ALTERNATIVE TITLES – Libro delle Similitudini – Fiore delle Virtù e de’ Vizj.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION – Codex on parchment, dimensions 215 x 140 mm, V-113-IV folios.
ORIGIN – Italy (Florence).
DATING – 15th century (c. 1470-1480).
PATRONAGE – Unknown.
OWNERS – In the 16th century the codex was purchased by Tommaso Cavalcanti (b. ?, d. 1560), a Florentine merchant who conducted important business with Rome and the Congregazione cardinalizia dell’Annona and held important political positions in his city. A note on f. Vr gives details of the purchase by the wealthy merchant: «1533. Questo libro è di Thomaso Chavalchanti, comprato questo dì IIII° di marzo, in mercato vechio» (1533. This book is the property of Tommaso Cavalcanti, bought today 4 March at the Mercato Vecchio).
PRESENT REPOSITORY – The manuscript is today kept in the Biblioteca Riccardiana in Florence, with the shelfmark MS Ricc. 1774.
GENRE – Astronomy / Astrology, Bestiaries, Geography / Maps, Literature.
CONTENT – The manuscript contains the text of two works: the Fiore di Virtù (ff. 1r-72v) and La Sfera (ff. 74r-110v). The former is a didactic-moral treatise in prose written between the end of the 13th century and the first decades of the 14th, generally attributed to the Benedictine monk Tommaso Gozzadini (b. 1260, d. 1329), and at other times handed down under the title Libro delle Similitudini. The text is divided into chapters dedicated alternately to a virtue and a vice. Each chapter is in turn composed of four parts. In the first part, a definition of the virtue or vice is given; the second part associates the virtue or vice with an animal, in a manner typical of medieval bestiaries; the third contains maxims on the virtue or vice to which the chapter is dedicated; in the last part, a tale describes the impact and consequences of the virtue or vice. The Fiore di Virtù was an enormous success right from the start, as witnessed by the number of manuscripts that have handed down the text and printed editions that – from the first dating back to 1471 – followed one another until the 19th century. La Sfera was also a successful and widely popular work. It is an octave poem in the Italian language with astronomical-geographical content. It has often been attributed to the merchant and politician Gregorio Dati (b. 1362, d. 1435), but it is more likely to have been written by his brother, the humanist and Dominican friar Leonardo Dati (b. 1360, d. 1425), Master General of the order of preachers from 1414 until his death. The work consists of four books and deals with astronomy, physical geography, navigation and other maritime subjects, and cartography. Left unfinished, it was later completed by the Dominican friar Giovanni Maria Tolosani da Colle (b. 1471, d. 1549).
LANGUAGE – Italian.
SCRIPT – Humanistic Cursive.
SCRIBE – Another manuscript is preserved in the Biblioteca Riccardiana, Ricc. 2649, written by a young Amerigo Vespucci (b. 1454, d. 1512). It is a series of pieces in Italian that Amerigo was later to translate into Latin and that had been proposed to him by his uncle, the humanist and tutor Giorgio Antonio Vespucci (b. 1434, d. 1514). The exercise would have been useful to him both in the study of Latin and for the high educational value of the moralising pieces. On the basis of a comparison with Ricc. 2649, the hypothesis has been advanced that the Riccardian manuscript containing the Fiore di Virtù and La Sfera was also written by Amerigo Vespucci. The attribution is not confirmed by certain data and should therefore be considered with caution. However, it is worth noting that other members of Amerigo’s family – including Giorgio Antonio himself – had also dedicated themselves to copying manuscripts. Thus, it would not be out of place to imagine that his uncle the tutor, in addition to transcribing and translating moralising passages, also entrusted him with the copying of the Fiore di Virtù.
DECORATION – The Fiore di Virtù is decorated with more than 40 initials occupying the space of two lines of writing; a border decorated with racemes, inside which are a portrait, birds, and two angels supporting a circular coat of arms with two almonds inside (f. 2r); no less than 35 vignette miniatures in the bas de page, each inserted in a gold frame and surrounded by a filigree decoration and gold spheres. The vignettes illustrate the second part of each chapter, in which virtue or vice is associated with an animal. La Sfera is decorated with 138 blue initials; a raceme decoration with gilded spheres (f. 74r); 12 miniatures with astronomical and cosmological themes; 1 miniature of the Tower of Babel (f. 98r); 12 maps, the first of which extends over two pages.
ILLUMINATORS – The decoration of the Fiore di Virtù was executed by Mariano del Buono (b. 1433, d. 1504), a very active and influential miniaturist in Florence in the second half of the 15th century. He worked for prestigious patrons, most notably Lorenzo de’ Medici (b. 1449, d. 1492). The decoration of La Sfera – apart from f. 74r, always attributed to the hand of Mariano del Buono – has not yet been attributed with certainty to any artist.
STYLE – Renaissance.
Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles
Flower of Virtue, The Sphere
Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document – The facsimile reproduces as close as possible the physical characteristics of the original document, with the aim to substitute it in the scientific research and in the libraries of the bibliophile collectors. Trimming and composition of the leaves reproduce the profile and structure of the original document. The binding might not correspond to that of the original document as it appears at the present moment.
Publisher – ArtCodex (Castelvetro di Modena, 2015).
Limited edition – ArtCodex and the Biblioteca Riccardiana certify that the facsimile was produced in a limited edition of 999 copies numbered in Arabic numerals.
Certificate of authenticity – The certificate of authenticity on the colophon states the copy number. It is signed by Luciano Malagoli (for ArtCodex) and Giovanna Lazzi (for the Biblioteca Riccardiana).
Binding – Leather cover with gold and black impressions, three metal straps with clasps.
Commentary – Commentary volume in Italian, 24 x 17 cm, 72 pages. Essays by Giovanna Lazzi and Rosanna Miriello.
Copyright photos: ArtCodex