Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia

  • A. 1456 (San Daniele); parchment; mm 440 × 245; ff. 428
  • Paris, ‘Bibliothèque Nationale’, Par. lat. 9325

This Pliny’s codex, copied by Battista da Cingoli for Guarnerio, was brought to Paris by Napoleons’ army.

Naturalis historia is an encyclopaedic treatise in thirty-seven book having natural history as main subject and embracing the most different topics: starting from astronomy and meteorology (second book) it runs over such disciplines as geography, zoology, medicine, to ultimately get mineralogy that is dealt with in the last book. For the complexity and width of his work Pliny was considered a supreme philosopher, but also a supreme writer and the great consideration he was granted by the humanists is evidenced by the subscription Battista da Cingoli wrote in this codex, which was probably inspired, if not dictated, by Guarnerio himself, and can be so translated: «Gay Pliny the Second, outstanding philosopher and orator, left us this volume on natural history, beautiful and not less varied than nature itself, almost a monument to his genius and extraordinary erudition; and the volume was copied by Battista da Cingoli, in an elegant and correct script, as you can see, upon provision of the best and most human father Guarnerio d’Artegna, parish priest of San Daniele. On the second of September 1456». The current Parisian manuscript appears in Guarnerio’s library inventory (Inventario) dated 1461, where it is listed as item n. 76; it was stolen by the French army, with other eight Guarnerio’s manuscripts, in 1797, and then converged into the Latin fund of the ‘Bibliothèque Nationale’. The initial of the dedicatory epistle on f. 4r is richly ornamented and embellished by the drawing of five putti, a peacock and two butterflies; Guarnerio’s coat of arms is in the lower border.

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