Vatican Aratea

Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Ms. Barb. lat. 76


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Illuminated Facsimiles

Vatican Aratea

Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Ms. Barb. lat. 76

Alternative titles – La Volta Celeste – Vatikan Aratea.
Physical features – Codex on parchment, dimensions 232 x 151 mm, 100 folios.
Binding – Purple-red velvet cover. On the front board is embroidered a frame with plant vines and flowers, in the centre of which is depicted St. Thomas kneeling before the Virgin and Child. In the centre of the embroidered frame on the back board is the Barberini coat of arms – consisting of three bees on a blue background – surmounted by the cardinal’s hat. This means that the current binding dates back to the 17th century, to the time when the manuscript was part of the collection of Cardinal Maffeo Vincenzo Barberini (b. 1568, d. 1644), the future pope with the name Urban VIII.
Region of origin – Italy (Naples).
Dating – Second half of the 15th century.
Patronage – The codex was either made for Ferdinand I (or Ferrante) of Aragon (b. 1424, d. 1494), King of Naples from 1458 until his death, or for his son John of Aragon (b. 1456, d. 1485). In any case, the commission for the Aragonese court is certain, confirmed by the presence of the coat of arms on f. 1r.
Subsequent owners – Before 1623 – the year of his election as pontiff – the manuscript entered the collection of Maffeo Vincenzo Barberini.
Holding institution – The codex has been in the possession of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (MS Barb. lat. 76) since 1902, when it acquired the entire Barberini collection.
Genre – Treatises / Secular booksAstronomy / Astrology.
Content – Alexandrinus Theon, Genus Arati (ff. 1r-2v), Scholia Strozziana in Germanici Aratea (ff. 2v-5v), Iulius Caesar Germanicus, Phaenomena (ff. 6r-66r), Scholia Strozziana in Germanici Aratea (ff. 71v-77r), Gaius Plinius Secundus, Naturalis Historia (ff. 77v-86r), Hyginus Mythographus, De Astronomia (ff. 86r-100r). It is a miscellany of astronomical texts. The main one consists of the Phaenomena (Φαινόμενα) by the Greek poet Aratus (d. 315 BC, d. 240 BC) on the composition and positions of the constellations, in the Latin version translated by Germanicus Julius Caesar (d. 15 BC, d. 10 AD). There are also extracts from the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder (n. 23, m. 79) and the De Astronomia of Hyginus (n./m. 1st century AD). Corrections and reading variations have been recorded in the wide margins.
Language – Latin.
Script – Humanistic Minuscule.
Scribe – Produced by a single scribe.
Decoration – The manuscript opens (f. 1r) with a richly illuminated page with white girari decorations, between whose vines are crowded eleven putti and some animals (a peacock, a hare and a lion). There are also three male portraits. The coat of arms of Ferdinand I of Aragon is depicted on the bas de page. The f. 3r is occupied by a full-page celestial map, in which the constellations are set within five gilded circles. Thirty-nine framed miniatures, depicting the constellations in an open field with the stars indicated by small gilded spheres, precede the relevant text parts: Jupiter on Eagle, Dragon, Hercules, Crown, Serpent, Boote, Virgo, Gemini and Cancer, Leo, Auriga, Taurus, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Pegasus, Aries, Triangle, Pisces, Perseus, Pleiades, Lyra, Swan, Aquarius, Sagittarius, Eagle, Dolphin, Orion, Greater Dog, Wolf, Argus Ship, Whale, Eridanus, Southern Fish, Altar, Centaur, Hydra, Sun, Moon, Austronotus. 60 gold initials on a red or blue background further enrich the codex’s decorative apparatus.
Illuminator – The miniatures were made by Matteo Felice (b. ?, d. 1493). Felice worked extensively at the court of Naples and produced several manuscripts for Alfonso V of Aragon known as the Magnanimous (b. 1396, d. 1458), King of Naples from 1442 under the name Alfonso I.
Style – Renaissance.

Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles

Giovanni d’Aragona


Publication title – La Volta Celeste – Aratea Vaticana.
Type of reproduction – Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document.
Publisher – Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana – Treccani (Rome, 2023), in co-edition with Verlag Müller und Schindler (Stuttgart/Simbach am Inn, 2023). Under licence from the Vatican Library.
Series – Tesori Svelati.
Limited edition – The facsimile was produced in 900 copies numbered by hand from 1 to 900. 299 copies in Arabic numeration preceded by the initials IT were destined for the Italian market. A further 50 unnumbered copies were made for documentation and archiving purposes.
Writing support material – Special aged like-parchment paper.
Binding – The binding corresponds to that of the original manuscript as it appears at the present moment.
Commentary – Commentary volume in German, English and Italian, size 16.5 x 24.5 cm, 190 pages, 21 illustrations. Edited by Lola Massolo.
Slipcase – The facsimile and the commentary volume are housed in a double compartment slipcase.
Certificate of authenticity – The certificate with the hand-marked copy number is attached to the colophon of the facsimile and is authenticated by the co-editors.
ISBN – 979-10-95313-08-3 (facsimile), 978-88-12-01078-3 (commentary volume).
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.

Copyright photos: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana – Treccani

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