Commentary on:
Petition of and Privilege to Orazio Torsellini for his History of the House of Loreto (1598)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

Identifier: va_1598


Commentary on Sec. Bev. Reg. 266 F. 50 (1598)

Jane C. Ginsburg


Please cite as:

Ginsburg, J.C. (2022) ‘Commentary on Sec. Bev. Reg. 266 F. 50 (1598)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


1. The Petition

2. The Privilege 

3. Persons mentioned

3a. Bishop of Camerino

3b. Orazio Torsellino [or Torsellini] 

3c. Marcello Vestrio Barbiani 


1. The Petition

The petition shows its author in a remarkably human light. Orazio Torsellini clearly expresses his frustration at his inability to present his petition in-person to the Cardinal of Papal Briefs, despite having been advised to endeavor to submit it directly. One envisions him fruitlessly lurking around the Cardinal’s residence, seeking an audience that will never take place, perhaps, we might imagine, because the Cardinal’s servants have assured the unfortunate supplicant that the Cardinal will never be home when Torsellini comes calling.

The publication date printed in the book explains the urgency expressed in the petition: the book, most of whose pages had evidently been typeset in anticipation of obtaining the privilege, is dated 1597. Torsellini had received the imprimatur of the Cardinal of Loreto in May 1597, and of the Papal censor in October 1597; Torsellini’s petition for a Papal privilege is dated December 11, 1597, but the privilege did not issue until January 1598. Hence Torsellini’s plea to expedite issuance of the privilege, “so that the publication of the work be not further delayed.” The petition also refers to the intervention with the Pope in Torsellini’s favor by another Cardinal; this may explain the reference in the Privilege to a justification not offered in Torsellini’s petition (see below). 

Torsellini’s work was a history of the Santa Casa di Loreto (“the Holy House of Loreto”), a Marian shrine located in the Basilica di Santa Casa in Loreto, a small town in the Marche region of central Italy. The Santa Casa is alleged to be the same house in which Mary was born and raised and in which she received the Annunciation and later raised the infant Christ. Angels are said to have transported the Casa to modern-day Croatia near the city of Rijeka in 1291. In 1294, the angels again moved the Santa Casa, this time across the Adriatic to the countryside around Ancona. The Casa was moved several more times before finally reaching its final resting place in the town of Loreto. In 1507, an ornate marble screen, designed by Bramante, was erected to house the Casa within the Basilica. According to an alternate history, concerned Christians relocated the Casa in the 13th century out of concern for the site’s safety in the aftermath of the Crusaders’ expulsion from the Holy Land. While the true origins of the Casa and its journey to Loreto remain unknown, testing has revealed that the stones within the shrine are not native to Italy and evince construction techniques and materials typical of ancient Middle Eastern practices. The Santa Casa remains an important pilgrimage site. In 1920, the Virgin of Loreto was made the patron saint of pilots and those traveling by plane. See Thurston, Herbert. "Santa Casa di Loreto." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912“La Santa Casa da Nazareth a Loreto,” Santuaria Pontificio della Santa Casa di Loreto.


2. The Privilege

The privilege is fairly standard in form and content. It gives as reasons for the grant Orazio’s “studiousness and diligence,” but also emphasizes that Orazio fears “that if anyone at all is permitted to print such a history, it may be full of errors and defects.” While maintenance of the accuracy of a text supplied a frequent justification for issuance of a privilege, see point 4, Torsellini’s petition does not advert to this rationale, but we may suppose it was offered by the Cardinal who interceded on Torsellini’s behalf.

The Privilege also references the proof of the grant, furnished by printing the privilege in the book, or by a notarized document. On formalities, see point 3.


3. Persons Mentioned

3a. Bishop of Camerino. Possibly Gentile Dolfino (?? – 1601), who was the Bishop of Camerino in 1596. Otherwise, there was not a Cardinal from Camerino or named Camerino until 1604. For more on Gentile Dolfino, see “Bishop Gentile Dolfino.” Catholic Hierarchy. Last accessed March 16, 2022. < > For a list of 16th century consistories, see “Consistories for the creation of Cardinals – 16th century (1503-1605).” The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Last access March 16, 2022 < >

3b. Orazio Torsellino [or Torsellini] (1545-1599) A Jesuit historian who taught literature in Rome and later led the seminary there. He also spent time in Florence and Loreto as a rector. See Scifoni, Felice. “Torsellino, Orazio.” Dizionario biografico universale – Volume 5 (1849), p. 377.

3c. Marcello Vestrio Barbiani (? –1606). Cardinal-Secretary of Brevi (papal letters). The son of a famous lawyer, Barbiani joined the Papal court after his wife, a Roman noblewoman, passed away. In 1596, he was granted a canonicate in the Vatican Basilica. Barbiani served in various capacities under Gregory XIV, Clement VIII, and Paul V, before passing at a very old age shortly before July 9th, 1606. See Giammaria Mazzuchelli, Gli scrittori d’Italia. Vol. 2,1 at 178 (1758)


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