Boccaccio's Decameron

misc. 49 - Bodleian Library (Oxford, United Kingdom)

Alternate Titles:

El Decamerón de Boccaccio, Arsenal Decameron, Decameron de Bocaccio, Boccaccios Decamerone, Il Decameron, Holkham Hall Decameron, Das Decamerone von Boccaccio

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Alternate Titles

El Decamerón de Boccaccio
Arsenal Decameron
Decameron de Bocaccio
Boccaccios Decamerone
Il Decameron
Holkham Hall Decameron
Das Decamerone von Boccaccio

Extent / Format

340 pages / 35.6 x 26.5 cm

Around 1467

Teofilo Calcagnini

Artist / School

Author: Giovanni Boccaccio
Illuminator:Teofilo Calcagnini

Former owners

Francescani Osservanti
Thomas Coke, Duke of Leceister

Short description

A wonderful 15th century Italian manuscript luxuriously frames one of the most famous works of world literature: Boccaccio’s Decameron, a richly-varied collection of stories from the mid-14th century. At the behest of Teofilo Calcagnini, the Ferrara miniaturist Taddeo Crivelli completed a masterpiece of his art with gorgeous miniatures and impressive ornamentation, a variety of forms and compositions!

Facsimile editions available


Boccaccio's Decameron

This wonderful testimonial to 15th century Italian illumination is stored today in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The shelf mark MS. Holkham misc. 49 refers to its provenance: the manuscript originates from Holkham Hall in Norfolk, the famous country home of Thomas Cook, First Earl of Leicester, with his famous library with books from his grand tour of Italy. It was surely there that the Earl acquired the impressive Decameron manuscript originating from Ferrara ca. 1467.

In the Circle of the Court of Ferrara

The manuscript originated at the behest of Teofilo Calcagnini, an official at the court of Borso d’Este. Taddeo Crivelli (active in Ferrara 1451-1479), a gifted miniaturist, was responsible for the Ferrara-style Renaissance illumination. Under the rule of Borso d’Este, Crivelli worked both for noble as well as institutional patrons. One of his significant works was surely the Bible of Borso d’Este, one of the primary works of Italian Renaissance illumination.

The Famous Ten-Day-Work

Taddeo Crivelli created a splendid manuscript of the famous Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) for the court official. The collection of short stories by the humanist-influenced author of the Italian Renaissance is considered to be one of the most important works of world literature. Originating around the middle of the 14th century, Boccaccio narrates 100 stories altogether – told by ten people on ten days – with the plague in Florence as a backdrop.

The Diverse Book Decoration

Every page of the manuscript is wonderfully designed – and each differently. A variety of ideas and concepts are presented here. The text in two columns is often framed by colorful ornamental friezes, adorned with floral ornamentation, or illustrated with miniatures of the content. These diverse, colorful adornment inter alia is taken from mythology and from the Decameron itself. Artful initials round out the accomplished pictorial adornment.

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