Virgil: Paris Codex


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Illuminated Facsimiles

Virgil: Paris Codex

ALTERNATIVE TITLES – Publius Vergilius Maro: Bucolica, Georgica, Aeneis, Appendix Vergiliana – Virgilio: Codice di Parigi – Virgilio Sanudo – Virgil: Paris Codex – Sanudo Virgil – Virgile : Codex de Paris – Virgile Sanudo – Publio Virgilio Marón: Bucólicas, Geórgicas, Eneida, Appendix Vergiliana – Vergil: Eklogen, Georgica, Aeneis, Appendix Vergiliana.
PHYSICAL FEATURES – Manuscript on parchment, size 260 x 169 mm., 231 folios (462 pages), gilt edges.
BINDING – Leather binding, marbled pastedowns, two forward and two rear paper flyleaves, gilded decorations on boards and spine, five raised bands, Virgilii gilt lettering and paper piece with the shelfmark «LAT. 7939A» on the spine.
ORIGIN – The manuscript was produced in Ferrara (Italy), while the scribe – and patron of the miniatures – Leonardo Sanudo, a thirty-three year old cultured Venetian patrician, was assigned the role of Visdomino of the Republic of Venice at the court of Borso d’Este (1413-1471). Sanudo himself reports this information in the colophon of the Aeneid (f. 216v).
DATING – 15th century. Through the colophon of the Aeneid (f. 216v), the dating of the manuscript can also be found. The scribe and patron Sanudo provides very detailed information: «Publii Virgilii Maronis Eneidos XIIs et ultimus exp. manu Leonardi Sanuti pro inclito Venetorum dominio tunc Ferrarie vicedomini. MCCCC.L.VIII.die decimo octobri». Therefore, he finished to copy his own Virgil – at least the Aeneid section – on October 10, 1458.
PATRONAGE – Leonardo Sanudo (or Sanuto) was at the same time scribe, patron (concerning the miniatures) and the first owner of the codex. As a patron, he had his own coat of arms (an azure stripe on a silver shield) depicted on the manuscript, but it appears at the incipit of the Aeneid (f. 60r) and not at the beginning of the codex according to common use. Why did he do this? Maybe his first project only concerned the Aeneid? Actually, the real reason is probably that Sanudo wanted to emphasise Vergil‘s opus maius. We can observe another anomaly regarding the position of Sanudo’s shield – it is not on the bas de page (still according to common use) but on the right edge, on top. Why? The two winged geniuses that hold up Sanudo’s coat of arms are gazing at the three characters (Aeneas, and presumably Achates and Ilioneus) depicted in the historiated initial on the left of the page. So it seems that the choice of the patron (the position of the insignia and the gaze of the two geniuses) is due to Sanudo’s desire to compare, in some way, his own story to that of the Virgilian hero.
SUBSEQUENT OWNERS – The son of Leonardo, Marino Sanuto the Younger (1466-1536), inherited his father’s precious manuscript. Marino was the famous Venetian historian and diarist who wrote – among other works – I commentari della guerra di Ferrara (an account of the war between the Venetians and Ercole I d’Este). Subsequently the codex became part of the collection of the French publisher and book collector Paul Pétau (Paulus Petavius in Latin) (1568-1614). His son Alexandre sold pieces of Pétau’s collection at different times and, in 1699, Sanudo’s Virgil was acquired by Nicholas Clément, who was the librarian of Louis XIV, the King of France.
CURRENT LOCATION – After the sale to Nicholas Clément, the manuscript did not change its home and has remained, to this day, in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) which was originally the Royal Library.
GENRE – Literature.
CONTENT – The codex contains the whole corpus of works (Bucolics, Georgics, Aeneid, Appendix Vergiliana) by Publius Vergilius Maro (70 b.C. – 19 b.C.) and, in addition: the Donatus auctus (a 15th century variation of the Vita Vergili by Aelius Donatus, the 4th century Roman grammarian who, in turn, had used the biography included in De viris illustribus by Svetonio); the Argumenta Vergiliana (a series of paratextual argumenta to the three main works); and an ample apparatus of glosses and annotations (interlinear glosses, marginal glosses, and a continuous commentary attributed to Servius throughout the Aeneid).
SCRIPT – In Leonardo Sanudo’s handwriting, we can identify the gradual transition from the littera textualis (black-letter) to the littera antiqua (humanist minuscule script, produced in Italy at the beginning of the 15th century and based on the Carolingian minuscule). Traces of his education in the littera textualis are evident, although there is no doubt that he chose to adopt the littera antiqua. This hybrid style can be seen by analyzing some specific features of his writing, and also observing his style maturing throughout the codex.
SCRIBE – As widely illustrated, Leonardo Sanudo was both patron of the miniatures and scribe of the manuscript. It maybe worth pointing out that Sanudo’s elegant style was not the result of beeing trained as a professional scribe, as he was only an amateur.
DECORATION – The manuscript is characterised by its sumptuous illustrations (consisting of over 80 miniatures) and ornamental apparatus. Phytomorphic or zoomorphic historiated initials on a gold foil background are located at the beginning of the Bucolics (f. 1r), at the incipit of the four books of the Georgics (ff. 13v, 22r, 30v, 38v), and as markers of the twelve books of the Aeneid (ff. 60r, 72r, 85r, 96v, 108r, 122r, 136v, 149v, 161r, 174r, 188v, 203r). Furthermore, these initials are flanked by watermarked decorations made of leaves, flowers and small gold spheres and located on the edge of the folios. Colour foliated initials on a gold foil background and with watermarked decorations throughout the manuscript emphasise minor sections (e.g., the Moretum at f. 48r, a poem in 122 hexameters which opens the section of the Appendix Vergiliana), according to a pattern where sections of various degrees of importance are differently marked. Finally, we can count over 90 gilded initial capital letters on a blue or red watermarked background (e.g., ff. 56r and 84v). The way inks are used also has a considerable decorative effect – e.g., in the aforementioned f. 84v for the use of red ink. More interestingly, there is the use of golden ink (e.g., ff. 58r-59r), that is evidence of Sanudo’s important economic resources. Concluding with the elaborate miniatures on the bas de page, we can count three gild-framed miniatures with watermarked decoration (ff. 60r, 72r, 85r), and as many as 63 pen and watercolor illustrations, adorning the above-mentioned Moretum (f. 48r) and many sections of the Aeneid.
ILLUMINATORS – Decorations and illustrations of the manuscript are the work of Giorgio d’Alemagna and Guglielmo Giraldi Magri, two well-known artists of their time who boasted many illustrious personalities among their patrons. The attribution of the miniatures to the two artists is beyond any doubt, as can be found in a clear archival documentation where Sanudo wrote in his Libro dei conti (accounts book) the payments to «maistro Zorzi tedesco» (Giorgio d’Alemagna) and «maestro Vielmo pintor» (Guglielmo Giraldi). Between 1455 and 1461, they both worked on the prestigious Bible of Borso d’Este, one of the most important miniature works of the Italian Renaissance. Giorgio d’Alemagna had already worked at the Este court for Leonello d’Este (1407-1450). Instead, Giraldi, besides in Ferrara, had also worked in Mantua and Urbino. The Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro (1422-1482), commissioned him with a Divine Comedy (the Dante Urbinate), an imposing work, which certainly fascinated and exalted Giraldi, who was a connoisseur and admirer of Dante Alighieri’s poem.
STYLE – Renaissance.
EXTERNAL LINKS – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (digitized manuscript)Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Archives et manuscrits).

Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles

Marin; Marius; bucolicon liber


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 corresponds to that of the original document as it appears at the present moment.
Publisher – Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana – Treccani (Rome, 2017).
Series – Tesori Svelati.
Limited edition – Limited edition of 499 numbered and certified copies.
Authenticity certificate – The authenticity certificate is applied on the rear pastedown and contains the copy number and the signature of Franco Gallo (as President of the Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana).
Writing material – Special aged like-parchment paper.
Binding – Leather binding corresponding to that of the original manuscript.
Commentary – Italian language commentary volume, size 18 x 27 cm, 147 pages, colour photos. Preface and essays by: Bray, Massimo; Canfora, Luciano; Ferrante, Gennaro; Mazzucchi, Andrea. ISBN 978-88-12-00642-7.

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