In September 1562 the Basel press of Sebastian Henricum Petri published a two-volume edition of miscellaneous works by Girolamo Cardano (1501–1576?), the famous Milanese polymath. The first volume consisted of the Somniorum Synesiorum Omnis Generis Insomnia Explicantes, a work dealing with dreams, their classification, origin and interpretation. The second volume contained eleven shorter philosophical and medical treaties, among which was the Neronis Encomium, a new biographical treatment of Nero, the much-maligned Roman emperor. It is a work that still has much to teach us, four and a half centuries later.
The first translation in English was published (I translated it from Latin) under the title Nero: An Exemplary Life, Inkstone, 2012.
This particular work was printed for the first time as an individual book in Amsterdam, by Cornelium Blaeu in 1640 and nine years later appeared an elusive Dutch edition: Hieronymus Cardani Neroos Lof, L. Lescaille, Amsterdam, 1649, now available in print-on-demand. A real copy of this book in Dutch is very difficult to find, being exceedingly rare.
Reading his introduction we can notice that he censured some parts which were sexually too explicit:
and also I did not leave any part out, except some lewd things, which are so sinister, that they should remain unknown, and cannot be heard, without any shame, by honourable ears.
I thing which was expected, in Latin they don’t sound so much vulgar as when they are transformed into a modern language.
The Translator of the Latin text was done Jan Hendrik Glazemaker (Amsterdam, 1620 – 1682) and the publisher was Iacob Lescaille (1611 – 1679) a philosopher and editor.
Here is the first translation ever made of the presentation in Dutch by J. H. Glazemaker
Neroos Lof – In praise of Nero
To the reader.
Dear curious reader, I see, if my eyes do not deceive me, the marvel and surprise on your face, caused by the strange and almost unheard name of this book, in which the praise of Nero is mentioned [lit…. is understood by].
“How?” Do you say: what kind of praise can you give to somebody, who killed his father, mother, wives, brother, sister, grandmother, teacher and many others close to him [lit…..Whom he cared about], and besides them, killed so many eminent men, persecuted Christians, set Rome on fire, and committed so many other horrors?
It is no wonder, since the things that are strange to us now, give big emotions. And about me, I have to confess, that when I received this book, and reading it’s title, I could barely believe, that any excuse, let alone praise for this nefarious tyrant (as he is now regarded by everybody) could be made; but that I, reviewing this [lit. looking at this], so powerful and concise (in my humble opinion), that I, excited from various causes, felt like translating it from Latin into our Dutch language, and, as you can see accomplished it, with help from others.
My intention is not, to withhold [lit. To don’t give yet] you, whom I can see already eager to start reading, with a long reasoning, to demonstrate the causes that induced the writer of this praise to call Nero the supreme ruler; because he himself in the preface of his work, and in various other places, assures us, that the righteousness of the case forced him to this conclusion.
And surely, in case we compare the life of Nero to that of other emperors, yes even of the ones who are regarded as the best, I trust that he is not depicted as sinister, as he is deemed to be, or the other emperors, of whom we now speak so respectfully, not as good and sound, as they are praised. Furthermore, concerning the translation, I adhered myself, where possible, to the original Latin, and I did not make any change to it, and also did not leave any part out, except some lewd things, which are so sinister, that they should remain unknown, and cannot be heard, without any shame by honourable ears. In case you find something somewhere, that is not as such mentioned, as it should be, then I will generally, in no other way than generally, add any apologies. Farewell,
(Translated from the Dutch by Mattijs Gevers & Marta Marotta)