Cristoforo Buondelmonti: Book of the Islands of the Archipelago

Cristoforo Buondelmonti: Book of the Islands of the Archipelago Facsimile Edition

Probably Milan (Italy) — Second half of 15th century

The salvage of Greek-language cultural heritage in the West: a travelogue of Cristoforo Buondelmonti's special 1415 mission to recover valuable manuscripts in the Aegean Sea

  1. As the Byzantine Empire declined, efforts were undertaken to bring Greek works to the West

  2. Cristoforo Buondelmonti (ca. 1385 – ca. 1430) was commissioned by scholars from Florence

  3. His travelogue includes maps of various islands and a full-page depiction of Constantinople

Cristoforo Buondelmonti: Book of the Islands of the Archipelago

Ms. G 13 Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf (Düsseldorf, Germany)
  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Cristoforo Buondelmonti: Book of the Islands of the Archipelago

As the Byzantine Empire collapsed in the East, many Greek-speaking scholars fled to the West and brought highly coveted manuscripts with them. At the same time, the Franciscan priest Cristoforo Buondelmonti was sent on a mission to recover Greek manuscripts from various islands in the Aegean Sea in 1414. In the process, he created two travelogues recording his time touring these historic and scenic islands including the manuscript at hand, the Liber insularum archipelagi or "Book of the Islands of the Archipelago". This mission was commissioned by scholars from Florence including Niccolò Niccoli and the first version of it, completed in 1420, was dedicated to Cardinal Giordano Orsini, a wealthy bibliophile and patron of the arts. The travelogue reflects Buondelmonti’s experiences and has maps of various islands complete with buildings as well as a full-page depiction of Constantinople.

Cristoforo Buondelmonti: Book of the Islands of the Archipelago

Between the years 1414 and 1430, Cristoforo Buondelmonti (ca. 1385 – ca. 1430) travelled throughout the Adriatic, Aegean, and Eastern Mediterranean visiting the most important locations in Greek civilization including Rhodes, Crete, Cyprus, and Constantinople. Buondelmonti was interested in ancient civilizations and his research expedition was patronized inter alia by Niccolò de' Niccoli (1364–1437), a prominent Renaissance humanist. During this time, he not only acquired Greek manuscripts to be shipped to Italy but wrote two manuscripts of his own including the Liber insularum archipelagi or “Book of the Islands of the Archipelago”. First completed in 1420 with a dedication to Cardinal Giordano Orsini (1360/70–1438), the work was revised four times until a definitive edition was made in 1430. It was copied countless times and the Düsseldorf copy Ms. G 13 was produced in Northern Italy in the last quarter of the 15th century. 52 of the manuscript’s 61 pages are adorned with maps of various islands and drawings of settlements, cities, and castles.

The Oldest Map of Constantinople

Born into an important Florentine noble family that died out in the 18th century, Cristoforo Buondelmonti received a humanist education from Guarino da Verona (1374–1460), through whom he met Niccolò Niccoli. After being ordained as a Franciscan priest in 1414, he travelled throughout the Aegean islands before spending time in Constantinople during the 1420’s. While there, he created a map of the major landmarks of Constantinople and the Pera district that is separated from the rest of the city by the Golden Horn. Aside from a detailed depiction of the complex network of walls, towers, and fortresses defending the city and the Bosporus, it presents various churches, palaces, victory columns, forums, and various other public buildings. It is the oldest map of Constantinople to survive today and the only one to antedate the fall of the city to Ottoman forces in 1453.


Alternative Titles
Cristoforo Buondelmonti: Buch der Inseln des Archipels
Liber Insularum Archipelagi di Cristoforo Buondelmonti
Size / Format
186 pages / 41.0 × 28.0 cm
Second half of 15th century
Humanistic cursive
Facsimile Editions

#1 Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Liber insularum archipelagi: Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf Ms. G 13, Faksimile

Reichert Verlag – Wiesbaden, 2005

Publisher: Reichert Verlag – Wiesbaden, 2005
Commentary: 1 volume by Arne Effenberger, Max Plassmann und Fabian Rijkers
Language: German
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Facsimile and commentary are housed in one volume in this edition, with the commentary printed in a separate section. Black and white reproduction of ff. 28-58 of the original document. The enlarged pages are represented on a larger white background. The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
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