Atlas of Battista Agnese

Battista Agnese (circa 1500–1564) was an Italian cartographer, born in Genoa, who worked in Venice between 1536 and 1564 and became one of the most important figures in Renaissance cartography. He created approximately 100 manuscript atlases, of which more than 70 are extant, either with his signature or attributed to his school. His atlases, which are considered works of art for their high quality and beauty, are mostly portolan, or nautical, atlases printed on vellum for high-ranking officials or wealthy merchants. This 1544 atlas contains 15 full-page illuminated plates, with detailed maps and geographic figures, in bright colors, decorated with cherubs on clouds. Some of the maps are decorated with traces of gold. The oval mappa mundi has cherubs, or wind heads, in blue and gold clouds, which represent the classical 12 wind points out of which evolved the modern compass points. The most detailed maps show complete coasts, ports, and rivers and were the navigation aids of the day, but they do not generally represent inland features other than towns and cities. The atlas includes an armillary sphere and a finely drawn zodiac chart.

Compendium of Cosmography

Pedro de Medina (1493–1567) was a cartographer, author, and a founder of marine science. He lived in Seville, the center of the Spanish ocean-going commerce and the starting point for ships headed to the New World. He worked in an environment shaped by the Casa de Contratación (House of Trade), the Spanish government agency that controlled exploration and colonization, although he was never employed by it. In 1545 Medina published his most important work, El arte de navegar (The art of navigation), an overview of existing knowledge on this subject. The book was internationally disseminated and quickly translated into several European languages. Medina also wrote historical and philosophical books, including Libro de las grandezas y cosas memorables de España (Book of the great and memorable deeds of Spain), Libro de la verdad (Book of truth), and Crónica de los excelentes señores duques de Medina Sidonia (Chronicle of the excellent ducal lords of Medina Sidonia). Suma de Cosmographia (Compendium of cosmography) is considered an extract of El arte de navegar, containing information on astrology and navigation and written for a nonspecialist audience. The folio-size manuscript on parchment includes 11 beautiful astronomical figures with accompanying text. The illustrations are carefully drawn and illuminated in gold and in bright colors, with the initial letters of text pages in highlighted golden insets. A fine mappa mundi on a double-page spread, illuminated in red, blue, green, sienna, and gold, represents the known world and reflects the state of geographic knowledge in Spain and Portugal at that time. Prominently shown on the map is the line of demarcation, established in the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, between the domains of Spain and Portugal.

Writings of Lope de Vega: Daza Codex

Félix Arturo Lope de Vega (1562–1635) was a playwright and poet during Spain’s literary Golden Age and known for his prodigious output. He wrote some 3,000 sonnets, three novels, four novellas, nine epic poems, and about 1,800 plays. This manuscript, known as the Daza Codex, is a signed draft, written by Lope between 1631 and 1634, near the end of his life. It is not a book in itself but a cartapacio misceláneo (miscellaneous notebook) that belonged to the Duke of Sessa, Lope’s patron and first collector. The last 96 pages are bound in upside down. The contemporary binding, in parchment, presents on the cover, as a title, the following note in ink: "Here are the eclogues," thus indicating the contents, which are mainly poems on pastoral themes, although some prose is also included. The notebook includes both unpublished works and fragments of several known works. The latter include La Dorotea (Lope’s main prose work, an extensive dialogue that he preferred to call "action in prose," published in 1632), and "Amarilis, huerto desecho" (Amarilis, abandoned kitchen garden). The works are interspersed in the manuscript, indicating Lope's method of creating several pieces at one time.

The Poem of the Cid

The document shown here is the sole surviving manuscript copy of Poema del Cid (The poem of the Cid), the crowning piece of Castilian medieval epic literature and the earliest Spanish epic poem to have survived complete. The poem recounts the story of Castilian nobleman Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, who lived in the second half of the 11th century. El Cid (meaning lord) battles against the Moors in an effort to restore his honor after being unjustly accused of stealing money from the king. The poem, in its written form, appears to be based on a series of previous oral versions, which must have started spreading shortly after the death of the Cid. The authorship and date of composition are still debated, however, and scholars have put forward numerous hypotheses about the origins of the work. This manuscript, known as the Codex of Per Abat, was copied in the 14th century from an earlier text dated 1207 and signed by Per Abat (Abbot Peter). Several pages of the manuscript are missing, and the text contains corrections and annotations made by different people and at different times. The sole ornamentation in the manuscript is one highlighted capital letter and two feminine heads on page 31 recto, which may represent the daughters of the Cid, who play a prominent part in the story. Many fragments of the manuscript have been blackened by chemicals used in the late 19th century with the intention of heightening the inks and making the manuscript easier to read. The copy was donated to the National Library of Spain in 1960 by the Juan March Foundation, which purchased it from the family of Spanish medievalist Ramón Menéndez Pidal.

Book of the Alphonsine Tables

A reflection of the knowledge of astronomy of the time, these tables were produced in Spain between 1263 and 1272 under the direction of Isaac ben Sid and Judah ben Moses Cohen. The Ptolemaic belief that the planets orbited the Earth was then the predominant cosmological system, and the heliocentric model of the solar system formulated by Copernicus, who personally studied and copied the tables, was still two centuries away. Known as Alfonsine tables after King Alfonso X of Castile (reigned 1252–84), the tables are a compilation of data about the positions and movements of the planets. Alfonso was a patron of learning who employed Christian, Jewish, and Muslim scholars to translate works of Arabic science into Latin and Castilian Spanish. He assembled a team of astronomers who compiled the Alfonsine tables, based on the calculations of the Arab astronomer al-Zarqali (also known as Arzachel, 1029–87). The work was edited and printed in Venice in 1483, the only Alphonsine astrological work to make it to the printing press during the Renaissance. The manuscript is from the Cathedral of Toledo and is now in the National Library of Spain. It was the property of Cardinal Francisco Javier de Zelada in Italy, and brought to Spain by Cardinal Lorenzana in the late 18th century.