Ovidio Montalbano

Ovidio Montalbano (1601-1671).
Ovidio Montalbano (1601-1671).

Ovidio Montalbano – or Montalbani -, known also with the pseudonym Johannus Antonius Bumaldus, was born into an eminent Bolognese family. He studied Rhetoric and Grammar, graduated in Philosophy and Medicine on 21 March 1622 and begun his academic career in 1625 as Logic Lecturer. From 1628 to 1632 he taught Theoretical Medicine as Adjunct Professor. In 1629, the Bolognese Senate appointed him as “astrologist” and entrusted him with the responsibility to compile the Almanac. The two different tendencies of the seventeen-century Astrologic Literature, superstition and scientific approach, are blended in Montalbano’s Almanacs. He published every year the Almanac under a title like “Pneumoscopia” (winds), “Hydroscopia” (water), “Criologia” (snow), “Brontologia” (thunder), “Cometoscopia” (comet), “Selenoscopia” (moon) and others. The almanac usually included his weird astrological observations (under awkward headlines like “Wandering curiosities clarified and future prospects for the new astrological year”, “Prophesy for the times and the occurrences for the year”, “Effective generalities astrologically predicted”), together with dissertations about Natural History, Agronomy, Astronomy, Moral and the “calendario medico” (medical calendar) where the good and bad days for medical surgery were indicated.

From the academic year 1633/1634 Montalbano accepted the teaching post of Mathematics, in 1651 he switched to the Chair of Moral Philosophy and, since he graduated in Law on 19 June 1652, he asked and achieved the teaching of the legal issues relating to Moral.
In addition to the academic life, he was active in the social sphere of the city life and was designated as Merchant Court and Plebeian Tribunes Judge.
From 1657 he was in charge of the Aldrovandi Museum, he studied Botany, founded a Mathematic Academy named “dei Vespertini” and joined many Academies of belles-lettres like the Academy of Indomiti and the Academy of Gelati.

He died in Bologna on 20 September 1671.

Amongst the many works he published about various topics, it’s worth to be reminded the Botanic essay “Index omniun Plantarum quae in Horto Publico Bononiae alebantur annis 1617 – 20”, and the edition of the first volume of Dendrologia by Ulisse Aldrovandi, an unpublished work.

In 1657 Montalbano published a Bibliotheca botanica under the pseudonym Johannus Antonius Bumaldus. This publication was the main source for the French botanist Jean Fraçois Séguier with respect to older literature; he included a reprint of it in his own Bibliotheca botanica of 1740, citing the actual name of the author: Ovidius Montalbanus. Séguier praises the work highly and explains that Jo. Ant. Bumaldus is an anagram of the real author’s name (Io. Antonius Bumaldus versus Ovidius Montalbanus). There are four parts: Graeci, Latini veteri extantes, Scriptores arabes extantes, and Recentiores.
Montalbanus provides useful biographical information and on the whole it can be said that the book is fairly complete. The works of Aldrovandi, whose collections he was curating, receive especially detailed treatment.
Bumaldus’ Bibliotheca botanica was undoubtedly a significant bibliographical effort from which his most important followers, Séguier and Haller, derived much benefit. The original publication of 1657 (which we have not seen) numbers 188 pp. in duodecimo, the last of which are occupied by a special bibliography of publications on grasses. This part consists of a list of books treating grasses, with indication of the described or depicted species; it is, probably, the first published agrostological bibliography.

Riproduzione dell'unica pagina dell'erbario di Ovidio Montalbano conservata a Bologna.
The reproduction of the unique page of the herbarium of Ovidio Montalbano preserved in Bologna.
Frontespizio di "Dendrologiae naturalis scilicet arborum historiae libri duo" di Ulisse Aldrovandi che venne pubblicato ad opera di Ovidio Montalbano nel 1668.
Title page of “Dendrologiae naturalis scilicet arborum historiae libri duo” by Aldrovandi expanded and published by Ovidio Montalbano in 1668.
Illustrazione di Bumalda, il genere dedicato a Ovidio Montalbano da Carl Peter Thunberg, naturalista svedese apostolo di Linneo.
An engraved plate of Bumalda, the genus of plants named after Ovidio Montalbano, aka Jo. Antonius Bumaldus, by Carl Peter Thunberg, a Swedish naturalist and an apostle of Linnaeus.


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