Book of Treasures

Book of Treasures Facsimile Edition

France — 1230–1294

Philosophy, history, science, religion, and politics: an exceptional textbook and reference work for the non-clerical, urban patrician audience adorned with 115 imaginative miniatures

  1. Brunetto Latini's universal reference addressing philosophy, history, natural studies, religion, and politics

  2. The marginalia is distinguished by a variety of grotesque faces, animals, monsters, and fanciful dwarves

  3. The work was intended as a textbook and reference for a non-clerical, urban-patrician public

Book of Treasures

Fr. F. v. III, 4 National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Book of Treasures

The Book of Treasures is a universal reference book that deals with the themes of philosophy, history, natural studies, religion, and politics. It was written in French ca. 1270 by the Italian scholar and politician Brunetto Latini. The informative text of the work is illustrated with numerous miniatures and highly-valued decorative frames.

Book of Treasures

French was one of the most important languages in Europe in the year 1260. In order to reach as many readers as possible, manuscripts from this period were mostly written in French. The Italian scholar Brunetto Latini was guided by this circumstance and wrote down the text of his Book of Treasures in the French language. The manuscript is a kind of encyclopedia of geographical-natural historical, philosophical-moral, and biblical-ancient historical knowledge of the Middle Ages. The document likewise handles themes from politics and rhetoric. The manuscript was charmingly illustrated with various decorative elements.

Who was Brunetto Latini?

Brunetto Latini was an Italian statesman, scholar, and writer, who was known above all else as the teacher and fatherly friend of the poet Dante. He was a representative of the political party of the Guelfs and was forced into exile in France following the abortive power struggles of his party. During this time he wrote a large portion of his literary works. He compiled the Book of Treasures as a textbook and reference book for a non-clerical, above all urban-patrician public. Written in austere French prose, the text became a template for numerous additional philosophical and political reference books in Europe.

A Universal Textbook

The three-part manuscript begins with the account of events from the Bible, the history of Troy, and the history of the Middle Ages. Following that is a treatise on natural history, which gives proof of the enormous geographic and astronomical knowledge of the author. Some types of animals and birds are described here in detail. The next part of the book deals with ethical principles of both classical and contemporary moralists. He studies the virtues and vices of humanity. In the third part, Latini discusses the politics and art of governance. He himself was of the opinion that this is the highest of all sciences.

Exceptional Decoration

The extensive manuscript is adorned with a rich variety of illustrations. 18 pages of the work show imaginative border decoration. These show a most varied display of grotesque faces, animals, monsters, and fanciful dwarf figures. Other miniatures show musicians, who play organs, harps, bagpipes, and other musical instruments. Worthy of note is a miniature, which depicts the divine creation of Eve from the rib of Adam. The extraordinary work is found today in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg.


Alternative Titles
Libro del Tesoro
Le Livre du Trésor
Buch der Schätze
Libro del Tesoro
Livro do Tesouro
Size / Format
298 pages / 31.0 × 22.0 cm
115 miniatures
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Book of Treasures – Fr. F. v. III, 4 – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia) Facsimile Edition
M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 1999
Limited Edition: 987 copies
Detail Picture

Book of Treasures

Primate Horse Archer

This magnificent manuscript is filled with artful and playful, even satirical marginalia that often shows animals engaged in human activities. Two primates can be seen among the thorny tendrils of this bas-de-page miniature. One is blue, mounted and armed in the manner of a horse archer, and looking back bow in hand as he rides away on the back of a bounding doe. The other is brown and has an arrow stuck in its backside, and looks angrily over his shoulder at his attacker.

Libro del Tesoro
Single Page

Book of Treasures

On Monkeys and Tigers

Here are two complete texts accompanied by their respective miniatures on the left side of the page, which represent the end of the book’s section on zoology. The lower image is a rather simple depiction of a tiger, although its coloring is more similar to that of a leopard, which is following a man before a mottled red background.

The image of the monkeys is more intriguing. A mother carries one child in its arm with another clinging to its back before a patterned blue background. They are followed by a man, presumably a hunter, which is alluded to in the text. Animal figures can be found throughout the marginalia, including a monkey’s head on the corner of the miniature to the right and a man balancing swords on his chin at the bottom-right of the page.

Libro del Tesoro
Facsimile Editions

#1 Libro del Tesoro

M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 1999

Publisher: M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 1999
Limited Edition: 987 copies
Binding: Brown goatskin with mosaics corresponding to the 16th century original Protected by a brown leather case
Commentary: 1 volume (500 pages) by Liudmila I. Kisseleva, Vladimir N. Zaitsev, Inna P. Mokretsova, Willene B. Clark, Maria Algas, and Monica Miro
Languages: Spanish, English
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
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