Book of Destiny of Lorenzo Spirito Gualtieri

Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, It. IX, 87 = 6226


+39 333 9860 410

Illuminated Facsimiles

Book of Destiny of Lorenzo Spirito Gualtieri

Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, It. IX, 87 = 6226

ALTERNATIVE TITLES – Libro delle Sorti – Book of Sorts – Livre des Sorts – Libro de las Suertes – Libro da la Ventura – Schicksalsbuch des Lorenzo Spirito Gualtieri.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION – Codex on parchment, dimensions 174 x 243 mm, 63 folios (126 pages).
BINDING – Paper and parchment on paste-boards, 18th-century red cartouche with gold lettering «SPIRITI SORTI» applied to the spine. The current 18th-century stitching does not take into account the previous sequence of the folios, which are therefore not arranged in the original order.
ORIGIN – Italy (Perugia).
DATING – 15th16th century. This is an autograph copy, written by the author Lorenzo Gualtieri (b. 1426, d. 1496). We obtain the date of production from the last folio, where Gualtieri affixes his signature: «Qui finiscono le sorte fate e composte per mano di me Lorenzo Spirito de peroscia e recopiate per mia propria mano scritte a di doi gennaio 1482 amen». The miniatures were instead made in the first decade of the following century.
PATRONAGE – The patron of the manuscript was certainly a person of high social status. We have no certain references that allow us to identify him, but we can speculate. The most plausible one is based on the presence of the sign of the ram on f. 21v, and immediately afterwards of its namesake animal – the «montone», in Italian – on f. 22r. Historian Silvia Urbini believes that with such redundancy Gualtieri wished to refer to the Fortebraccio family, whose heraldic coat of arms was the ram. A second hypothesis is based instead on the presence of the gryphon among the codex folios, a possible reference to the device of the noble Perugian Baglioni family.
SUBSEQUENT OWNERS – Traces of the manuscript are lost for almost three centuries. In the 18th century, it was part of the library of the person of letters and bibliophile Tommaso Giuseppe Farsetti (b. 1710, d. 1791). In his will of 1786, Farsetti bequeathed his collection of codices and printed books to the Biblioteca della Serenissima.
PRESENT REPOSITORY – The Book of Destiny is today kept in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice (It. IX, 87 = 6226), as part of the Farsetti bequest.
GENRE – Treatises / Secular books, Games, Mythology / Prophecies.
CONTENT AND AUTHOR – The manuscript is an autograph copy of the divinatory game that the Perugian intellectual Lorenzo Gualtieri, known as Spirito (b. 1426, d. 1496), devised in the 15th century. Actually, to attribute to him the invention ex novo of the game is a rather flattering operation, because Gualtieri’s should rather be considered a reworking of previous models. But his version was undoubtedly a great success, to the point of becoming an authentic best seller of its time. As early as 1482 – the year in which this autograph copy was made – the first printed version of the Book of Destiny was in fact produced, and many others would be made later. The game unfolds from an initial question that players can choose and that concerns their own future. There are twenty possible questions, distributed among seven cartouches, and they concern disparate issues. There are the more generic and obvious ones concerning love and marriage, health or business, but also more specific questions, such as whether to embark on a journey or a war and whether to seek revenge. Through a series of successive stages – which involve the use of dice – the player finally arrives at the reading of certain verses, which correspond to the game’s response. Besides being a man of letters, Gualtieri was also a soldier, and until 1465 he served the condottiero and soldier of fortune Jacopo Piccinino (b. 1423, d. 1465). Thereafter, he devoted himself solely to the composition of literary texts and translation (he was among the first translators of Ovid into Italian), and he also proved himself competent as a copyist and illuminator. He was called «Spirito» because of his free and non-conformist character, which also cost him excommunication.
LANGUAGE – Italian.
SCRIPT – Proto-humanistic version of Gothic Rotunda.
SCRIBE – As already specified, this is an autograph codex, which Gualtieri himself copied upon commission.
DECORATION – The book opens with a depiction of the wheel of fortune (f. 1v), a literary and iconographic theme widely used from the Classical era onwards. Four figures are positioned around the wheel. A king with sceptre and crown sits comfortably at the top, while at the opposite end is depicted a man clinging badly, who appears to be about to fall. To the king’s left a young man appears well clinging to the wheel, but he is in an awkward head-down position that – imagining the wheel turning – seems to anticipate that of the character about to fall. The fourth character is a handsome young man with long blond hair, also tightly clasped but in a more favourable position, which allows him to ascend the wheel in the direction of the king. In addition to the miniature of the wheel of fortune just described, the manuscript has another 80 miniatures.
ILLUMINATORS – Art historian Silvia Urbini believes that the beautiful young man with blond hair clinging to the wheel on his way up to the king was painted by Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci, known as il Perugino (b. 1448, d. 1523). According to this theory, Perugino would have started the decoration of the codex only to abandon it soon after, as he had to concentrate his workshop’s efforts on large commissions. This is a plausible hypothesis if one compares the young man’s face to some of Perugino’s works, in particular the panel with Saint Jerome Supporting Two Hanged Men, preserved in the Louvre. In any case, work on the codex was certainly interrupted until the early years of the following century, then resumed and finished by Umbrian painters belonging to the circle of the young Raphael Sanzio (b. 1483, d. 1520), a pupil of Perugino. Urbini puts forward a further hypothesis. Given certain characteristics of the miniatures, Raphael may have participated directly in their realisation, although his would in any case be a minor intervention. Most of the decoration may instead have been carried out by the artists of the «Society of 1496», a co-operative of other pupils of Perugino, which was formed in Perugia in order to compete with the efficient workshop of their master, who was able to obtain the most prestigious commissions. The society was formed by Eusebio da San Giorgio (b. ca. 1470, d. post 1550), Berto di Giovanni (b. ?, d. 1529), Sinibaldo Ibi (b. ?, d. post 1547), Ludovico d’Angelo and Lattanzio di Giovanni.
STYLE – Renaissance.

Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles

di, de, Pierantonio, divin pittore


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. The binding might not correspond to that of the original document as it appears at the present moment.
PublisherFranco Cosimo Panini Editore (Modena, 2006). This facsimile edition was produced by the publisher on concession of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.
Limited edition – The facsimile was published in a limited, unique and unrepeatable edition of 980 copies in total for worldwide distribution. The publisher guarantees that no further copies will be made.
Certificate of authenticity – The certificate of authenticity in the colophon with the copy number is signed by Silvia Panini (Franco Cosimo Panini Editore) and Marino Zorzi (Director of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice).
Printing – Printing with special stochastic screening and gold reproduction in foil and powder form.
Binding – Parchment cover with gold engravings. The current 18th-century stitching of the manuscript does not take into account the previous sequence of the folios, which are therefore not arranged in the original order. In the facsimile, the composition of the leaves has been reassembled according to the original reconstructed sequence of folios.
Commentary – Commentary by Silvia Urbini, with an appendix note by Susy Marcon. Volume in Italian, format 15,5 x 21,5 cm, 284 pages, hardcover, dust jacket. ISBN/EAN 9788882907822.
Extra content – In addition to the commentary volume, the publisher has enclosed a further volume in Italian with the rules and text of the game. Three dice are also provided.
Slipcase – Mahogany slipcase with compartments for the facsimile, the commentary, the user manual and the three supplied dice.

Copyright photos: Illuminated Facsimiles, Franco Cosimo Panini Editore

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Franco Cosimo Panini Editore