|Here are some excerpts from David Ruderman's 1975 article in the Renaissance Quarterly wherein he seeks to conclusively demonstrate an existence of the individual Giovanni Correggio. Note should be taken that in the additional evidence he presents, Avraham Farissol does not mention the name of the individual he is describing. The Plague- text of Mercurius evidently contains alchemical treatments; I was unable to consult the crucial McDaniel reference given; likewise the Ohly reference is not accessible to me at the present (composed by John Meador)
John Giovanni Mercurio da Correggio's Appearance in Italy as Seen through the Eyes Of an Italian Jew
by DAVID B. RUDERMAN from: Renaissance Quarterly, V.28, 1975.
"The literary evidence describing the revelation of the strange
Christian prophet Giovanni Mercurio da Correggio in the communities
of Italy and France at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of
the sixteenth century has been treated with considerable interest by
a number of scholars. W. B. McDaniel was the first to publish the
existing evidence on this unusual figure, together with the text of a
hermetic plague tract attributed to him with an English translation.
These sources portray a divinely inspired prophet, together with his
wife, five children, and his disciples, making his way as a mendicant
through Italy and France. Mercurio sees as his task the reprobation
of all the sins of the Catholic Church and Christian peoples. He is
empowered with the magical gift of the Supreme Being to prepare an
antidote against the horrendous plague.
[An Hermetic Plague-Tract by Johannes Mercurius Corrigiensis,' first published in Fugitive Leaves of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 1935-36 (mimeographed); later revised and republished in Transactions and Studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Series IV, 9 (1941-42), 96-111, 217-225; See especially McDaniel's summary of the Oratio ad sanctam crucem, pp. 217-218..]
He not only gains the
loyalty of the uneducated masses who marvel at his wondrous abilities
but is surrounded by a select retinue of outstanding scholars who are
equally impressed by his talents and are unquestionably convinced of
the authenticity of his prophecy. The latter include Carlo Sosenna, a
lecturer at the University of Ferrara and author of a scholastic
commentary to one of Mercurio's sonnets; Ludovico Lazzarelli, an avid
hermetic who describes Mercurio's appearance in Rome in 1484; and
Trithemius, another hermetic and mystic who relates Mercurio's
appearance at Lyons at the end of the fifteenth century.
[On Sosenna, see McDaniel, p. 219; Paul Oskar Kristeller, 'Ancora per Giovanni Mercurio da Corregio,' in Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters (Rome, 1956), pp. 251ff.; G. Pardi, Lo studio di Ferrara nei secoli XV e XVI (Ferrara, 1903), p. 148. On Lazzarelli, see McDaniel, pp. 220, 222,ff.; Kurt Ohly, 'Johannes "Mercurius" Corrigiensis,' Beitraege zur Inkunabelkunde, n.f, II (1938), 140ff; L. Thorndike, A History of magic and Experimental Science, V (New York, 1941), 533; P. 0. Kristeller, 'Marsilio Ficino e Ludovico Lazzarelli, Contributo alla diffusione delle idee ermetiche nel Rinascimento,' in Studies in Renaissance Thougt and Letters (Rome, 1956) pp. 222-240, and 'Lodovico Lazzarelli e Giovanni da Corregio, due Ermetici del Quattrocento, e il manoscritto II.D.I.4 dell Biblioteca Comunale degli Ardenti di Viterbo,' in Biblioteca degli Ardenti della Citta di Viterbo, Studi e Ricerche nel 150* della Fondazione, ed. A. Pepponi (Viterbo, 1960),13-37. I have used an offprint of the article in the Columbia University Library, paginated 1-25, from which I cite. See also the references cited in this last article on p.8. n. 18. On Trithemius, see McDaniel, pp. 220, 222ff.; Ohly, pp. 140ff.; Thorndike, V (1934), 524; VI (1941), 439]
Kurt Ohly also published a detailed account of the Epistola Enoch, Lazzarelli's description of the prophet's visit to Rome. On the basis of a comparison of this text with three prefaces dedicated by Ludovico 'Enoch' Lazzarelli to Mercurio, along with other texts attributed to the prophet, Ohly maintained that Lazzarelli was not only the author of the Enoch letter but also the plague tract and the rest of the prophet's writings. He concluded that Mercurio was no more than a literary fiction invented in the mind of Lazzarelli or, at best, an insignificant preacher who had been elevated to the stature of a divine prophet through Lazzarelli's writings. Ohly defended the plausibility of this conclusion in light of the paucity of contemporary references to Mercurio's appearance and the probability that those remaining reports of his existence, including the detailed account of Trithemius, were simply based on the initial account of Lazzarelli.
[Ohly, pp. 140ff., and McDaniel, pp. 221ff., who also
discusses Ohly's contention. The entire Epistola Enoch was later
published along with other selections of Lazzarelli's writings in
Testi umanistici su l'ermetismo, ed. E. Garin, M. Brini, et al.,
Archivio di filosofia (Rome, 1955), pp. 34-47.]
Kristeller subsequently published a study on Lazzarelli as well as
new evidence regarding Mercurio, specifically a sonnet written by the
prophet with Sosenna's commentary. As an appendix to his second
article, he published additional sources on the actual existence of
Mercurio. The references included evidence of the fact that Mercurio
visited Florence, Cesena, Lucca, as well as Rome. On the basis of
these new sources, Kristeller argued that there was no longer any
doubt concerning the historical reality of Mercurio da Correggio. In
a later article, he provided still further references to Mercurio,
including additional works by the prophet himself.
[Kristeller, 'Marsilio Ficino e Ludovico Lazzarelli . . . ' pp. 222-
240; 'Ancora per Giovanni Mercurio da Correggio,' pp. 249-257, esp.
p. 257; and 'Lodovico Lazzarelli e Giovanni da Corregio - - - ' pp -
Adding to this evidence, Eugenio Garin later published another document describing Mercurio's appearance in Florence in 1486, containing further biographical material on the prophet. [Eugenio Garin, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Comitato per Celebrazione Centenarie (Mirandola, 1963), pp. 39-40.]
To the growing number of references to Mercurio da Correggio another source can now be added which completely establishes him as an authentic historical personality in his own right, while revealing supplementary evidence on his broad appeal and the motivation of Catholic authorities to silence and punish him. Unlike the other contemporary reports previously discovered by scholars, there can be no question regarding the personal involvement of this witness who recorded the spectacle of Mercurio in three Italian cities as a totally unimpassioned observer. This source is found in a polemic against Christianity entitled Magen Avraham, written by Abraham Farissol (1452- 1528?), the Italian Jewish scribe, cantor, educator, and author. Farissol traveled widely throughout Italy during the second half of the fifteenth and the early sixteenth centuries, while establishing his permanent residence in the city of Ferrara. He wrote his polemic in Hebrew, ostensibly the result of a debate or series of debates at the ducal court of Ferrara between Farissol and two learned Christian theologians between 1487 and 1490. Upon the conclusion of these debates, Farissol probably revised and appended new material to his original manuscript as late as the second decade of the sixteenth century."
"Farissol's passage reads in part: I myself saw in my time and in
my town a man who was a great celebrity at the time, who used to go
and preach and exhort in most of the gentile regions, and would exalt
himself... by his wisdom ... until he almost imagined his utterances
to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, prophesying and interpreting the
Torah. He called himself Son of God, Mercurius Trismegistus, Enoch
and Methuselah.... Their scholars however, answered him sharply, as
for instance in Rome, where he was cast into prison in my presence,
as also in Bologna. But through the power of his rhetorical quips,
for he was certainly eloquent, he escaped and fled with his friends,
the devoted of his philosophy and doctrine. Thus he went forth from
prison, he and his retinue with him, wandering and exhorting in
various lands, dressed in sackcloth and girded with ropes, to this
very day, during my own lifetime .... "
[Magen Avraham. chap. 5]
" Farissol calls this man a great celebrity who wandered through most
of the gentile regions, preaching, interpreting the Holy Scriptures,
and extolling his wisdom altnost to the extent that he imagined his
utterances to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. The itinerant nature of
Mercurio's prophetic mission is clearly illustrated by all the
sources mentioned above. His self-exaltation concerning his
incredible knowledge is also attested to by the sources. Trithemius
writes, for example:
'... For he boasted that he comprehended all the learning of all the ancient Hebrews, Greeks and Latins and despised practically all the ancients, philosophers as well as theologians, since compared to him only, he said, they were all unlearned and not one of them appeared to be wholly wise regarding the mysteries. Whence he confessed that he was versed in all the knowledge of the world, understood all the mysteries and arcana of natural things, was able to discover the deepest meanings of the scriptures, and knew everything that mortal man could know.'"
"The precise time at which Farissol witnessed Mercurio is more difficult to determine but here, too, he adds a number of facts which help to establish the specific circumstances of his meeting. Farissol mentions explicitly that he saw him with his own eyes in Ferrara. The fact that Mercurio visited Ferrara and had contact with its citizens is all the more likely in view of the sonnet published in Mercurio's name with the scholastic commentary of Carlo Sosenna, the above- mentioned professor of the University of Ferrara, who was on personal terms with Duke Ercole I. One may surmise that when Mercurio came to Ferrara, he was received sympathetically by the court of Ercole and the duke himself, given the latter's unusual interest in astrology, divination, and the miraculous, and his later relationship to Savonarola, a similar prophetic figure."
[See: Werner I. Gundersheimer, Ferrara: The Style of a Renaissance
Despotism (Princeton, N.J., 1973), pp. 186ff. On the influence of
astrology and magic at Ercole's court, see Giulio Bertoni, La
biblioteca estense e la cultura ferrarese ai tempi del duca Ercole 1
(1471-1505) (Torino, 1903), pp. 117ff., 126ff, Antonio
Rotondo, 'Pellegrino Prisciani,' Rinascimento, 11(1960), 69-110.]
Professor Kristeller (in 'Lodovico Lazzarelli e Giovanni da
Corregio...,' p. 11, n.30) has already suggested Mercurio's possible
link to the same Northern Italian feudal family of da Correggio which
produced Niccolo da Correggio (1450-1508), the poet, playwright, and
diplomat who was in close contact with the ducal court of Ferrara.
Pompeo Litta, in his family tree of the da Correggio family (Famiglie
Celebri Italiane, II [Milan, 1825]), does in fact list two lesser
known members of the family with the name Giovanni, both of them
living at the end of the fifteenth century. Besides Niccolo, a number
of other members of this distinguished family were also in close
contact with the Este court including Manfredo and Antonio da
Correggio (see Litta above). If Giovanni Mercurio was indeed a
relative of this distinguished clan, his connection with Ercole is
all the more understandable.
[On Niccolo da Correggio and his
connections with the Este house, see Gundersheimer, pp. 211, 223,
258, 260; Bertoni, p. 147; and Alda Arata, Niccolo da Correggio nella
vita letteraria e politica del tempo suo (1450-1508) (Bologna, 1934)]
"Along with the other intellectuals like Lazzarelli, Trithemius, and
Sosenna already mentioned, Garin (pp. 39-40) states that before
Mercurio's imprisonment by the inquisitor of Florence, he was also
invited to meet with both Pico della Mirandola and Flavius
Mithridates, Pico's teacher, in the spring of 1486."
"What is most astonishing in Farissol's description of Mercurio and
his teachings is that he, as a Jew, was quite familiar with an
intellectual and spiritual climate so alien to his own religious
tradition. Yet he not only observed Mercurio on a number of
occasions, but he openly admitted that he was familiar with his
writings. What he probably meant was that he was conversant in the
writings of Mercurio's followers, especially Lazzarelli. The fact
that be was familiar at least with his Epistola Enoch is suggested by
his confusion in assuming that Enoch and Mercurio were the same
person rather than correctly identifying Enoch (Lazzarelli) as the
disciple of his spiritual master, Mercurio."
"Agrippa of Nettesheim quoted Apollonius; Trithemius himself interpreted the mystical appearance of Mercurio by referring to similar rites practiced by Apollonius of Tyana (see Yates, Giordano Bruno, p. 141; Garin and Brini, p. 32, n. 13). Farissol's reference to these esoteric works affords another small glimpse of the latter's impressive knowledge of an occult tradition regarded wiith particular fascination by his Christian contemporaries."
[David Ruderman, op. cit.]