Ph.D.), University of Chicago, 1996, pp.803-826 (“Roman bindings with spine titles”), p.823 & Fig. 79 (La Hoz). T. Kimball Brooker, “Who was L.T.? Part II” in The Book Collector 48 (1999), pp.32-53 (p.46 & Fig. 7). Graham Pollard, “Changes in the Style of Bookbinding, 1550–1830” in The Library, fifth series, 11 (1956), pp.71–94 (p.83).

3. Esteban’s father was Alfonso González de la Hoz, descended from a converted family (their Jewish surname was Nagari). Esteban was successively abbot of Salas, archdeacon of Sabugar (Ciudad Rodrigo), and canon archpriest of Segovia (1465); for his Roman appointments, see the Repertorium Officiorum Romanae Curiae (rorc) database, link (q.v. Stephanus de la Hoz).

4. Rome, Archivio Capitolino, fondo notarile, sez. I, vol. 897, notaio Gaspare de la Hoz, Die xxii Augusti 1526; cited by Pier Nicola Pagliara, “Contributi per una biografia di Fabio Calvo da Ravenna: documenti ed ipotesi” in Pegasus: Berliner Beiträge zum Nachleben der Antike 14 (2012), pp.11-46 (p.43).

5. For these appointments, see the rorc database, link.

6. Konrad Eubel, Hierarchia catholica medii aevi Volumen Tertium, Saeculum XVI ab anno 1503 complectens, edited by Ludovicus Schmitz-Kallenberg (Monasterii 1923), p.87. See Peter Partner, The Pope’s men: The Papal civil service in the Renaissance (Oxford 1990), p.35, on the prestige and opportunities of this office.

7. A “Iohannes de Berrochal” is recorded by rorc as Scriptor cancellarie in 1548-1549; the lawyer Falconi is not identifiable. The arms of the Berrochal and Falconi families are described by Julio de Atienza, Nobiliario español: Diccionario heráldico de apellidos españoles y de tı́tulos nobiliarios (second edition, Madrid 1954), p.246 (Berrocal, “de Segovia”), p.368 (Falconi, “De Segovia, oriundo de Francia”).

8. Thomas Frenz, Die Kanzlei der Päpste der Hochrenaissance (1471-1527) (Tübingen 1986), p.276 no. 101. Repertorium Poenitentiariae Germanicum, volume X: Verzeichnis der in den Supplikenregistern der Pönitentiarie Leos X. vorkommenden Personen, Kirchen und Orte des Deutschen Reiches (1513-1521) (Berlin & Boston 2016), I, p.20 (index of 58 cases, II, p.96).

Already in 1513 he enjoyed a benefice in the diocese of Léon; see Joseph Hergenröther, Leonis X. Pontificis Maximi Regesta e tabularii Vaticani manuscriptis voluminibus aliisque monumentis (Freiburg im Breisgau 1884), p.33 no. 580 (19 March 1513): “Alfonsum de Villareal constituit rectorem paroch. eccl. loci de dioec. Legion. R. C. (Blondus | Albergatus Coll. Donat.)”. [link].

10. The entry names Villareal as head of the household and indicates that he had to provide for 10 “mouths” (bocche); see Habitatores in urbe: the population of Renaissance Rome, edited by Egmont Lee (Rome 2006), p.229 no. 5199 (“Alfonsus Villareal abbreviator - 10”). Villareal conducted business from an office in Rione Borgo; see Ludwig Schmugge, “Die Prokuratoren der Pönitentiarie: Scharniere der Gnadenvermittlung (ca. 1450-1523)” in Modus supplicandi zwischen herrschaftlicher Gnade und importunitas petentium (Vienna 2019), pp.13-34 (p.21).

11. Vincenzo Forcella, Iscrizioni delle chiese e d’altri edificii di Roma dal secolo XI fino ai nostri giorni, Volume V (Rome 1874), p.24 no. 62. Villareal’s age is given as 56 years, 4 months, 3 days. Although the year of his death is not recorded on the slab, it presumably was 1535 or 1536.

12. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Membr.III.3:  Assertio septem sacramentorum aduersus Martin. Lutheru., aedita ab inuictissimo Angliae & Franciae rege, et do. Hyberniae Henrico eius nominis octauo (London: Richard Pynson, 1521). See Luigi Michelini Tocci, Legature papali da Eugenio IV a Paolo VI: Catalogo della mostra (Rome 1977), no. 69 (Pls. 61-62)

13. Brooker, “Who was L.T.?”, op. cit., pp.46-47. Compare Michelini Tocci, op. cit., no. 91 & Pl. 76; Martin Breslauer Inc., Catalogue 107: Italy, Part II (New York [1984]), item 226 (also features roundels outlined by repetitions of a clover leaf tool, the one on the lower cover filled by a tool impressed four times, to the a pattern similar to that on Gaspar de la Hoz’s binding).

14. Patrick King, Catalogue 15: Printing in Venice 1501-1564 (Stony Stratford [1991]), item 34.


Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius, L. Coelii Lactantii Firmiani Diuinarum institutionum libri septem proxime castigati, et aucti. Eiusdem De ira Dei liber I De opificio Dei liber I Epitome in libros suos, liber acephalos. Phoenix. Carmen de dominica resurrectione. Item index ineundem rerum omnium. Tertulliani liber apologeticus cum indice (Venice: Paulo Manuzio & Heirs of Andrea Torresano, March 1535)

● Gaspar de la Hoz, supralibros, lettered “Gas De La Hoz” on upper cover; back lettered: lect | antii | firm | iani
● unidentified owner, contemporary marginalia
● unidentified owner, annotations on endleaves (17C)
● Sotheby’s, Continental manuscripts and printed books, science and medicine, London, 21 November 1989, lot 106 (“contemporary Roman binding for Gaspar de la Hoz, red morocco, gilt and blind line borders, gas de la hoz lettered in centre of upper cover inside a ring of clover leaves, rebacked retaining most of original spine, edges repaired, author lettered down the spine, edges gilt and gauffered”) [RBH Carlos-106] [lots 87-119 are “Other properties”]
● Patrick King Rare Books, Stony Stratford - bought in sale (£1210); their Catalogue 15: Printing in Venice 1501-1564 (Stony Stratford [1991]), item 34 (£3500; illustrated)
● T. Kimball Brooker, purchased from the above, 1991 [Bibliotheca Brookeriana #0396; to be offered by Sotheby's in 2024]