Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae

Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae

Paris (France); Florence (Italy) and others — 4th–15th century

From the holdings of the Papal Library: a collection of 12 single leaves from splendid literary manuscripts

  1. The famous Vatican Library was the brainchild of Pope Nicholas V (1447–1455), a great bibliophile

  2. Great works of literature are counted among the 80,000 manuscripts in the collection

  3. These 12 single sheets represent some of the highlights from the secular works of the Vatican Library

Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae

Within twelve pages selected from the non-biblical book treasures of the famous Vatican Library, the Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae provide an exquisite overview of the inventory from the great library of the popes. As a passionate humanist, Pope Nicholas V, the library’s founder, already began to lay the foundations for a collection of works from the most important authors and artistically valuable codices. The selected pages are concerned with the most notable of what the famous Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana has to offer from its wealth of treasures.

Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae

Within twelve pages selected from the non-biblical book treasures of the famous Vatican Library, the Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae provide an exquisite overview of the inventory from the great library of the popes. As a passionate humanist, Pope Nicholas V, the library’s founder, already began to lay the foundations for a collection of works from the most important authors and artistically valuable codices. The selected pages are concerned with the most notable of what the famous Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana has to offer from its wealth of treasures.

Treasures of Literature and Art History Spanning over 1,000 Years

A variety of human bodies in every possible contortion and pose appear to fall through the image space. Similarly, a part of hell after the Last Judgement is imagined. The historical worth of the individual pages from the selected compendium is already apparent with a page from a manuscript of Dante’s Inferno designed by Sandro Botticelli, the revered genius of Italian Quattrocento. Two aspects were taken into account for the criteria of the selection from the rich collection of the Vatican Library: first, the significance of the manuscripts for the transmission of the classical authors and second, the status in art history of the illustrations and book decoration. In this way, some texts of literary and historical interest are to be found among the twelve pages, on the other hand there are particular manuscript pages with valuable and creative illumination motifs. From a time period of over one thousand years originate specimens such as a sheet from the so-called Vergilius Vaticanus (4th/5th century), an astronomical chart from a Byzantine Ptolemy Manuscript (8th/9th century), and a richly-colored illustrated page of the Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio from a 15th century French manuscript. The Falconry Book of Frederick II from the 13th century is represented along with a Virgil manuscript from the 6th century.

A Pope as a Humanist

The twelve pages of the compendium are assembled in a boxed set with a genuine gilded brass plate as décor, which was modeled after the template of the astrological manuscript from the Byzantine Ptolemy manuscript. This example demonstrates the wide arch that is spanned textually by the valuable codices of the papal collection. The father of this idea and the founder of the Vatican Library was Pope Nicholas V (1447–1455). As a humanist and book collector, he directed his attention on the collection of not only bibles and biblical manuscripts but also collected academic, literary, and artistically decorated manuscripts of great value. This principle was also followed by successive popes who would sit on the Throne of St. Peter, spearheading the wealth of book treasures that is still noteworthy and unique to this day. Manuscripts – and in turn the most beautiful pages therein – were chosen from this valuable and highly-prized collection to represent the collection of one of the most important libraries in the world by way of example.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Schätze der Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae
Origin
France
Date
4th–15th century

Available facsimile editions:
Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2011
Limited Edition: 1995 copies
Detail Picture

Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Biblica

Bas-de-page Miniature – Falconry Book of Frederick II

Two falconers with hunter-green cloaks, white caps, and yellow tights are shown here standing next to a tower, possibly the location of their falcons’ roost. Constructed of red and yellow bricks, the tower’s crenellations are made of blue acanthus leaves, a popular decorative motif since antiquity. Great attention to detail has been paid to the plumage of the falcons, the red lining of their handlers’ cloaks, and the subtle brushstrokes and shading evident in the tower’s bricks.

Schätze der Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae
Single Page

Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae

Vergilius Romanus – Two Ships in a Storm

This dramatic scene is from one of the few Late Antique manuscripts to survive to the present, and arguably the most artful. It is from the Aeneid by the famous Roman poet Virgil. While still exhibiting the realistic features of the classical style, the manuscript from ca. 500 already shows signs of departing from these classical forms in favor of greater symbolism.

Set within a golden frame, this composition makes use of seven different paints in depicting an opening scene in which the fleet of the Trojans is caught in a storm. At the bidding of the wrathful goddess Juno, Aeolus, King of the Winds, devastates the Trojan fleet, whose ships are depicted as classical triremes. Fish and sea monsters fill the dark, swirling waters.

Schätze der Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae
Facsimile Editions

#1 Schätze der Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2011
Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2011
Limited Edition: 1995 copies
Binding: The box itself measures 380 × 520 × 87 mm and is covered with green cowhide. It is decorated with a relief reproduction in gilt brass of the circular astrological table (Byzantine Ptolemy manuscript, 8th – 9th century). It was produced exclusively for the Vatican boxed set.
Commentary: 1 volume by Christine Maria Grafinger
Language: German
1 volume: 12 leaves: 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: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
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