Book of Treasures

Fr. F. v. III, 4 - National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)

Alternate Titles:

Libro del Tesoro, Le Livre du Trésor, Buch der Schätze, Libro del Tesoro, Livro do Tesouro

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Alternate Titles

Libro del Tesoro
Le Livre du Trésor
Buch der Schätze
Libro del Tesoro
Livro do Tesouro

Extent / Format

298 pages / 31.0 x 22.0 cm

Artist / School

Author: Brunetto Latini (c.1230-1294), Florentine politician, poet, historian-philosopher, and friend of Dante


115 miniatures

Short description

The Book of Treasures is a universal reference book that deals with the themes of philosophy, history, natural studies, religion, and politics. It was written in French ca. 1270 by the Italian scholar and politician Brunetto Latini. The informative text of the work is illustrated with numerous miniatures and highly-valued decorative frames.

Facsimile editions available


Book of Treasures

French was one of the most important languages in Europe in the year 1260. In order to reach as many readers as possible, manuscripts from this period were mostly written in French. The Italian scholar Brunetto Latini was guided by this circumstance and wrote down the text of his Book of Treasures in the French language. The manuscript is a kind of encyclopedia of geographical-natural historical, philosophical-moral, and biblical-ancient historical knowledge of the Middle Ages. The document likewise handles themes from politics and rhetoric. The manuscript was charmingly illustrated with various decorative elements.

Who was Brunetto Latini?

Brunetto Latini was an Italian statesman, scholar, and writer, who was known above all else as the teacher and fatherly friend of the poet Dante. He was a representative of the political party of the Guelfs and was forced into exile in France following the abortive power struggles of his party. During this time he wrote a large portion of his literary works. He compiled the Book of Treasures as a textbook and reference book for a non-clerical, above all urban-patrician public. Written in austere French prose, the text became a template for numerous additional philosophical and political reference books in Europe.

A Universal Textbook

The three-part manuscript begins with the account of events from the Bible, the history of Troy, and the history of the Middle Ages. Following that is a treatise on natural history, which gives proof of the enormous geographic and astronomical knowledge of the author. Some types of animals and birds are described here in detail. The next part of the book deals with ethical principles of both classical and contemporary moralists. He studies the virtues and vices of humanity. In the third part, Latini discusses the politics and art of governance. He himself was of the opinion that this is the highest of all sciences.

Exceptional Decoration

The extensive manuscript is adorned with a rich variety of illustrations. 18 pages of the work show imaginative border decoration. These show a most varied display of grotesque faces, animals, monsters, and fanciful dwarf figures. Other miniatures show musicians, who play organs, harps, bagpipes, and other musical instruments. Worthy of note is a miniature, which depicts the divine creation of Eve from the rib of Adam. The extraordinary work is found today in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg.

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