[BOISSAT, Pierre de / BOSIO, Giacomo]. Histoire des Chevaliers de l’Orde de S. Jean de Hierusalem, contenant leur admirable Institution & Police..., Paris, Jacques d’Allin, MDCLIX [=1659].
Giacomo Bosio (1544-1627) was born in the area of Turin, to a noble Milanese family, many of whose members had joined the Order of the Knights Hospitaller. While still a young man, Bosio was named representative of the Order by the Holy See. In 1571, he was entrusted with an official mission of the Order to the court of France, together with his brother Giovanni Otho. After completing the mission with success, he returned to Rome, by now a wealthy man, and acquired a collection of works of art. He later became involved in a murder case and eventually lost his fortune. Once his reputation was restored, he was able to devote himself again to studying, writing and his artistic interests.
His literary ambitions as well as his desire to climb the hierarchical ladder, led Bosio to compose a history of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller. The circumstances were favourable as J. A. De Fojan had died before completing his history of the Order, in Spanish. Thus Bosio, who by that time was living in Rome, composed the history of the Order, which was completed in 1621, republished several times from then onwards and translated into French. Initially, the work failed to win the approval of the Order's members. Bosio then reviewed the work, added a sequel of more recent events such as the Siege of Malta in 1565, and more accurate information from authoritative sources. Thus eventually, his book became an established source on the history of the Knights Hospitaller. Around 1600 the artist Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) painted Bosio's portrait, which is kept today at Kimbell Art Museum, Texas.
Pierre de Boissat (1603-1662) was a French military officer, knight, author and poet. He was one of the first members of the Academy of Paris. He translated and published the Aesop's Fables in an illustrated edition, enriched with his own reflections on matters of philosophy and politics. He also translated poems into Latin, and composed elegies and essays on Christian ethics. He is the translator of Bosio's history of the Knights Hospitaller. The edition was edited and expanded by his friend, scholar and author J. Baudoin.
The Order of the Knights Hospitaller was founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century, to succour pilgrims and patients. It was devoted to Saint John the Baptist and based in a hospice which had formerly belonged to the Amalfite merchants. When the Crusaders came to Jerusalem, the Order evolved in a manner similar to that of the other orders, took on a military character and defended Latin rule in Jerusalem. After the fall of Jerusalem to the Arabs, the Order moved to Saint John of Acre, later to Cyprus and finally to Rhodes (1309), when it became well organized and was able to fend off several sieges.
When finally the Ottoman empire took Rhodes in 1523, the Knights settled on Malta. They remained very active in the following centuries, and fought to control maritime commercial routes and eliminate piracy. When Malta was taken by the British in 1800, the Knights settled in Rome (1834). Today, the Order has under its shield several charities working in more than thirty-two countries.
The present edition includes a series of plates showing the cities in which the Knights Hospitaller became most active (Jerusalem, Saint John of Acre, Rhodes, Cyprus and Malta). The plates are variations of illustrations already published in contemporary cartographic works and travel accounts.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou