History of the City of Troy

History of the City of Troy Facsimile Edition

Probably Venice (Italy) — 1340–1350

Love, passion, betrayal, war, and doomed heroes: the only version of the fall of Troy featuring detailed descriptions of the customs, traditions, and lifestyles of the famous city

  1. Guido delle Colonne, a 13th century author in Messina, wrote one of the most popular accounts of the Trojan War

  2. Colonne’s work was turned into a luxury manuscript in a Venetian atelier ca. 1340–1350 and adorned with 93 miniatures

  3. The colorful manuscript is also adorned with initials of glimmering gold and floral marginalia

History of the City of Troy

  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
History of the City of Troy

The medieval codex, which is preserved today in the Spanish National Library in Madrid under the shelf mark MS 17805, contains one of the most impressive and beautiful illuminated histories of the Trojan War. Guido delle Colonne (ca. 1210–1287), an Italian jurist, poet, and historian from the poetic circles of the court of Emperor Frederick II and his son Manfred, is considered to be the author of this Latin prose narrative. The copy in MS 17805 is written in black ink throughout, with the scribe using red only for the introductory incipit. Elaborate, historiated initials of raised, embossed gold surrounded by floral vine work structure the text while colorful and richly detailed miniatures provide pictorial complements to the events described. The manuscript is believed to have originated in Venice ca. 1340–50 and may have come to Spain in the 16th century during the Italian Wars. The Trojan theme has been treated many times since antiquity and inspired many works (e.g. Virgil, Dictys and Dares, etc.) but only in MS 17805, however, are there descriptions of customs, everyday pleasures, and other features of life in the city before its fall. Thus, the Historia Civitatis Troiane is not only unique in content, but also one of the most beautiful and artistic books of the Trojan myth.

Historia Civitatis Troiane

Among the intellectual movements to gain steam during the Renaissance was the fascination with myths and histories from antiquity. Few tales have enjoyed such popularity throughout the centuries as that of the Trojan War. Love, passion, rivalries, betrayal, war, and doomed heroes – the tale has it all and was as attractive to medieval audiences as it continues to be for modern ones. One specimen is unique from the rest, because while all tell of the city’s fall, only one details daily life in Troy before its destruction: MS 17805 of the Spanish National Library, also known as the Historia Civitatis Troiane. Written in Latin by the famous Italian lawyer, poet, and historian Guido delle Colonne, the text is recorded in red and black ink, and is illustrated by brightly colored miniatures.

A Gem of the Early Renaissance

Colonne’s work was turned into a luxury manuscript in a Venetian atelier ca. 1340–1350, where it was adorned with 93 miniatures as rich in color as they are in detail, initials illuminated with burnished gold, and even some vegetal decoration in the margins of the text. Although there are other manuscripts with the story of the Fall of Troy, MS 17805 stands above the rest because it is the only one detailing the customs, traditions, leisure activities, etc. of the city. Although the identities of the work’s patron and the masters responsible for it continue to remain a mystery, the illumination was clearly influenced by Paolo Veneciano. This is an outstanding and unique specimen of the early Venetian Renaissance.

Mysterious Journey from Italy to Spain

Buchtel’s famous study of the manuscript has shed some light on the manuscript’s provenance and turbulent history. Although it is not known for certain, it is speculated that the manuscript made its way to Spain during the Italian Wars of the 16th century, when the major powers of Western Europe vied for control of the rich peninsula. He asserts that it was once owned by Alvar Gómez de Castro, and an anagram indicates that it also belonged to the Marqués de Navas. The manuscript was purchased by the Spanish National Library in 1899 as part of the collection of Pascual de Gayangos.


Alternative Titles
Die Geschichte der Stadt Troja
Historia Civitatis Troianae
Size / Format
294 pages / 28.5 × 19.0 cm
93 ornate miniatures of different sizes, various golden initials with colorful tendril offshoots, and a richly illuminated incipit page with a large historiated initial and opulent border
Narration about the destruction of Troy by the Greeks
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Alvar Gómez de Castro
Marqués de Navas

Available facsimile editions:
History of the City of Troy – MSS/17805 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain) Facsimile Edition
PIAF – Madrid, 2017
Limited Edition: 510 copies
Detail Picture

History of the City of Troy

Historiated “S” Initial

Appearing on the first text page of this wonderful specimen of Guido delle Colonne’s famous Trojan epic, this “S” initial shows a warrior king crowned and armed below a crowd of noble lords and ladies. The burnished gold leaf background shines beautifully and immediately attracts the eye of the beholder. This manuscript is distinguished for its depictions of medieval life, and the artist begins doing so even before the reader lays their eyes on the first miniature.

Historia Civitatis Troianae
Single Page

History of the City of Troy

The Assault on Troy

As the Trojans slept, Odysseus and his thirty Achaeans emerged from their great horse, killing the guards and opening the city’s gates. This famous act of subterfuge ended the war and resulted in the destruction of Troy. The events are presented here in two miniatures, fine specimens of Venetian illumination that are richly colored and detailed in equal measure.

The assault is launched from the Trojan Horse in the upper register and the army of the Greeks, which had pretended to withdraw by sailing out of sight, has returned, disembarked, and waits to rush in the gates. Below, King Priam is shown kneeling before the altar of Zeus in the palace courtyard just before he is killed by Neoptolemus, son of the famous warrior Achilles.

Historia Civitatis Troianae
Facsimile Editions

#1 Historia Civitatis Troianae

PIAF – Madrid, 2017

Publisher: PIAF – Madrid, 2017
Limited Edition: 510 copies
Binding: Gold stamped leather
Commentary: 1 volume
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.
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