Letter to Philocrates


Under the influence of Italian humanism and of his book-collector tutor János Vitéz, the Archbishop of Esztergom, Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1443–1490), developed a passion for books and learning. Elected king of Hungary in 1458 at the age of 14, Matthias won great acclaim for his battles against the Ottoman Turks and his patronage of learning and science. He created the Bibliotheca Corviniana, in its day one of Europe’s finest libraries. After his death, and especially after the conquest of Buda by the Turks in 1541, the library was dispersed and much of the collection was destroyed, with the surviving volumes scattered all over Europe. This codex, one of eight manuscripts originally in the Corvinus Library and now preserved in the Bavarian State Library, contains a text that recounts, in the form of a letter, the legendary history of the origins of the Greek translation of the Pentateuch. Written by Aristeas, the pseudonym for an anonymous Jew from Alexandria, the text was translated by Mattia Palmieri (1423–1583), humanist, politician, and secretary to the Holy See, who also composed a preface addressed to Pope Paul II. The manuscript bears the crest of Matthias Corvinus and the portrait of Ptolemy II, who was said to have commissioned the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek. The Bibliotheca Corviniana Collection was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2005.

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Subject Date

Publication Information



Title in Original Language

Epistula ad Philocratem (Lateinische Ãœbersetzung des Mattia Palmieri)


Type of Item

Physical Description

II + 81 + I leaves, vellum : illustrations ; 17.2 x 12.5 centimeters


  • BSB shelfmark: Clm 627

Last updated: October 17, 2017