Cicero, De oratore

  • A. 1441; Florence; parchment; mm 270 × 175; ff. V, 141, II’
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bywater Add. 1

This Cicero’s codex, written in Florence by the canon Giacomo of Udine and by the latter left to St. Francis’ Convent of Udine, experienced a long theory of handovers before it got into the Bodleian Library, where it is nowadays kept.

Like the Lactantius’ codex, currently Par. lat. 2968, this Cicero’s manuscript, nowadays kept in the Bodleian Library of Oxford, was also copied by the canon Giacomo of Udine (Giacomo da Udine), Guarnerio’s friend, in an elegant humanistic book-hand, substantially different from the cursive script used for the Lactantius’ copy. Nevertheless, like Lactantius’, also Cicero’s manuscript was carried out in Florence, according the subscription statement on f. 141r («Pridie kl. Maias m.cccc.xli | Iacob scripsit Florentiae»), that is to say two years later than Lactantius’. The decoration, which A.C. de la Mare assigned to Bartolomeo di Antonio Varnucci (1410 ca.-1479), consists of white-vine-stem (‘a bianchi girari’) decorated gilded initials that include now a peacock or a butterfly, now a putto. The codex was left by Giacomo to St Francis’ Convent of Udine; but in the sixteenth century it had already moved from Friuli, and was owned by Guido Lolgio, a man of letters from Reggio Emilia who lived in Rome firstly at Orazio Farnese’s service, and later at his brother’s, the cardinal Alexander’s. In the eighteenth century it firstly got into the library of Giovanni and Giulio Saibante, at Verona, then belonged to Matteo Luigi Canonici, being part of his very rich library in Venice. Brought to England by the abbot Celotti and put up to auction at Sotheby’s within a group of manuscripts coming from the Canonici-Saibante library, in 1821 Charles Lewis purchased it for Henry Joseph Thomas Drury (1778-1841); it then became property of Samuel Butler, bishop of Lichfield (1774-1839), and was then by the latter handed over to his doctor, Sir Henry Halford (1766-1844), who was the doctor of the English Royal Family, as well. Acquired by the London antiquarian Bernard Quaritch, it then belonged to the family Cottesloe, just to be sold again by auction at Sotheby’s in 1972. The purchaser was Robin Miriam Robinette Tomkinson, a distant relative of the Greek scholar Ingram Bywater. Upon Tomkinson’s death the manuscript was given as legacy to the Bodleian Library, providing that it should be part of the Bywater fund: for this reason its shelf-mark is ‘Bywater Additional’. In 1984 the Bodleian Library was therefore the final destination of this long journey.

f. 1r, incipit of the 1st book of the De oratore with white-vine-stem decorated initial portraying a putto inside

f. 1r, incipit of the 1st book of the De oratore with white-vine-stem decorated initial portraying a putto inside

f. 44r, incipit of the 2nd book of the De oratore with richly decorated initial M

f. 44r, incipit of the 2nd book of the De oratore with richly decorated initial M

f. 103r, Florentine-styled white-vine-stem ornamented initial

f. 103r, Florentine-styled white-vine-stem ornamented initial

f. 141r, Giacomo of Udine’s subscription dated 1441

f. 141r, Giacomo of Udine’s subscription dated 1441

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