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Epistolae ad Familiares
Illuminated manuscript in Latin, written on vellum, possibly written by Ser Pietro di Bernardo Cennini and illuminated by Francesco d'Antonio del Chierico. Italy, Florence, ca. 1460-1470. 270 x 175 mm., ii, 156, ii leaves. Collation: I-XV10, XVI6-1 (last blank cancelled), perpendicular catchwords in hand of the scribe. Modern pencilled foliation including front flyleaf. Written in brown ink in a very fine, humanist minuscule between 37 horizontal and two pairs of vertical lines ruled in pale ink, justification: 195 x 105 mm., rubrics in pale red, two-line initials in dark blue throughout (often several on a page), 16 large (five- to nine-lines) white-vine initials in raised burnished gold, entwined with white-vine leaves infilled in blue, pink and green with three or more dots in white and with marginal extensions up and down the margins, the first with a two-sided border with winged putti carrying a wreath (original coat of arms erased), a bird and a butterfly. Lower corner of opening folio slightly thumbed. A few contemporary marginal notes, erasure at end affected several pages (below explicit on fol. 156v caused rubbing on fols. 155v-156r as well), few minor wormholes mostly in margins, few other creases and marks, generally in very fine condition, complete and with clean wide margins. Binding: late 16th-early 17th century (?) gold-tooled brown morocco, nine raised bands, panel design, perhaps Sicilian (see La Bibliofilía, vol. 68 (1966), pp. 181-183), gilt edges (covers a little worn, small sections missing from head and foot of spine); vellum pastedowns (lifted) from a mid 14th-century Italian manuscript of Aristotle's Politics, Book 4 in Latin translation written in 2 columns. In a modern quarter red morocco fitted box with gilt lettering. PROVENANCE:1. Unidentified original patron, his coat of arms (fol. 2r) erased. 2. Perhaps a Sicilian owner by the late 16th-early 17th century when the manuscript received its present binding, presumably contemporary to the inscriptions on the flyleaf: "Di don Francesco st.st.lia. Di Don Domenico."3. Book-label with initials R.L.A. (gilt on blue).4. Giannalisa Feltrinelli (bookplate; F 159 in her library, her sale Christie's London, 3 December 1997, lot 151 sold to Bernard Quaritch).5. Helmut N. Friedlaender, with his bookplate. His library sold (Christie's New York, 23 April 2001, lot 5). Helmut Friedlaender (1913-2008), American bibliophile and lawyer, was an advisor to the Rosenwald family.SCRIBE: The manuscript is written by one excellent hand in a small humanistic script. Spaces for quotations in Greek are left blank. According to P.O. Kristeller, Iter Italicum V, 1990, p. 346 the scribe was identified by the great expert Albinia de La Mare as Ser Pietro di Bernardo Cennini (1463, see also no. 53451 in the Schoenberg database). He was a prolific Florentine scribe (ca. 1445-84) to whom at least 32 other manuscripts are attributed, the first of which dated 1460 (see Garzelli 1985, pp. 445 & 526-29). Piero Cennini was the son of the first book printer in Florence and a professional notary. He mostly wrote an elegant humanist, cursive hand (contrary to the present manuscript that is written in a minuscule). He copied texts for his own use as well as for clients, especially Hungarian clients such as Archbishop Vitez and Matthias Corvinus. The present manuscript is not listed in Garzelli 1985.TEXT:Epistolae ad familiares (fols. 2r-156v), divided into sixteen books. Book I (fol. 2r), Book II (fol. 11v), Book III (fol. 18v), Book IV (fol. 27v), Book V (fol. 35r), Book VI (fol. 46v), Book VII (fol. 56v), Book VIII (fol. 66r), Book IX (fol. 70v), Book X (fol. 84v), Book XI (fol. 98v), Book XII (fol. 107r), Book XIII (fol. 118r), Book XIV (fol. 130v), Book XV (fol. 140r), Book XVI (fol. 150r).Fol. 156v: Ego vos ad III Kal. videbo, tuosque oculos, etiam si te veniens in medio foro videro, dissaviabor. Me ama. Vale. Marci Tullii Ciceronis Epistolarum Familiarium Liber Sextusdecimus et ultimus feliciter Explicit… [following line partially erased repetition of the author's name et Marci Tullii…]. A second hand repeats the last sentence of the last letter. Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.), lived during the final phase of the Roman Republic at the time of the rise, dictatorship and death of Julius Cesar. Much is known of this Roman lawyer, orator, politician and philosopher as his character and time shine through the mass of his works that survived the ages. After the murder of Julius Cesar (44 B.C.), Cicero pleaded for the restoration of the Republic in his famous Philippics. Being an enemy of Marc Antony, he was killed in Rome in 43 B.C. Cicero's works, but most specially his letters reveal his role in the politics and turmoil of his time. This codex containing the sixteen books of Epistolae ad familiares comprises more than ninety letters Cicero wrote to friends and relatives over a period of c. 63-43 B.C. Some letters are addressed to public persons such as Pompeius and Caesar, others are private such as those to his wife Terentia. Originally compsed without thought of publication, the letters - serious, informative and gossipy - give an intimate insight into Cicero's life and opinions. In the middle of the 14th century, Petrarch was only acquainted with a small collection of Cicero's letters, but Coluccio Salutati, in 1389, stumbled upon a codex with the 16 books of letters ad familiares (in a 9th-century manuscript in Vercelli). Coluccio Salutati (1374-1406), the humanist chancellor of Florence and correspondent of Petrarch, guided young scholars such as Poggio Bracciolini and Leonardo Bruni. He invited the Byzantine Manuel Chrysoloras to Florence, bringing with him the knowledge of Greek and Greek literature. Salutati amassed a great collection of manuscripts and in searching for classical manuscripts, he made a number of notable discoveries, of which Cicero's Epistolae ad familiares was the most important as it overturned the entire medieval conception of Cicero, the Roman statesman. Salutati also took up Cicero's ideas "in the self" (Greenblatt 2012, p. 124), when he, in his historical studies tied Florence's origin to the Roman Republic, not to the Roman Empire. Since Salutati brought the Vercelli manuscript to Florence, the city became a major centre of distribution of Cicero's text.ILLUMINATION: All books open with a fine, large gold initial, surrounded by white vines on a blue ground, highlighted with soft-rose and green. The vine decoration on the frontispiece is divided into two elements, in the outside border with a bird in green and in the lower margin with two putti holding a wreath that once contained the coat of arms of the original patron, and a butterfly watching from the end and top of the decoration. This handsome border on the openings page and the finely executed so-called white-vine initials are characteristic of the style of Francesco d'Antonio del Chierico of around 1460 and the decoration of this manuscript can securely be attributed to his workshop. Levi D'Ancona 1962 observed that the putti of Francesco d'Antonio can be recognized by their "pollaiuolesca," and the strong emphasis given to the movement of the hips. Also painted birds appear in his decoration, moving through the white spirals, sometimes in the act of catching something with their long beak. Francesco d'Antonio del Chierico was one of the leading illuminators in Florence (ca. 1452-d. 1484). The present decoration can be compared, for instance, with the initials in other Cicero manuscripts such as Ms. Burgess 48 (Eugene, University of Oregon Library) and in Ms. Digby 231 (Oxford, Bodleian Library) and two Corvinian manuscripts, one in Budapest, UL, Ms. Lat 10 (Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem), the other in Vienna, ONB, Cod. Lat. 22 (Titus Livius, Ab Urbe condita; see: http://www.gicas.net/burgess48.html). Moreover, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich holds a comparable Corvinus manuscript illuminated in the same style and possibly written by the same hand (CLM 310, Demosthenes, Orationes and Aeschines, Epistola, Florence, ca. 1465). Francesco d'Antonio del Chierico's production was vast and varied (see Levi D'Ancona 1962, pp. 108-116 and De La Mare 1996, p. 180). He illuminated literary, historical, and devotional books, from small format Books of Hours to large humanist texts. He worked not only work for the Medicis but also for the condottiere and bibliophile Federigo da Montefeltro (d. 1482), and the renowned bookseller Vespasiano da Bisticci, through whom he acquired patrons beyond Italy, among whom Ferdinand I of Naples, Louis XI of France, and Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary (1443-90). The latter's passion for books and learning was greatly influenced by his tutor János Vitéz (d. 1472), archbishop of Esztergom. The Bibliotheca Corviniana, in its time one of the finest libraries, was dispersed after 1561 and manuscripts are now found all over the world. Several Corviniana may originally have come from Vitéz. Infrared research might perhaps reveal traces of the original coat of arms erased on fol.1 and therefore point into the direction of the first patron of this present very fine humanist manuscript.LITERATURE:P. Lejay, "Coluccio di Pierio di Salutati," in Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: 1913.S. Greenblatt, The Swerve. How the World became Modern. New York: 2012, pp. 123-26.M. Levi d'Ancona, Miniatura e miniatori a Firenze dal XIV al XVI secolo. Florence 1962, pp. 108-16.A. de la Mare, "New Research on Humanistic Scribes in Florence," in: A. Garzelli, Miniatura fiorentina del Rinascimento, 1440-1525 : un primo censimento, Florence 1985, pp. 445 & 526-29.A. Garzelli, "Francesco Antonio del Chierico," in The Grove Dictionary of Art, ed. by Jane Turner, New York 1996, Vol. 11, pp. 685-87.Further reading:The Painted Page: Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550, edited by Jonathan J. G. Alexander, New York 1994. See also for details of birds and putti: no 50.Painting and Illumination in early Renaissance Florence, 1300-1450, edited by Laurence B. Kanter et al., New York 1994 (exhib. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art).A. C. de la Mare, "Vespasiano da Bisticci as Producer of Classical Manuscripts in Fifteenth-Century Florence," in: Medieval Manuscripts of the Latin Classics: Production and Use. Proceedings of the Seminar in the History of the Book to 1500, Leyden 1993. Edited by C.A. Chavannes-Mazel and M. M. Smith, Los Altos Hills, 1996, pp. 167-207.
      [Bookseller: Jonathan A. Hill, Bookseller, Inc.]
Last Found On: 2016-11-24           Check availability:      Biblio    

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