1552 - 1552

“Tractatus de Assecurationibus et Sponsionibus Mercatorum” by Pedro de Santarém

Portugal can be proud of having had a jurisconsult and doctor in canon law, named Pedro de Santarém or de Santerna who has contributed to the Insurance History and is still a reference worldwide. His important and pioneering work in the field of maritime law is the famous “Tractatus de Assecurationibus et Sponsionibus”.
Pedro de Santarém is attributed Portuguese nationality. He was of hebrew race, a new-christian, and lived only a few years in Portugal, possibly because of the expulsion of jews ordered by King Dom Manuel I. It is known that many of them settled in Italy, particularly in the region of Genoa.
The success of the treaty was due to its pioneering character, since jurists at that time needed consistent knowledge, not having jurisprudence or doctrine to discuss and decide the lawsuits, which were certainly numerous.
The publication is based on the best sources of the time, with a clear and well systematized exposition through its 5 chapters: The illegality of the Insurance contract; The legitimacy of the contracts; The concept of good faith; The characterization of the risk; The concept of malice or fraud.
Pedro de Santarém’s book is a practical work aimed at merchants and traders who were then, simultaneously, insurers.
Domenico Maffei (1982) refers to the existence of a manuscript of Peter Santerna’s treatise, with a dedication to Vincenzo de Nobili (maternal nephew of Pope Julius II, who appointed him governor of the city of Ancona – Italy). This work, dated 1488, is in the custody of the Vatican Apostolic Library (In “Humanismo, Diáspora e Ciência-Séculos XVI e XVII”).
The Vatican Library at https://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Vat.lat.5922 shows in the fifth image (2r) the “index” of works where in the penultimate paragraph it identifies Tractatus de Assecurationibus et Sponsionibus, by Petrus Santerna, whose manuscript is shown at the end of the volume.
The 1st edition of this work occurred in 1552, in Venice. After this publication, the treatise was reprinted several times, in Venice, Antwerp, Lugduni, Rome and Cologne, and 15 reissues are known, even in the 16th century, which shows the importance of the work.
The success of the treaty of Pedro de Santarém is explained by the pioneering character of the work and because, at a time when the practice of insurance was becoming widespread, there was no jurisprudence or doctrine that could serve as a basis for the discussion and decision of claims.
In Portugal, save for a few references from some intellectuals, the author and the work were only truly rescued from oblivion in the 20th century, thanks to the efforts of the illustrious academic Moses Bensabat Amzalak who, in 1914, published a pamphlet with bibliographical notes on Pedro Santerna.
In 1958, Amzalak promoted the publication of the 1st edition of the treaty in Portuguese, with translation from latin by Prof. Manuel Pinto de Meneses, in a separate volume of the annals of ISCEF-Instituto Superior Ciências Económicas e Financeiras and with the title “O Tratado de Seguros de Pedro de Santarém”, probably the first in Portugal to give rigorous bibliographical news about the first edition of 1552.
The 2nd edition was published in 1961 by the Guild of Insurers on the Annual Conference of the International Maritime Insurance Union in Lisbon. In 1971, also on the initiative of the Guild of Insurers, the 3rd edition was published, with versions in Portuguese, French and English.
In 1988, Mundial-Confiança published an edition commemorating the 75th anniversary of the insurer, with versions in Portuguese and French and a preface by Prof. José Hermano Saraiva.
In 2007 an edition was published by the ISP-Instituto de Seguros de Portugal, on the 1st centenary of Insurance Supervision.
The APS-Associação Portuguesa de Seguradores, in 2018, publishes an edition of “Tratado de Seguros de Pedro de Santarém”.

 Image caption
“Tractatus de Assecurationibus et Sponsionibus Mercatorum” by Petro Santerna Lusitano, Venetiis, 1552.