May 4

At the tenth session of the Lateran Council, Pope Leo X issued a bull on this day in 1515, entitled Inter solicitudines, which became a part of the long struggle by ecclesiastical authorities to control printing. All books were to be submitted to the Cardinal Vicar and the “Magister Sacri Palatii” if printed in Rome, or if elsewhere to the bishop of the diocese or to a professor appointed by him and by the local inquisitor.

A fine of 100 ducats, along with excommunication, confiscation, and public burning of the books were the penalties for offenders, in addition to the loss of license to print for one year. This edict resulted in a certain amount of confusion, particularly outside of Rome, as the books which were acceptable to one inquisitor might be condemned by another. A Neapolitan censor, Gregory Capuchin, wrote that his practice was to burn such bibles as were defective in text. His method was to examine the third chapter of Genesis, and if he found the words, “in sudore vultus tui, vesceris pane donec,” he directed that such copies were not to be corrected but were to be committed to the flames.

The books which were condemned were listed in an Index kept in each area. The judgments of the local inquisitors were so uncertain that, as in the example of Arias Montanus, Chief Inquisitor for Antwerp and compiler of the Index in that city, his own writings were placed upon the Index in Rome. It became necessary for the various censors to maintain lists restricted to their own use. The practice was to have each inquisitor insert in the indices the statement: “I do say that this present book, thus by me corrected, may be tolerated and read, until such time as it shall be thought worthy of some further correction.”

Even these inquisitors’ indices underwent their own form of censorship. Sandover, archbishop of Toledo, prohibited in 1619, ‘under pain of the greater excommunication, any one to print the index, or cause it to be printed; or when printed, to send it out of the kingdom, without a special license.”

In general, the bull was assumed by most printers to refer to theological works only. Increasingly, after the incunabula period, secular printing came to form the bulk of the output of the press, and the shackles of censorship became less difficult to bear.

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