University of Virginia Library

On the Use of the Verb 'Facere' in Early Colophons
Dennis E. Rhodes

In April 1970 the British Museum bought a copy of the Exempla of Marcus Antonius Coccius (Sabellicus), completed at Venice on 19 September 1507. It is a quarto of 150 leaves, collating [*4] A-Z, AA-MM4NN6, and it bears foliation up to fol. CXLVI. The most interesting feature of this book is the colophon which reads: 'MARCI ANTONII SABELLICI DECEM EXEMPLO = | RVM LIBRI FINIVNT. IOANNES BARTHOLOMEVS | FECIT. VENETIIS. M.D.VII. SEPTEMBRIS. MEN = | SIS: DIE. XIX. LAVREDANI PRINCIPIS ANNO | SEXTO.'

There is no recorded printer at Venice in 1507 (or at any other time, as far as I am aware) named Joannes Bartholomaeus.

The book is printed in type 82 R., and from the woodcut initials used in it one can safely attribute the printing to the press of Georgius de Rusconibus, whose main activity as a printer at Venice falls within the period 1500-1521. The same N which appears on leaf Y4 verso of the Coccius appears, with the same breaks, on leaf A1 recto of La vita de Merlino et de le sue prophetie historiade of 20 April 1507.[1] The same I on leaf FF2 verso of the Coccius appears on leaf P2 verso of the Merlino, with the same large break in the top left-hand frame-line. The capital P, showing three boys, one of whom is wearing a mask, is found in the Coccius on CC1 recto, and also on h4 verso of the Ovid, Metamorphoses, which Georgius de Rusconibus printed on 2 May 1509[2]; while it is repeated on h4 recto of the same printer's Ovid of 20 April 1517.[3] Finally, the same capital N of the Coccius, noted above, is found on q3 verso of the Ovid of 2 May 1509.


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There seems to be no doubt that the Coccius came from the press of Georgius de Rusconibus on 19 September 1507. What then is meant by 'Ioannes Bartholomeus fecit'?

I have found two other examples of early sixteenth-century books which were printed by well-known printers, yet bear in their colophons, accompanied by the verb 'fecit' or 'faciebat', the names of other persons who are equally unrecorded as is Ioannes Bartholomaeus. The first of these is the Compagnia del Falcone, without imprint but easily attributable to the press of Gian Stefano di Carlo da Pavia at Florence about 1520. This ends with the words 'Tantalus Marochus faciebat'. Neither Dr. Bühler, who owns the book, nor I have ever come across this man's name elsewhere as author, printer, publisher or editor.[4]

Secondly, there is the case of three books by Lancinus Curtius of which I have examined the copies in the British Museum and in All Souls College, Oxford. They are his Epigrammaton libri decem; the same, decados secundae; and Sylvarum libri decem. Each of these was printed at Milan in 1521 and each has the same imprint: Mediolani, apud Rochum & Ambrosium fratres de Valle impressores; Philippus Foyot faciebat.

Here it will be seen that Rochus and Ambrosius de Valle are clearly stated to be printers. The British Museum's holdings show that the brothers Rochus and Ambrosius de Valle (principally active from 1517 to 1521) almost invariably printed on commission for the bookseller Nicolaus de Gorgonzola, who as far as we know was never a printer himself. Their other colophons make this clear. Philippus Foyot is to me otherwise unknown. What was his role?

It is obvious that Ioannes Bartholomaeus in Venice in 1507, Tantalus Marochus in Florence about 1520, and Philippus Foyot at Milan in 1521, were not authors, editors (in the modern English sense) or printers; nor were they publishers. If the colophons had meant to say 'fieri fecit' in the sense of 'published' or 'commissioned', they would surely have said so. I believe that the simple use of the verb 'facere' in these examples, which must have been quite clear to customers at the time but is far less intelligible to us, indicates that the man who supplies his name in this way was the chief type-setter or compositor of the press. He was otherwise a character whose name would not be likely to be recorded for posterity; but there was nothing to prevent him from adding his name at the end of a book just as the scribe of a manuscript might have added his name with the word 'scripsit' but be otherwise completely unknown as a calligrapher; and it was often a matter of complete indifference to the owner of an early press whether he put a colophon in a book or not, or indeed what information


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he put in the colophon and what he left out. There were no rules. It will be observed that my three examples all come from the first quarter of the sixteenth century and all come from Italian books. I have not yet found a parallel case in the incunable period; nor have I looked for examples of the use of 'facere' in the colophons of books printed outside Italy; but I have by chance seen the verb 'formavit' once used in the same position.[5]



Isaac 13083 (unsigned).


Isaac 13038 (signed).


Isaac 13062 (signed). References are to R. Proctor — F. Isaac, Index to the early printed books in the British Museum, pt. II, MDI — MDXX, Section II: Italy. London, 1938.


Curt F. Bühler, 'La Compagnia del Falcone: a sixteenth-century Florentine imprint', in Refugium animae bibliotheca. Festschrift für Albert Kolb, Guido Pressler Verlag, Wiesbaden, 1969, 89-92.


The Pronosticon of Jacobus Petramelarius was printed at Bologna in 1536 with the colophon 'Ioannes Baptista Phaellus Bononiae formauit'. In this case we know that Faelli owned his own press, so that 'formavit' is probably equivalent to 'impressit'.