2021 Virtual Book Exhibition

Relatione del viaggio di Levante fatto dalle Galere Pontificie congiuntamente con quelle di Francia, e di Malta…

Origin: Rome ; approximately 1670
Shelfmark: H2
110 unnumbered pages : illustration (folded map), 22 cm (4to)

The collections of the Museum of the Order of St John include a little known, but internationally significant and fascinating collection of early printed books and bound manuscripts. Thanks to a donation from a generous Museum supporter, this collection is the subject of an ongoing cataloguing project.

The Project Librarian, who has been immersed in the surprising texts and rare publications for several months now, has selected some of her favourite items to showcase in this exhibition.


Full title: Relatione del uiaggio di Leuante fatto dalle Galere Pontificie congiuntamente con quelle di Francia, e di Malta mandate dalla S[ancti]ta di Papa Clemente Nono in soccorso di Candia l’anno 1669 sotto la direttione dell ecc[elentissi]mo Sig[no]re Bali frà Vincenzo Rospigliosi suo nipote generalissimo di tutta l’armata 

This unique manuscript in Italian describes the joint expedition organized in 1669 by Pope Clement IX, France and the Knights of Malta with the purpose of relieving Candia, on the island of Crete, from the Ottoman Empire. As the title suggests, the expedition was led by Vincenzo Rospigliosi (1635-1673), Commander of the Order of Malta and Admiral of the fleet (also the nephew of Pope Clement IX). The manuscript is written in a cursive and calligraphic hand throughout and it contains a beautiful watercolour plan of the relief by the fleet of Candia, inserted between pages 68 and 69.


Birds eye watercolour illustration of boats organised in formation with land to the south.
Relief of the fleet of Candia
LDOSJ H2 Image ©MOSJ/Jon Stokes 2020

According to the coat of arms on the front cover, this volume was first owned by Cardinal Paluzzo Paluzzi Altieri (1623-1698), the adopted “nephew” and chief adviser of Pope Clement X. The book was specifically bound for Altieri in contemporary vellum, with the Cardinal’s coat of arms gold-stamped on both covers, alongside several stars (heraldic symbol of the Altieri family) and foliage motifs.


Photograph showing the gold front cover of the book with intricate shapes stamped into it.
Armorial binding of Cardinal Altieri
LDOSJ H2 Image ©MOSJ/Jon Stokes 2020

The manuscript was acquired for the Library of the Order of St. John in January 1937, from the London bookseller Maggs Bros., with funds provided by Sir Charles Hyde (1876-1942), a philanthropist who made generous donations to the University of Birmingham and to various museums in London.

Click here to return to the exhibition homepage and choose another book in our collection to learn about.


The Museum of the Order of St John would like to thank all those who have supported and continue to support its work. In particular, the Museum would like to thank the following for their generosity: