Item #5057 Preces, Psalmi et Litaniae, quae à Societate Misericordiae sub invocatione S. Ioannis Decollati nationis Florentiniae in Urbe dici solent pro iis qui morte damnati ad supplicium deducendi sunt. DEVOTION.
Preces, Psalmi et Litaniae, quae à Societate Misericordiae sub invocatione S. Ioannis Decollati nationis Florentiniae in Urbe dici solent pro iis qui morte damnati ad supplicium deducendi sunt.
Preces, Psalmi et Litaniae, quae à Societate Misericordiae sub invocatione S. Ioannis Decollati nationis Florentiniae in Urbe dici solent pro iis qui morte damnati ad supplicium deducendi sunt.
Preces, Psalmi et Litaniae, quae à Societate Misericordiae sub invocatione S. Ioannis Decollati nationis Florentiniae in Urbe dici solent pro iis qui morte damnati ad supplicium deducendi sunt.
Devotion for Criminals Condemned to Execution
With a Title Vignette of the Beheaded John the Baptist
Rome, Vitale Mascardi, 1656.

Preces, Psalmi et Litaniae, quae à Societate Misericordiae sub invocatione S. Ioannis Decollati nationis Florentiniae in Urbe dici solent pro iis qui morte damnati ad supplicium deducendi sunt.

4to, 60 pp., 2 integral blanks, printed in red and black throughout, with engraved vignette of San Giovanni Decollato on title. Bound in 18th-century boards. Former ownership stamps on front end lead and verso of title. Old shelf marks on title. Some minor water staining in margin at end, but otherwise fresh copy, very good.

Extremely rare guide issued for use by the Roman chapter of the Misericordia de S. Giovanni Decollato, a religious order devoted to exhorting condemned criminals to penitence and ensuring their proper burial. The decapitated head of St John the Baptist is engraved on the title of the present work – a fitting symbol for the fate of many of the penitents.

As the preface explains, the goal of the present work is to allow the condemned to die for the glory of Jesus Christ in spite of their transgressions against divine and secular justice. Psalms of penitence are reproduced in full, evidently to be read or repeated by the prisoner, and set in rather attractive and easy-to-follow red and black type. These are followed by litanies to be recited by the clergyman: “St Mary, pray for them. St Michael, pray for them…” etc. Further ‘orations’ are followed by prayers with designated responses to be uttered by the prisoner.

Founded in Florence in the late 14th century, the brotherhood’s status was affirmed by a Papal Bull in 1490. Alongside several other orders, the Misericordia ministered exclusively to prisoners. “In Rome there were two confraternities which particularly occupied themselves with aiding the incarcerated: the archconfraternity of St John the Beheaded, called “of the Misericordia” and the archconfraternity of S. Jerome of Charity. While the first of these assisted those condemned to die, the second helped those who remained in prison…” (Paglia, pp 111-2). Perhaps written for use during the prisoner’s last hours, the present work notes on the title page that it has been edited “also for use by other pious societies”; as Paglia has noted, there existed a certain amount of discord between the various organizations aimed at salvaging condemned souls.

Such guides would seem to be formidably rare: we find no records under this title in ICCU nor in OCLC.



* See Vincenzo Paglia, La Pietà dei carcerati: confraternite e società a Roma nei secoli XVI-XVIII (1980).

Price: $1,850.00

See all items in Rare Books
See all items by