Treasures from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae

Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

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Schätze der Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Schätze der Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana – Litterae

Type
Extent / Format

12 leaves / N/A

Origin
Date
4th-15th century
Style
Genre
Language

Short description

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.

Facsimile editions available

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 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 Bocaccio 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.

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