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

The collection

The Duke, having completed this noble work at the great cost of thirty thousand ducats, beside the many other excellent provisions that he made, determined to give every writer a worthy finish by binding his work in scarlet and silver. Beginning with the Bible, as the chief, he had it covered with gold brocade, and then he bound in scarlet and silver the Greek and Latin doctors and philosophers, the histories, the books on medicine and the modern doctors, a rich and magnificent sight. In this library all the books are superlatively good, and written with the pen, and had there been one printed volume it would have been ashamed in such company. They were beautifully illuminated and written on parchment. This library is remarkable amongst all others in that, taking the works of all writers, sacred and profane, original and translated, there will be found not a single imperfect folio. No other library can show the like, for in all of them the works of certain authors will be wanting in places. A short time before the Duke went to Ferrara it chanced that I was in Urbino with His Lordship, and I had with me the catalogues of the principal Italian libraries: of the papal library of those of S. Marco at Florence, of Pavia, and even of that of the University of Oxford, which I had procured from England. On comparing them with that of the Duke I remarked how they all failed in one respect; to wit, they possessed the same work in many examples, but lacked the other writings of the author; nor had they writers in all the faculties like this library (Vespasiano, Lives, pp. 104-105).

Inside the text the manuscripts proposed in this pathway have been pointed out where reference is made to them. The identification of all the manuscripts mentioned by Vespasiano is found in the notes of the edition; for absences and differences with respect to the possession of the library, see Vespasiano da Bisticci, Le Vite, p. 390 nt. 2, p. 391, ntt.1 and 3, p. 393 nt. 6, p. 395 nt. 7, p. 396 nt. 5, p. 397 ntt. 4, 7, 8, 12 and Bravi, I manoscritti greci, p. 41.

The digitization of many manuscripts can be found on line at the Vatican Library website; some are present in other areas of the Mellon project: Urb. lat. 1, 2, 3, 161, 206, 365, 666, 1146, Urb. gr. 15, 33, 125 (see Latin paleography and Greek paleography which include many antiquarian purchases of Federico); Urb. lat. 249, 308, 329, 350, 355, 356, 423, 424, 425, 426, 642, 1146, 1358 (see Latin Classics. The Evolution and Transmission of Texts of Specific Works).