ALTERNATIVE TITLES – Decameron: Codice di Oxford – Le Centonovele de Meser Zohane Bochazo, del magnifico Meser Teophilo de Chalchagnini – Boccaccio’s Decameron – Décaméron : Codex de Oxford – Oxforder Dekameron.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION – Codex on parchment, dimensions 360 x 265 mm, i + 169 + i folios.
BINDING – Wooden boards covered with purple velvet. The front cover is stamped in gold with the ostrich of the Coke family, owners of the manuscript from the 18th century to 1981.
ORIGIN – Italy (Ferrara).
DATING – 15th century (c. 1467).
PATRONAGE – The manuscript was commissioned by Teofilo Calcagnini (b. 1441, d. 1488), a dignitary at the court of Borso d’Este (b. 1413, d. 1471), the first Duke of Ferrara. The patronage is recorded in a payment from 1467, which Calcagnini made to the illuminator Taddeo Crivelli (b. 1425, d. 1479), author of the miniatures. Teofilo Calcagnini was a very close figure to Borso d’Este, who munificated him with many donations and with the appointment as knight aurato in 1464. After Borso’s death, Calcagnini also benefited from the friendship of Ercole I d’Este (b. 1431, d. 1505), who succeeded his half-brother in 1471.
SUBSEQUENT OWNERS – Two ex libris (ff. 1r and 89r) document that the codex belonged to the Franciscan monastery of Santo Spirito in Reggio Emilia («Di. S. Spirito di Reggio»). In the 18th century it was acquired by Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester (b. 1697, d. 1759). Coke was a cultured, refined and above all very wealthy man, who collected all sorts of books and art objects throughout his life. In 1734 he commissioned the architect William Kent (b. 1685, d. 1748) to design Holkham Hall, in the county of Norfolk, where the manuscript will reside for more than two centuries with the shelfmark MS. 531.
PRESENT REPOSITORY – In 1981 the manuscript was purchased by the Bodleian Library, where it is still preserved under the new shelfmark MS. Holkham misc. 49.
GENRE – Literature.
CONTENT – Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (b. 1313, d. 1375). Also known as «il Certaldese», Boccaccio was one of the most important literary figures on the European scene of his century. His most famous work is the Decameron, a collection of one hundred novellas written between 1349 and 1351. The narrative framework within which the novellas are set is that of Florence in 1348: ten young people – seven women (Pampinea, Filomena, Neifile, Fiammetta, Elisa, Lauretta, Emilia) and three men (Filostrato, Dioneo, Panfilo) – escape from the plague that is raging in the city, retreat to the surrounding countryside and decide to spend part of their time taking turns telling novellas. The title Decameron derives from the Greek δέκα (ten) and ἡμερῶν, genitive plural of ἡμέρα (day), literally meaning «[work] of ten days»: the novellas are in fact told over the course of ten days.
LANGUAGE – Italian.
DECORATION – A miniature at the bottom of f. 5r depicts the brigade of ten young people meeting in the church of Santa Maria Novella before leaving Florence. The motto and device of Teofilo Calcagnini (who commissioned the manuscript) appear at the top of the page, while the two lateral borders are decorated with animals, flowers, mascarons and small gilded spheres. After the subtitle («comincia il libro chiamato Decameron, cognominato prencipe Galeotto, nel quale si contengono cento novelle, in diece dì decte da septe donne e da tre giovani huomini»), a gold and coloured initial opens the text section, divided into two columns by a candelabra decoration. The manuscript also has nine inhabited initials (ff. 20v, 46r, 64v, 80v, 96v, 105r, 118v, 137v, 148r), numerous gold and coloured initials, various minor initials, decorative elements with floral and plant motifs and small gilded spheres.
ILLUMINATOR – Taddeo Crivelli (b. 1425, d. 1479). Crivelli was an Italian painter and miniaturist, to be counted among the most important artists of the Italian Renaissance miniature. He was very active in his native city of Ferrara, where he worked with other artists on the famous Bible commissioned by Borso d’Este between 1455 and 1461. In 1471, he moved to Bologna. Although several patrons are documented in that period, a few years after his move Crivelli began to find himself in a difficult economic situation: commissions became lower and some works were not finished or were not paid. In 1479, according to a document referring to a manuscript «principiato per olim magistrum Tadeum de Feraria» (that had been started by Master Taddeo of Ferrara), Taddeo Crivelli was already dead. In addition to the Bible of Borso d’Este – surely his most famous work – his name is also indirectly linked to another important manuscript of the time: in 1465, his pupil Girolamo da Cremona (b. ?, d. post 1483) completed the Missal on behalf of Barbara of Brandenburg (b. 1422, d. 1481), which is now preserved in the Archivio Storico Diocesano in Mantua.
STYLE – Renaissance.
EXTERNAL LINKS – Digital Bodleian (digitised manuscript).
Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles
Decamerone, Decameró, Decamerón, Der
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 – Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana – Treccani (Rome, 2013).
Series – Tesori Svelati.
Limited edition – 599 copies.
Binding – The binding corresponds to that of the original document: the boards are covered in velvet and the Coke ostrich is stamped on the front board. However, the colour of the velvet differs from that of the original: the cover of the original manuscript is purple velvet, that of the facsimile is red velvet.
Commentary – Commentary volume in Italian. The essays are by Federica Toniolo, Marco Cursi, Teresa Nocita.
Slipcase – The facsimile is housed in a gold lettering book-shaped slipcase. The commentary volume is kept outside the slipcase.
Copyright photos: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana – Treccani