The Library of a 'Humanist Prince' Federico da Montefeltro and His Manuscripts [by M.G. Critelli]


This thematic pathway presents a small but representative selection of Federico da Montefeltro’s Library, that is the initial nucleus of the 15th-century origin of the Urbino collection; 33 manuscripts have been selected that represent various aspects: content, codicological/paleographical, historical/artistic. Both very famous manuscripts and little-known manuscripts have been chosen: Urb. lat. 1-2, 9, 10, 52, 74, 136, 151, 185, 187, 248, 250, 264, 281, 324, 326, 328, 337, 349, 350, 365, 410, 419, 420, 427, 491, 651, 681, 899, 1221, 1324, Urb. gr. 2 e 136.

The selection was based on the following criteria:

  • presence in the Indice vecchio, the old inventory compiled shortly after Federico’s death. The only exception to this is Urb. lat. 899. It is not known when this manuscript became part of the collection, but its particular way of recounting the wedding ceremony between the lord of Pesaro Costanzo Sforza and Camilla of Aragon offers a proper representation of the aristocratic world; Federico himself, the brother-in-law of the groom, is one of the people described in a privileged position among the guests;
  • content that represents the main subjects that made up the collection;
  • place of production of the manuscripts, in order to give an account of the role played by Florence and by scribes active in the workshop of Vespasiano da Bisticci, especially in a first phase, and by court scribes and artists from the central-northern area, from Padua/Venice and Urbino. Particular importance was given to two important figures of Federico’s collection, Federico Veterani and Matteo Contugi, of whom different manuscripts were chosen.

The description of the selected manuscripts has three levels:

  • descriptive metadata (shelfmark, date, place of production [Country, Region, Place], support, dimension, extent, collation, layout, foliation, writing, colophon, decoration, binding, signatures, catchwords, heraldry, motto, history, content [author, title, uniform title, incipit, explicit, edition];
  • critical note where information from historical/artistical perspective is offered; new hypotheses are presented, which come from the investigations during the years that the research of the project was conducted;
  • digitization enriched by annotations, pertaining to elements that are considered significant (for example miniatures, colophon, notes, ancient shelfmarks, coats of arms and emblems).