De subitaneis mortibus, libri duo. First edition.

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Giovanni Maria Lancisi.


De subitaneis mortibus, libri duo. First edition.


Rome: J. F. Buagni,




Provenance: Pope Clement XI (born G. F. Albani), with the large engraved papal shield vignette and small circular Albani stamp on the title page; bound in contemporary calf, with the shield of Clement XI as pope on the front and rear covers, with endpapers characteristic of Albani family bindings.

In 1705, responding to a perceived epidemic of sudden deaths that the Roman populace viewed as evidence of divine displeasure, Pope Clement XI authorized the papal physician, Giovanni Maria Lancisi, to perform autopsies on selected victims in search of an alternative explanation for these alarming events. Lancisi dedicated the resulting report, De subitaneis mortibus, to the pope. The book established that severe but unsuspected heart disease and other known disorders were the cause of death in most of the subjects. It successfully allayed public fears of divine retribution and also serves as the foundation for a modern understanding of cardiac pathology. Additional works of medical importance, including texts on climate, influenza, and malaria were published by Lancisi during the second decade of the eighteenth century and were dedicated to the pope and to his nephew, Cardinal Annibale Albani.

This is a dedicatee copy of one of the most important books in the history of cardiology, with a type ā€œCā€ title page vignette and nine-line errata variant of multiple distinct states of the first edition, in a binding for Clement XI as pope and subsequently residing in the collections of the Albani family. As family fortunes declined during the nineteenth century, many Albani books were dispersed and some found their way to auction.


Paul Kligfield