The Vatican bindings
By means of the binding, one may read the signs of the rich history belonging to the Urbino manuscripts, up until their arrival to the Vatican.
Some of the original bindings, in fact, bear the traces of their transfer from Urbino, which occurred between November and December of 1657, during the pontificate of Alessandro VII. The first custodian of the Vatican, Lucas Holste, had organized the transfer with acute attention, preparing paper tags to label the volumes. The tags indicated the shelves, order, and number assigned to the manuscript at Urbino (according to the locations in effect at the time that the inventory was collected by Alessandro Vanni in 1640), the number of the box used for transportation and the number assigned to the manuscript within the collection. The same data were registered in the inventory now signed Vat. lat. 9475, which thus also had an important role in the verification, and together with Barb. lat. 6535, which documents several phases relative to the acquisitions and contains the Avvertimenti necessarij per la condotta della libraria d’Urbino a Roma, represents an important witness to this delicate moment (see Moranti – Moranti, Il trasferimento dei “Codices Urbinates”; Peruzzi, «Lectissima politissimaque volumina», pp. 370-384).
Urb. lat. 669
Some manuscripts still bear the traces of the tags on their original binding, which actually constitute a notice of transfer. The label is visible on the spine and on the back board of Urb. lat. 669; fragments of it are also visible on the spines of other manuscripts, including Urb. lat. 326 and 328.
Urb. lat. 326 - Urb. lat. 328
Once they arrived at the Vatican, the Latin manuscripts were subject to a systematic process of re-binding. The reasons for such an initiative do not seem to be so much of a conservative nature -notwithstanding the alleged problems with moths bemoaned by the librarian of the Urbino period, Flaminio Catellani, - but rather they seem to be more related to purposes of propaganda. The names of Alessandro VII and some of the successive pontiffs were printed in gold on the spine of the volumes, which seems to indicate the will for a sign of possession. In particular, heraldic elements (a mountain of six peaks topped with a star with six points), taken from the coat of arms of Alexander VII (1655-1667), are present on at least 245 bindings of Urbinati latini (Peruzzi, «Lectissima politissimaque volumina», pp. 378-379), especially in the first hundreds of manuscripts (see Urb. lat. 9, 10, 52, 74, 136, 185, 410, 651, 1324).
Urb. lat. 74
Other manuscripts, according to a Vatican practice, have the coat of arms of the Cardinal Librarian as well as that of the pontiff on the spine; in these cases, it is possible to date the making of the binding more accurately. Due to the analysis of the spines, it is thus possible to be aware of another process of restoring the bindings, which took place under the government (1681-1693) of Card. Lorenzo Brancati of Lauria, whose heraldic motifs (two swords set in the cross of St. Andrew, topped by a comet) appears on the spines of a number of volumes (134 counted by Peruzzi, «Lectissima politissimaque volumina», p. 378), as well as those from the pontiffs that rose to papal authority in those years: the eagle and the lion of Innocenzo XI (1676-1689), that make the bindings datable from 1681-1689 (see Urb. lat. 187, 250, 264, 281); the two-headed eagle of Alexander VIII (1689-1691), that makes it possible to date between the years 1689-1691 (see Urb. lat. 337 and 491, which, having undergone restoration with a modern binding, has preserved the parchment glued to the pastedown that previously covered the spine); the pots on the coat of arms of Innocenzo XII (1691-1700), which allow for a dating between 1691-1693 (see Urb. lat. 681, 899 and 1221).
The renewal of the bindings was likely entrusted to the Andreoli brothers, Genoese booksellers and bookbinders who had already closely followed the operations related to the transfer of the manuscripts from Urbino. Gregorio obtained the office of bookbinder of the Vatican in 1665 and in 1675 he obtained the right for his brother Giovanni to succeed him (Ruysschaert, Le legature romane, p. 27-30; Id., Les frères Andreoli; Guida ai fondi, p. 749; Peruzzi, «Lectissima politissimaque volumina», pp. 374, 376-377). In an autograph note, Gregorio Andreoli lists some volumes that he had rebound between January 7, 1682 and January 7, 1684: these include fifteen Urbino manuscripts, such as Urb. lat. 250 (Arch. Bibl. 15 pt. B, ff. 253r-263r, in particular f. 261r: «Libri Legati della Libraria d’Urbino […] Altri libri deversi havuti scioli e legati p(er) ordine dell’Ill.mo Sig.r Abbate Gradi»). In some manuscripts their name appears on the parchment pieces glued on the flyleaves (see Urb. lat. 10 and 1146); Urb. lat. 219, on f. 105r, Giovanni wrote: «Ho ricevuto dal sig. Zacagna [Lorenzo Zaccagni, Primo custode della Biblioteca Vaticana] n. 1023, 1024, 1025, 1026 [these shelfmarks assigned by Gradi, correspond to today’s Urb. lat. 1356, 232, 219, 218; see Urb. lat. 1388, f. 84r-v] Giov. Andreoli manu propria».
The Vatican bindings were mostly made of brown leather (see Urb. lat. 281, 681, 899, 1221) or of parchment tinted green (see Urb. lat. 187, 250, 264, 337, 491) on cardboard; the first panel of the spine, often framed by a double gilded frame, shows in gold the second shelfmark used by Stefano Gradi in his inventory (Urb. lat. 1388) followed by the initials «VR∙B». In several cases a restoration of the spine was necessary for bindings made of parchment (tinted green), due to the inherently more fragile nature of the material; as a result, there are many volumes that present binding covered in natural parchment, impressed with the papal coat of arms of the popes and that of the Cardinals in office, making it possible to identify the years in which the restoration was carried out (see Urb. lat. 349, with the coats of arms of Pius IX and Cardinal Librarian Luigi Lambruschini, which allows the restoration to be dated to 1846-1853; Urb. lat. 324 and 420, with coats of arms of Pius XI and Cardinal Angelo Mai, which allow the restoration to be dated to 1853-1854). Often, the green parchment that previously covered the spine was glued to the pastedown, thus making it possible to see the former shelfmark assigned by Gradi and the coats of arms impressed on it (see Urb. lat. 187, 264, 491).
Among the bindings made after the seventeenth century, that of the Dante Urbinate (Urb. lat. 365) may be recalled, which, written by Matteo Contugi, partially painted by Guglielmo Giraldi, was left unfinished and unbound until the beginning of the seventeenth century (it is listed among the «Books not bound in parchment» in the Indice vecchio, cfr. Urb. lat. 1761, f. 118r), when the duke Francesco Maria II della Rovere (1574-1631) entrusted the task of finishing it to one of his illuminators. The duke wanted it with a rich binding in yellow brocade, as evidenced by the inventory compiled in 1616 by the librarian Vittorio Venturelli (Vat. lat. 10482, f. 15v). This binding was substituted by Clemente XI (1700-1721) with the present in bordeaux velvet, and adorned on both boards with a frame and solid friezes of gilded metal with heraldic elements (eight-pointed star and three-peaked mountain) taken from the coat of arms of the Urbino pope, along with the decussate keys mounted by the tiara.
Urb. lat. 365 - Urb. lat. 1761, f. 118r
It should also be noted that on the occasion of more recent restorations, done at the Laboratory of the Vatican Library between the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the next, some manuscripts with Vatican bindings whose original bindings were kept in the Legature collection have been opportunely retrieved and rejoined to the book, as in the case of Urb. lat. 419 and 427. The modern bindings that were replaced (as in the two cases cited dating back to the years 1878-1889, based on the presence of the coats of arms of Leo XIII and Cardinal Librarian Pitra) were instead placed in the Legature collection, which currently holds 48 shelfmarks of manuscripts from the Urbinati latini collection.