2017-04-19

King's Breviary

Among the world's greatest treasures of book art is the series of lavishly illuminated religious books ordered by King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1458-1490) to enhance his magnificent Renaissance library. What remains of this one-time royal library at Buda, estimated by Csaba Csapodi to have numbered 2,000 to 2,500 books, is now scattered round the world, but thanks to Zsombor Jékely you can browse many surviving volumes in the virtual Bibliotheca Corviniana Online, a directory of links to digitized manuscripts.

The Vatican Library owns one of the most prized items, the Breviary of Matthias Corvinus, Urb.lat.112, and has just digitized it. This volume is attributed to the Florentine master illuminator Attavante dei Attavanti, of whom Csapodi (article digitized by Roger Pearse) writes:
The work of this master and his school is easily recognizable by the delicate pattern of the classical floral design in the border decoration and its moderate use, and by the figural representations inserted into this ornamental frame. Some of these figures seem to be lifeless and conventional, but in many cases they may be portraits of contemporaries gazing at the reader from the leaves of the book.

Indeed. You would not have dared to paint a false smirk or scowl on the face of any eminent courtier in the administration of the martial Matthias. Or of any court lady in the ascendant:

For more on the Corvinian manuscripts, see my blog post two years ago, Hungary's Week, discussing Urb. lat. 110 (Missale Romanum or the Missal of Matthias Corvinus). Browse too to Rossiana 1164 (Missal of the Friars Minor); Barb.lat.168 (Livius: Historiarum decas I); and Ott.lat.501 (Pontificale).

Here is the full list of novelties from the past week or so:
  1. Barb.gr.438
  2. Barb.lat.4021
  3. Chig.P.VII.9.pt.B, part of an album of architectural drawings by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), with some designs by Carlo Fontana or Felice Della Greca (St Louis catalog). This section contains designs for the two-tiered altar at St. John Lateran (HT to @gundormr)
  4. Pal.lat.59
  5. Pal.lat.1747
  6. Pal.lat.1827
  7. Pal.lat.1916
  8. Pal.lat.1918
  9. Pal.lat.1920
  10. Pal.lat.1921
  11. Urb.lat.112
  12. Vat.et.208
  13. Vat.lat.518.pt.2
  14. Vat.lat.535.pt.1
  15. Vat.lat.535.pt.2
  16. Vat.lat.535.pt.3
  17. Vat.lat.1146
  18. Vat.lat.1156
  19. Vat.lat.1160
  20. Vat.lat.1243
  21. Vat.lat.1248
  22. Vat.lat.1256
  23. Vat.lat.1289
  24. Vat.lat.1355, Decretum Burchard, 11th century, notable for an arbor juris at 151v: do you think the top face in this totem looks vaguely like the young Karl Marx?
  25. Vat.lat.1363
  26. Vat.lat.1368
  27. Vat.lat.1369
  28. Vat.lat.1372
  29. Vat.lat.1376
  30. Vat.lat.1379
  31. Vat.lat.1393
  32. Vat.lat.1398
  33. Vat.lat.1407
  34. Vat.lat.1409
  35. Vat.lat.1421
  36. Vat.lat.1424
  37. Vat.lat.1425
  38. Vat.lat.1442
  39. Vat.lat.1461
  40. Vat.lat.1472
  41. Vat.lat.1475
  42. Vat.lat.1477
  43. Vat.lat.1488
  44. Vat.lat.1489
  45. Vat.lat.1493
  46. Vat.lat.1494
  47. Vat.lat.1497
  48. Vat.lat.1498
  49. Vat.lat.1500
  50. Vat.lat.1504
  51. Vat.lat.1507
  52. Vat.lat.1520
  53. Vat.lat.1524
  54. Vat.lat.1526
  55. Vat.lat.1533
  56. Vat.lat.1534
  57. Vat.lat.1536
  58. Vat.lat.1537
  59. Vat.lat.1539
  60. Vat.lat.1552
  61. Vat.lat.1556
  62. Vat.lat.1569, a copy of De rerum natura by Lucretius exhibited in Rome Reborn, where the catalog notes: This elegant manuscript of Lucretius's philosophical poem is an example of the interest in ancient accounts of nature taken by the Renaissance curia. The work, written in the first century B.C., contains one of the principal accounts of ancient atomism. This is one of numerous copies made at that time. The coat of arms of (Pope) Sixtus IV appears on it.
  63. Vat.lat.1571
  64. Vat.lat.1659
  65. Vat.lat.1682, Prognostichon Hierosolymitanum by Giovanni Michele Nagonio. The Rome Reborn catalog by Anthony Grafton notes: Nagonio, a papal functionary who wrote celebratory verses like these for many European monarchs, celebrates the triumphal entry of Julius II into Rome after his victory over the Bolognese.

    On the facing page one sees a self-satisfied pontiff, ringed by short celebratory texts. Nagonio's poems, which fill the rest of the book, reach a self-parodic level of flattery.
  66. Vat.lat.1686
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 111. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.

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