TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

[Miscellany of Humanistic Texts], including LEONARDO BRUNI, Ad Petrum Paulum Histrum Dialogus, GASPARINO BARZIZZA, Tractatus de Compositione, GIORGIO VALAGUSSA, Elegantiae Ciceroniae, etc.

In Latin and Italian, decorated manuscript on paper
[Northern Italy, Milan?, c. 1460-75]

TM 140

160 folios, (collation i14, ii14, iii16, iv16-1 [one folio cancelled], v16, vi14, vii16, viii12, ix16, x16, xi11 (16-5) [missing gatherings after quires vii and viii, lacking last 5 folios]), on paper (single watermark throughout, close to Briquet, “Fleur à 7 pétales,” no. 6557, Milan, dated 1462), written in a number of different hands (at least 6 scribes), in pale brown ink in a humanistic script, on up to 25 long lines, some catchwords, some contemporary page numbering, manicula traced in brown ink (some added with decorative designs or flourishing), rubrics in pale red and bright red, paragraph marks in red initials painted in alternating red or blue, some with penwork in opposite color, one 4-line high opening initial painted in gold on parti-colored blue and mauve grounds with white tracery highlights and green wash infill colored penwork with foliate decoration and besants springing in the margin (f. 1), one 6-line high initial painted in blue with pink infill highlighted with white tracery on a burnished gold ground with colored floral motifs at the corners and burnished gold besants circled with ink ornamentation descending in the margin. CONTEMPORARY OR NEAR-CONTEMPORARY limp vellum binding (some staining to vellum; missing a small piece of vellum at the upper headband; small tear with lack of text [part of rubric] on f. 149). Dimensions 100 x 140 mm.

Excellent example of a humanist compendium of rhetorical and linguistic texts, useful for in the art and practice of letter-writing. In addition to texts by Bruni, Griffolini, Aretino, Valagussa, Barzizza, all leading Quattrocento humanists, there is an unusual, probably unpublished text on the grammatical aspects of the Decretals. Further study of the different scripts in this composite miscellany might reveal its initial owner and compiler (Leonardo Bruni assembled a similar miscellany of texts copied by various scribes).


1.Script and watermarks clearly indicate an Italian origin for this manuscript. In addition, the style of the illuminated initials (ff. 1 and 105) point towards a Northern Italian place of origin, perhaps Milan.

2.Bookplate of J. A. Dortmund (1912-1988), The Netherlands, no. 404, pasted on front pastedown. A Dutch dealer in writing instruments, Dortmund put together an extensive collection of given in 1975 to the University of Amsterdam as the Schriftmuseum JA Dortmund (see http://www.uva.nl/actueel/object.cfm?objectid=9E543103-903A-4B89-A5DDBDCD2336BBD7). The manuscripts were sold by the family on December 3-4, 1992.


ff. 1-14, [Anonymous], De fallaciis in theologia: incipit, “Columne basis triplicis innititur fides nostra…”; explicit, “…Et hic de fallaciis que sepius occurrunt in sacra pagina dicta sufficiant. Laus Deo” [prologue published by Leclerc (1945), pp. 43-46, else unpublished];

Leclerc records only three other manuscripts of this grammatica cum logica treatise [Paris, BnF, MS fr. 19951, ff. 33-62; Paris, Bibl. Mazarine, MS 891, ff. 127-130; Florence, Santa Croce, Plut. XX. d., ff. 123-125]. The anonymous author provides examples of homonymous sophisms and goes on to address the problem of all other sophisms, thus attempting to train the theologian to distinguish and reconcile apparent contradictions and avoid fallacious argumentation.

ff. 15-68, Phalaris, Epistolae, translated in Latin by Francesco Griffolini: rubric, Francisci Aretini in Phalaridis Tiranni Agregentini epistolas ad illustrissimum principem Malatestam novellam proemium incipit; incipit, “Vellem Malatesta novelle princeps illustris tantam mihi dicendi facilitatem dari…”; explicit, “…que talem virum tulerit civitatem quomodo (?) qui miserit laudem consecuturam”;

Phalaris, Epistolae, was first translated from the Greek into Latin by Francesco Griffolini of Arezzo (1420-after 1465) sometime between 1440 and 1452 and dedicated to Malatesta Novella of Cesena. The text is complete and corresponds to that printed by Gerardus de Lisa at Treviso in 1471 (Hain 12892), except that this manuscript does not contain the extra letters discovered later which appear at the end of the printed text. About 190 manuscripts from the fifteenth century are extant (see Hinz, 2001, p. 162). On Phalaris, legendary and historical, see Bianchetti, 1987; Tudeer, 1931; see also Epistles of Phalaris, translated from the Greek, to which are added, some select epistles of the most eminent Greek writers, London, 1749).

ff. 68-69v, Rinuccio Aretino, Preface to Pseudo-Brutus, Epistolae LXX: incipit, “[S]olent beatissime pater qui invigilant alicui operi quod ad mores hominum spectet…”; explicit, “[…] et procul dubio caras habebit”;

This is the preface to Pseudo-Brutus, Epistolae, translated by Rinuccio Aretino and dedicated to Pope Nicholas V. The text was first printed by Antonius Franciscus Venetus (Florence, 1487). For manuscripts and editions see Lockwood, 1913, pp. 78-83, with edition of preface on pp. 82-83.

ff. 69v-74, Cicero, De inventione, Book I, v. 1-6: incipit, “Sepe ac multum cogitavi…”; explicit, “[…] eam civilis scientie partem esse dicamus. […]”; added text, copied by another hand in cursive script, in brown ink: incipit, “Tales invenit tempora…”; explicit, “…regis Jude mortuus [est] [terme] octogenarius”[see Cicero, De inventione…tr. H. M. Hubbell, London, Loeb Classical Library, 1976, pp. 2-14];

This is an excerpt from Cicero, De inventione, or ”Two Books on Rhetoric commonly called On invention.” It is a youthful work, probably written while Cicero was studying the elements of oratory, which accounts for its presence in this manuscript. Inventio or ”Invention” means the discovery of ideas and subject matter and constitutes the most important part of any formal treatise on rhetoric. “Invention” thus was the first of five parts in a rhetorical treatise, and was meant to be followed by chapters on Arrangement, Expression or Style, Memory, and Delivery. Cicero intended to write a complete Rhetoric, but only the section on Invention was finished.

f. 74v, blank;

ff. 75-88v, [Anonymous], Commentary on the grammatical aspects of the Decretals: incipit Prologue, “[I]stud proemium in quatuor divido partes. In prima quarum salutatio ponitur…”; rubrics, De summa tri[nitate] et fid[e] ca[tolica]; De constituti omnibus; De rescriptis; De constitudine; De postulatione; De electione; incipit, “Fideli. Errore grecorum quod volebant…”; explicit, “…episcopus per alios faciat episcopos expediri”;

This is a commentary on the grammatical aspects of the Decretals, compiled by masters of the University of Bologna. It is not recorded in Bursill-Hall (1981) and is likely unpublished.

ff. 89-104v, Leonardo Bruni d’Arezzo, Ad Petrum Paulum Histrum Dialogi [Dialogo a Pier Paolo Vergerio]: incipit prohemium, “[V]etus est cuiusdam sapientis sententia felici homini hoc vel imprimis ad esse oportere…”; explicit prohemium, “… profecerimus tuum erit iudicium”; incipit liber primus, “Quom solemniter celebrarentur…”; explicit, “…neminem fuisse iamdiu qui aliquam prestantiam in his studiis habuerit… [lacks ending; our copy ends at Liber primus, [40] (Baldassari (1994), p. 253]; added inscription on five rhetorical categories: “Quinque conveniunt oratori .5. Inventio. Dispositio. Elocutio. Memoria. Prononciatus”[published in E. Garin (1952), pp. 46; published also by Baldassari, S. U. Leonardo Bruni. Dialogi ad Petrum Paulum Histrum, Firenze, Leo S. Olschki, 1994, pp. 235-253 (edition provides a stemma codicum of 38 exemplars)];

Dialogues by Leonardo Bruni (1369-1444), the leading figure of Florentine humanist circles and pupil of Coluccio Salutati whom he succeded as Chancellor in 1410. His Dialogues for Pier Paolo Vergerio constitute one of the first masterpieces of humanist letters, composed at the early date of 1402-1403. Bruni was a pioneer in the advocacy of humanist education, holding that the studia humanitatis shaped the perfect man, and the goal of this perfect virtuous man was none other than political action. On Bruni’s Dialogues, see Quint, 1985.

ff. 105-116v, Gasparino Barzizza, Tractatus de compositione: incipit, “Cum omnis commode et perfecte elocutionis preceptio in tres partes sit distributa…”; “…quomodo vis perlocato quoniam in consonantiam...”[lacks ending] [Bertalot (1990), II, 1, p. 203, no. 3726];

Contemporary and friend to Antonio Loschi, Gasparino Barzizza of Bergamo (1360-1431) is a good example of those schoolmasters who formed a link between the schools and the humanist circles. Noted teacher who was influential in the development of humanism at Padua, Barzizza was first master of grammar in Bergamo, and private tutor to the Barbaro family in Venice until 1407. Between 1407 and 1421, he remained in Padua, and taught in the studium where he was appointed to lecture on rhetoric and the “moral” authors including Seneca, Cicero, Virgil, Terence and others (he believed education involved training of both the moral self and the mind), whilst running the elementary school, and it is there that his teaching became influential. See the assessment of Mercer (1979), p. 6: “From the schools of Barzizza, Guarino, and Vittorino came many of the gifted humanists of the middle and later Quattrocento and together they share much of the responsibility for introducing a precise program of humanist education into Western Europe, but it was a program which extended and modified traditional teaching rather than creating something new.”

His Tractatus de compositione was written c. 1420 and concerns rhetoric and style in imitation of Cicero and Quintilianus. The treatise advocates a return to the canons of style found in the ancient rhetoricians. The text was published by A. Furietus, G. Barzizii Bergomatis et Guiniforti filii Opera… (1723) [Nachdruck Bologna, Forni, 1969], pp. 1-14. A complete list of all manuscripts containing works by G. Barzizza can be found in Mercer (1979), pp. 152-156 [among the 32 manuscripts of the present text, none are in North American collections]. De Compositione has been studied and edited by Sonkowsky, 1964. Our previously unrecorded exemplar could allow further study as to how this important Latin rhetorical treatise was modified, augmented and adapted according to need.

ff. 117-148v, Giorgio Valagussa, Elegantiae Ciceroniae: incipit, “[E]legantie Ciceroniane materna lingua in quotidianum usum per Georgium Vallagussam exposite ad Johannem Antonium de Girardis Ticinensem ducalem canzellarium”; “Cum sepiuscule Johannes Antoni mi suavissime de studiis humanitatis verba…”; “…Per la qual cosa O Anthonio cum ogni forza da opera a la laude: Secorre a la patria e adiuta il tuo compagno in officio. Quamobrem mi Anthoni incombe toto pectore ad laudem subveni patrie opitulare tuo college” [Prologue published in Resta (1964), pp. 39-40; see also Bertalot (1990), II, 1, p. 217, no. 3983; Kristeller, Iter Italicum, II, p. 399: Bibl. Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1789, ff. 61-83v];

This collection of Ciceronian phrases with the vernacular translation is by Giorgio Valagussa (born 1428). The collection was compiled from Ciceronian sources by Valagussa and dedicated to Giovanni Antonio de Girardis, ducal chancellor of Pavia, who served the important Sforza family. Bertalot records only 4 manuscripts [Berlin, StB. Preuss. Kulturbes lat. 2o 489; Bologna Univ. 1754 n.2; Milan, Ambrosiana S. 37 sup. ff. 2-54; Venice, Marciana, MS Lat. XIV 262 (4719)]. The text was subsequently printed many times in the fifteenth century, first in Venice, 1480; and again in the sixteenth century: Valagussa, G. Flosculi epistolarum Ciceronis a Georgio Valagusa lingua vernacula expositi (Venice, 1549). A full study on Valagussa was conducted by G. Resta (1964). The work was especially devised for those who worked for ducal chancelleries such as the Sforza or simply for students of rhetoric and epistolography.

ff. 149-159v, Examples of letter-writing for different social and political occasions, in Italian: rubric, Proemio di quello che tracta […] composto ad instancia & requ[…] nobile & praestantissimo Iovene…; incipit, “Essendo […] volte da voy exhortato compatre mio carissimo he da alcuni altri mei intimi he cari amici…”; example of following rubrics, Exordio da confortare li amici a scrivere frequentemente; Exordio belissimo quando se volesse recomandare uno suo amico ad uno altro che fusse lontano.

This compendium is an excellent example of a humanistic collection of rhetorical and linguistic texts to be used for the art and practice of letter-writing. Latin orators and letter-writers were indispensable to the Italian Republics for official correspondence of the State and to make speeches on public occasions. The letters and works of Cicero and others were studied diligently as models of pure Latinity. As early as the beginning of the fifteenth century, a number of manuals for proper Latin correspondence such as the present manuscript had appeared as off-shoots of the great lexicographic and grammatical works. The different scripts in this composite miscellany deserve further study, and might reveal its initial owner and compiler. A similar miscellany of texts, copied by various scribes and assembled by Leonardo Bruni is described by Lockwood, 1938, pp. 177-190.


Bertalot, L. Initia Humanistica Latina: Initienverzeichnis lateinischer Prosa und Poesie aus der Zeit des 14 bis 16 Jahrhunderts, Prosa (2, 1), Tübingen, M. Niemeyer, 1990.

Bianchetti, Serena. Falaride e Pseudofalaride. Storia e leggenda. Florence, Università degli studi di Firenze and Roma, L’Erma di Bretschneider, 1987.

Furietti, J.-A. Gasparini Barzizii,... et Guiniforti filii opera, quorum pleraque ex mss. codicibus nunc primum in lucem eruta recensuit ac edidit Joseph Alexander Furettius…, Romae, J. M. Salvioni, 1723.

Garin, E. Prosatori Latini del Quattrocento, Milan, R. Ricciardi, 1952 [Letteratura italiana, storia e testi, Vol. 13].

Hinz, V. Nunc Phalaris Doctum Protulit Ecce Caput. Antike Phalarislegende und Nachleben der Phalarisbriefe, Leipzig, K.G.Saur, 2001.

Kristeller, P.O., Iter Italicum…, II, Italy, London, The Warburg Institute and Leiden, Brill, 1967.

Leclerc, J. “Un traité De fallaciis in theologia,” Revue du Moyen Age Latin, I, 1945, pp. 43-46.

Lockwood, D. P. “De Rinucio Aretino Graecarum Litterarum Interprete,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 24 (1913), pp. 51-109.

Lockwood, D. P. “In Domo Rinucii,” in Classical and Medieval Studies in Honor of E.K. Rand, 1938, pp. 177-190.

Magni, G. “Gasparino Barzizza, una figura del primo umanesimo,” in Bergomum 31 (1957), pp. 104-118, 143-170, 205-222.

Martellotti, G. “Barzizza, Gasparino,” in Dizionario biographico degli Italiani, Roma, Rome, 1965, vol. VII, pp. 34-39.

Mercer, R. C. G. The Teaching of Gasparino Barzizza, with Special Reference to his Place in Paduan Humanism, London, 1979.

Quint, David. ”Humanism and Modernity: A Reconsideration of Bruni's Dialogues,” Renaissance Quarterly 38 (1985), pp. 423-45.

Resta, G. Giorgio Valagussa. Umanista del quattrocento, Padua, 1964.

Sabbadini, R. Studi di Gasparino Barzizza su Quintiliano e Cicerone, Livorno, 1886.

Sabbadini, R. Storia del ciceronianismo e di altre questioni letterarie nella età della Rinascenza, Turin, 1886.

Sonkowsky, Robert P. “Critical Edition of the Latin Rhetorical Treatise De Compositione by Gasparino Barzizza of Bergamo,” in Year Book of the American Philosophical Society, 1962, p. 629.

Sonkowsky, Robert P. “A Fifteenth-Century Rhetorical Opusculum,” in Classical Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Honour of B. L. Ullman, 1964, pp. 259-281.

Sonkowsky, Robert P. “Magister Gasparinus,” in The Speech Teacher, 12 (1963), pp. 200-203.

Tudeer, L. O. Th. The Epistles of Phalaris. Preliminary Investigation of the Manuscripts, Helsinki, 1931.

Valagussa, Giorgio. Flosculi epistolarum Ciceronis a Georgio Valagusa lingua vernacula expositi, Venetiis, apud Cominum de Tridino, 1549.