Historiae Romanorum

Historiae Romanorum – PropylĂ€en Verlag – Codex 151 in Scrin. – Staats- und UniversitĂ€tsbibliothek Hamburg (Hamburg, Germany)

Rome (Italy) — 1280

From the Trojan War and the mythical founding of Rome to the imperial era: the legendary tales of the ancient metropolis in 80 captivating 13th-century washed pen-and-ink drawings

  1. The *Historiae Romanorum* was likely written at the beginning of the 12th century by an anonymous author

  2. The Italian translation in Roman dialect was made for an unknown patron in the 13th century

  3. 80 washed pen-and-ink drawings, 30 of which are full-page, complement the neatly written text

Historiae Romanorum

Codex 151 in Scrin. Staats- und UniversitÀtsbibliothek Hamburg (Hamburg, Germany)
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Historiae Romanorum

The manuscript collection of the Hamburg State and University Library preserves a unique specimen of 13th century Italian book illumination, which is also a wonderfully illuminated testimony to the history of the tradition of Roman legends in the Middle Ages. The Italian translation of the Historiae Romanorum, whose author is not known by name, narrates, on the basis of ancient sources, the Trojan War, the mythical founding of Rome, and the republican period and the Roman Empire. The text, written in a neat Gothic minuscule, is accompanied by countless ornamental initials with fleuronnée ornament and more than 80 washed pen-and-ink drawings, 30 of which take up a whole page each, which make the secular manuscript particularly valuable. A special feature of the miniatures are the ancient Roman buildings that appear again and again, which could only have been made by a illuminator from Rome. The exact context of the manuscript's origin, however, remains an unsolved mystery.

The Histories of the Romans

The manuscript Cod. 151 in scrin. of the Hamburg State and University Library is titled in normalised Latin notation as Histories of the Romans - Expliciunt ystorie romanorum. The work contains a vernacular translation of the original Historiae Romanorum (HR) written in Latin, made around the middle of the 13th century in Rome. The preceding Historiae Romanorum is a modest compilation of Roman history, probably compiled in the first half of the 12th century by an anonymous author. The manuscript deals with the Trojan War, the founding legends of Rome, and presents the most important historical events from the earliest republican period up to Emperor Heraclius in the 7th century in anecdotal narrative style. Isidore, Orosius and other ancient and late antique works served as main sources. The manuscript with its non-sacred theme is thus unique in Italian book illumination of the 13th century.

Excellent decoration

The richly decorated manuscript extends over 125 leaves of thin parchment. The script is a Gothic minuscule in the round form characteristic of Italy. On fol. 3, the text begins with a bright red heading and a blue vine initial rising over seven lines. The free spaces of the square initial are filled with red and blue spiral tendrils and leaves. The initial spurs extending over the entire border end in leaf and fruit motifs. In addition to ornamental initials, there are further leaf tendrils, rows of pearls and other fleuronnée forms as ornamental decoration in red pen and ink. Sections of meaning in the running text are marked by unobtrusive blue or red initials. The most outstanding decoration, however, are the over 80 pen-and-ink drawings imbedded in the text. In red, blue, green and orange, the rectangular drawings usually take up the entire width of the typeface, and 30 leaves are even full-page miniatures. In free spaces within the miniatures or at the edges of the pages, there are captions that are smaller than the main text, but from the same hand.

A partially unknown origin

The Roman literary historian and medievalist Ernesto Monaci (1844–1918) published his treatise on the most important aspects of the manuscript and the text of the Historiae Romanorum in 1889. Apart from a brief entry in the catalogues of the Bibliotheca Uffenbachiana, no records of the manuscript existed in the 18th century. Since Monaci's request to return the original work to Rome, the place of origin of the manuscript, failed, the literary historian ordered two facsimile prints and had one coloured by hand. He gave both copies to the Archivio Storico Capitolino in Rome, where they are still kept today.
Although the manuscript is not dated, the characterisation of the writing as well as the comparison with similar works allow a classification in the penultimate decade of the 13th century. The place of origin Rome is indicated in particular by the Roman dialect and the mention of medieval place names from the surroundings of Rome. In addition, the ancient buildings of the city depicted in the paintings suggest the Roman origin. Nothing is known about the commissioner and first owner of the Historiae Romanorum. At the beginning of the 18th century, the manuscript came into the possession of the Frankfurt bibliophile Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach (1683–1734) and was acquired in 1749 as part of the Uffenbach manuscript collection by a Hamburg professor, who gave it to the City Library.


Size / Format
250 pages / 14.4 × 10.5 cm
83 colored miniatures and numerous initials
Founding myth and history of Rome from the Tower of Babel to the founding of the Ecclesia Romana

Available facsimile editions:
Historiae Romanorum – PropylĂ€en Verlag – Codex 151 in Scrin. – Staats- und UniversitĂ€tsbibliothek Hamburg (Hamburg, Germany)
PropylĂ€en Verlag – Frankfurt/Berlin, 1974
Limited Edition: 250 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Historiae Romanorum

PropylĂ€en Verlag – Frankfurt/Berlin, 1974

Publisher: PropylĂ€en Verlag – Frankfurt/Berlin, 1974
Limited Edition: 250 copies
Binding: Facsimile and commentary volume come in half parchment binding and in a slipcase
Commentary: 1 volume by Tilo Brandis and Otto PĂ€cht
Language: German
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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