Presents and antique acquisitions
The collection mainly consists of manuscripts made by Federico’s patronage, therefore from the fifteenth century, however it also includes gifts and antiquarian acquisitions of considerable value, especially among the Greek manuscripts. The Montefeltro coat of arms was usually added as a sign of possession. The Urb. gr. 2, an extraordinary illuminated Bible of the twelfth century, is a famous and splendid example of these, and it entered the collection certainly before 1474 (before which date Federico acquired the title of duke), as evidenced by the bendy coat of arms with the letters FC (for Federicus Comes) added to f. 3v.
Urb. gr. 2, ff. 3v-4r
In the case of antiquarian acquisitions or gifts, the antiporta, of Florentine tradition and of even more ancient grandeur, could also be made with almost the same value as an ex libris, which became a distinctive feature of Federico’s collection. Usually this was produced with a clipeus consisting of a crown of laurel or floral branches that housed the author and the titles of the works contained in the volume inside (in the case of patronized manuscripts this was made together with the manuscript, see Caldelli, Antiporte e clipei). This is the case, for example, for Urb. lat. 177, 240 and 241, all from the 14th century, to which both the coat of arms and the antiporta were added.
Urb. lat. 240, f. 2r
The case of Urb lat. 350 is peculiar: it was produced in Vespasiano’s workshop and was still waiting for a buyer, when the antiporta (f. 1v) and quarterly coat of arms with the letters C F for Federicus comes were added (in the small round especially prepared for at the bottom of the page of f. 2v). Later, after the acquisition of the ducal title (1474), the ducal coat of arms was also added to f. 45v, together with a new very refined miniature that illustrates the Aeneid, contained in the following folios.
Urb. lat. 350, ff. 2v, 45v
Urb. lat. 248 represents a different case, a manuscript from the Gothic era which contains Galen. Although this manuscript does not contain the Montefeltro coat of arms, it bears a rubricated note on f. 1v attesting to the offer of a gift to Federico by Carlo Reguardati, son of the well-known doctor Benedetto and knight of Norcia, in memory of the benefits received.
Urb. lat. 248, ff. 1v-2r
Manuscripts from more recent years also belonged to others before becoming part of Federico’s library. Urb. lat. 281, for example, is an extraordinarily illustrated example of Arte Militare by Roberto Valturio, and was copied in 1462 by his “famulus” Sigismondo di Niccolò Alemanno in the scriptorium set up by the same author in his own house. The manuscript probably belonged to Jacopo degli Anastagi of Borgo San Sepolcro, councilor of Pandolfo Malatesta like Valturio himself (see emblem with the initials “I. A.” on f. 139v); on f. 5r the bendy coat of arms of Montefeltro was added, accompanied by the letters FC, which testify to the entry of the manuscript in the Urbino collection before 1474.
Urb. lat. 281, ff. 5r, 139v
Urb. lat. 681, a manuscript of Petrarch dated to 1468-1469, also sumptuously illustrated, was of Card. Francesco Gonzaga, whose coat of arms is present on f. 11r. The Montefeltro coat of arms is missing in this manuscript, but the fact that it belonged to Federico’s library is attested by the Indice vecchio, compiled around 1487, which offers the following description: “Francisci Petrarcae Sonetti et Cantilenae parvo Volumine qui fuit Card. Mantuae” (Urb. lat. 1761, f. 77r; published in Stornajolo, Cod. Urb. Graeci, p. CXXVII, n. 554). Like other cases, it has not been ascertained how the manuscript became part of the collection, but Federico’s close relation to the princes of Mantua is well known, and through this connection it seems that the distinguished scribe Matteo Contugi reached the service of the Duke of Urbino.
Urb. lat. 681, f. 11r - Urb. lat. 1761, f. 77r
Urb. lat. 899 contains the Nozze di Costanzo Sforza e Camilla Marzano d’Aragona, celebrated in 1475. The duke is among the guests and occupies a privileged position during the celebrations, as brother-in-law of the groom, brother of Battista Sforza. The manuscript was made in 1480 as a personal copy, probably patronized by the couple of the wedding whose crests are present (see Renaissance Wedding, pp. 13-14) or as a gift for Federico himself (see Guernelli, Tracce della biblioteca sforzesca, p. 162). The date on which it arrived to the library of Urbino is uncertain: it is not actually registered in the Indice vecchio; we have no information about the manuscript until 1631, the year in which it is mentioned in the inventory compiled by Francesco Scudacchi between October 1631 and September 1632, at n. 1126.
Urb. lat. 899, f. 119r