Liber Physiognomiae


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Illuminated Facsimiles

Liber Physiognomiae

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION – Codex on paper, dimensions 293 x 215 mm, 35 folios (70 pages), 4 flyleaves.
BINDING – Brown leather cover.
ORIGIN – Italy (Veneto).
DATING – 15th century (c. 1440).
PATRONAGE AND OWNERS – Some scholars have suggested that the manuscript was commissioned by Leonello d’Este (b. 1407, d. 1450), but this remains a hypothesis that is not supported by definitive evidence. In the 18th century, it entered the library of the Paduan Marquis Tommaso Obizzi del Catajo (b. 1750, d. 1802), the last heir of the family. In the absence of an heir, the Castello del Catajo – whose extensive holdings included the rich library – passed to the Duke of Modena Ercole III d’Este (b. 1727, d. 1803). This transfer of ownership did not entail any relocation and the codex remained within the collection housed in the castle.
PRESENT REPOSITORY – In 1817, the manuscript was moved to the Biblioteca Estense in Modena. In 1882 the Biblioteca Estense was relocated to its new headquarters in the Palazzo dei Musei, followed a few years later by the Biblioteca Universitaria. From the time of the move the two libraries underwent a de facto merger, while maintaining administrative duplicity. This situation lasted until 1995, when the Biblioteca Estense Universitaria was officially established. The Liber Physiognomiae is today housed in the Biblioteca Estense Universitaria under the shelfmark Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20.
GENRE – Treatises / Secular books, Astronomy / Astrology, Medicine / Botany.
CONTENT – The Liber Physiognomiae is a collection of medical and astrological treatises dating back to the Middle Ages, brought together and revised in the Humanistic age by an unknown author and in a heterogeneous manner. The first folios focus on the description of the days and seasons. This is followed by twelve pages dedicated to the signs of the zodiac, where character and events in people’s lives are outlined according to the period of their birth. The middle and final parts of the codex include genealogical tables, astrological interpretations of the biblical dream of the prophet Daniel and the medical suggestions of Pietro d’Abano (b. ca. 1257, d. 1316). His lectures in the early 14th century at the University of Padua prove to be the direct or inspirational sources of the codex. Of note are the two volvelles on the recto of the second front flyleaf and on the recto of the first back flyleaf. The first is used to determine latitude, the second to calculate the time of sunrise and sunset.
SCRIPT – Gothic.
SCRIBES – The codex is the work of three different scribes, who have – however – remained unknown.
DECORATION – Each of the 12 pages dedicated to the signs of the zodiac is illuminated with watercolour drawings. The recurring scheme includes the representation of the zodiac sign at the top of the page, and illuminated scenes in the bas-de-page with the personification of the planets and the influence of the stars on the humankind.
ILLUMINATOR – The twelve illuminated folios are the work of an unknown miniaturist, however traceable to the school of Antonio di Puccio Pisano, known as Pisanello (b. ante 1395, d. ca. 1455). The attribution to a Paduan artist prevails, also due to the direct references to the frescoes by Guariento di Arpo (b. 1310, d. 1370) in the Church of the Eremitani.
STYLE – Renaissance.
EXTERNAL LINKS – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (digitized manuscript).

Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles



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.
PublisherIl Bulino edizioni d’arte (Modena, 2000).
Series – Ars Illuminandi.
Limited edition – 999 copies.
Writing support material – The facsimile is printed on Fabriano «Accademia» paper, which recalls the paper support of the original.
Binding – Calfskin binding with blind tooling.
Commentary – Paperback commentary volume, 64 pages. It contains the complete transcription of the Latin text and its translation in Italian, edited by Paola Di Pietro Lombardi. The essays are by Paola Di Pietro Lombardi, Leandro Ventura and Daniele Bini.
Slipcase – The facsimile and the commentary volume are housed in a slipcase.
ISBN – 978-88-86251-39-6.

Copyright photos: Illuminated Facsimiles, Il Bulino edizioni d’arte

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Il Bulino edizioni d'arte