Poggio Portrait

The great Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459) is famed for rediscovering a large number of classical Latin manuscripts that were decaying in German, Swiss, and French monastic libraries. The latest bunch of uploads at Digita Vaticana, on October 21, 2015, includes a manuscript, Urb.lat.224, made in his lifetime (but not by his pen) of his literary work De varietate fortunae (1447).

This is a first-hand survey of the ruins of Rome which Poggio had plenty of time to write as the chief papal scribe (alas he  made no drawings or maps). This codex, apparently made about 1450, begins with an image of Poggio in his sixties, which is probably from a portrait from life. Poggio had waited until age 56 to marry, wedding a girl not yet 18, Selvaggia dei Buondelmonti. He was not handsome, but he was one of the great intellectuals of his day in Florence.

His most celebrated find (described in Stephen Greenblatt's much over-rated best-seller The Swerve) was De rerum natura, the only surviving work by Lucretius.

Between 1414 and 1418 Poggio also dug up (and probably stole) in Fulda, Germany the De re rustica of Columella, an ancient handbook of farming written in the first century CE: a manuscript of De re rusticaUrb.lat.260, featured on this blog a few weeks ago. Columella's work had only been known of indirectly at that point through the Ruralia commoda, the most celebrated medieval handbook of farming. The latter book had been completed some time between 1304 and 1309 by Pietro de' Crescenzi, who could only find fragments of the ancient work. I mention this, because a manuscript of the Ruralia, dated 1424, Urb.lat.266, is in the current batch of uploads below.

Also in the new batch is a book by Poggio's Florentine mentor, Coluccio Salutati (1331-1406), De fato, fortuna et casu (written 1396-1399), here in a presentation edition that is almost certainly posthumous. Coluccio is one of my great heroes, since he purchased and preserved the only accurate copy, Plut. 20.54, of the sole large abstract diagram known from antiquity, the Great Stemma.

The full list of uploads follows:
  1. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.D.184, Gospels with a fine illumination of Matthew (below)
  2. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.D.201, Nicholas of Lyra, Postillae
  3. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.E.12, liturgical calendar
  4. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.E.21, De excidio urbis Hierosolymitanae (On the ruin of the city of Jerusalem) by Pseudo-Hegesippus (see the Roger Pearse summary on Pseudo-Hegesippus with rough translation)
  5. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.F.11.pt.B, the blackened flyleaf of liturgical codex Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.F.11 which contains music and prayers for votive and other masses
  6. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.I.6, 1781 catalogue
  7. Barb.lat.1396, a consilium of Baldus de Ubaldis
  8. Barb.lat.1808, collection of orations
  9. Borgh.286, Geoffrey of Trani, 1245? Summa super rubricis decretalium
  10. Borgh.295, Peter Lombard, Sententiae
  11. Borgh.296, theological and philosophical miscellany
  12. Borgh.336, Iacobus de Voragine, c.1229-1298, Sermones de sanctis, 16th century
  13. Borgh.378, 18th-century catalog of Borghesiani Library, Pars altera.
  14. Cappon.44, estates list? 1648
  15. Cappon.72,  notes from Avicenna
  16. Cappon.76, Italian translation of Quinto Curcio Rufo
  17. Cappon.237.pt.A, collection of 16th and 17th-century drawings and watercolours, including this sketch from 25v
  18. Chig.L.VI.212, Dante, Divine Comedy
  19. Ott.lat.2863, Dante, Divine Comedy
  20. Urb.lat.41, Ambrose of Milan, various, 15th century
  21. Urb.lat.82, Augustine, Prosperus, Vigilius, 15th century
  22. Urb.lat.86, Aymon of Halberstadt on Pauline Epistles, 15th century
  23. Urb.lat.124, Alexander of Ales, OFM, 15th century
  24. Urb.lat.128, Thomas Aquinas, 15th century
  25. Urb.lat.131, Thomas Aquinas, 15th century, copy owned by Pius VI
  26. Urb.lat.135, Thomas Aquinas, 15th century
  27. Urb.lat.138, Thomas Aquinas, dated 1474
  28. Urb.lat.141, Bonaventure, 15th century (Urb. lat. Catalog on Archive.org)
  29. Urb.lat.145, Antoninius of Florence, Summa, 15th century, copy owned by Alexander VII
  30. Urb.lat.153, Pelagius, dated 1482
  31. Urb.lat.201, Coluccio Salutati, De Fato, Fortuna et Casu, 15th century
  32. Urb.lat.216, Aristotle, Metaphysics, with commentary by Thomas Aquinas, 14th-15th century
  33. Urb.lat.217, ditto, 15th century
  34. Urb.lat.224, De varietate fortunae (1447) by Poggio Bracciolini (image above), a detailed first-hand survey of Rome's ruins, which was an exhibit in Rome Reborn. Also various orations by Poggio. See the detailed listing of the codex's contents at Saint Louis, plus the Latin Catalog on Archive.org. Apparently made about 1450.
  35. Urb.lat.235, Galenius and Thomas Aquinas, 16th century
  36. Urb.lat.255, technical handbook on brakes for horse-drawn vehicles, 17th century:
  37. Urb.lat.266, Pietro de' Crescenzi, a key medieval handbook on agriculture, Ruralia commoda, this copy dated 1424 lacks illuminations
  38. Vat.gr.2421, 1647, on paper, no entry yet in Pinakes
  39. Vat.lat.257, Ephrem the Syrian, 15th century
  40. Vat.lat.338, Venerable Bede on Esdras, Nehemiah, Tobit, 15th century
  41. Vat.lat.10678, Dante Divine Comedy with copious additions on margins of first 15 folios

Here is the evangelist Matthew at work from Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.D.184
This raises the posted number of manuscripts to 2,926, an increase of 41. As I noted recently, the presence of some digitized manuscripts is not declared in the Digita Vaticana index of postings, so the true total of digitizations is actually somewhat higher.

Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for more news. Post comments or correction in the box below this blog post.  [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 28.]

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