Dialogues of the Gods

This manuscript contains ten of the dialogues of Lucianus, a second-century rhetorician and satirist who wrote in Greek, in the Latin version of Livio Guidolotto (also seen as Guidalotto or Guidalotti). Livio, a classical scholar from Urbino, was the apostolic assistant of Pope Leo X, and he dedicated his translation to the pope in an introductory epistle of 1518 ("Romae, Idibus maii MDXVIII"; folio 150v). The latest possible date for the manuscript thus is 1521, the year Leo died. The emblem of Giovanni de' Medici, with the beam accompanied by the letter "N" and the motto "Suave" as it stood even before he became pope, is inserted in the decoration within the codex. The Medici coat of arms is also present, crowned by the papal insignia and the symbol of the Medici, a diamond ring with a white, a green, and a red feather and the motto “Semper." The same emblems are found in a group of codices in the Medicea Laurenziana Library in Florence that probably were commissioned by Leo X. The librarian Luigi De Angelis was responsible for publishing the text of the manuscript in Siena in 1823. De Angelis praised the elegance of the illuminations, with particular reference to the portrait in the dedicatory initial, believed to depict an effigy of Lucianus, and suggested that it could be attributed to Raphael. A reviewer of De Angelis’s edition put forward the hypothesis that Livio Guidolotto's dedication of the caustic dialogues to the pope was not accepted. As a result, the work remained unpublished for a very long time. The manuscript is known have been in the collection of the Sienese scholar Uberto Benvoglienti at the beginning of the 18th century. It later was bequeathed to the Biblioteca comunale degli Intronati di Siena. The manuscript is bound in a composite codex that gathers together five manuscripts of different ages (dating from the end of the 13th century to circa 1521) and provenance, and which are also dissimilar in layout, graphic style, and format.

Minor Works of Dante Alighieri

This small manuscript, dating to the late-15th century, in Renaissance script, contains poems from the Rime (Rhymes) by the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). These are so-called minor works that are distinguished from Dante’s Vita nuova (The new life), his book of sonnets recounting his early love for Beatrice, and his all-encompassing allegorical masterpiece, La divina commedia (The divine comedy). On the front cover is a 15th-century note, now almost totally faded, which states: "Di Cosimo de' Medici e degli Amici" (Belonging to Cosimo de’ Medici and his friends). The manuscript is bound in a composite codex that gathers together five manuscripts of different ages (dating from the end of the 13th century to circa 1521) and provenance, and which are also dissimilar in layout, graphic style, and format.

Collection of Speeches and Latin Epistles by Renaissance Humanists

This manuscript, dating to the late-15th century, formerly belonged to the Sienese Alessandro Tegliacci, as stated in a note written on the initial page by an unknown later owner: "Dedit mihi Alex(ande)r Tegliaccius die(?) 8 decembris 1581 atque sua humanitate donavit" (Alessandro Tegliacci kindly gave this to me as a gift on December 8, 1581). The decoration on the same leaf bears the coat of arms of the Tegliacci family. Alessandro can perhaps be identified as the scholar who was called by Cosimo II to be professor of humanities of the Studio (university) of Siena in 1609. The manuscript is comprised of a collection of speeches and Latin epistles by several Renaissance humanists: Oratio ad pontificem Nicolaum V by Giannozzo Manetti (folios 49–58r); other orations addressed to the same recipient by Poggio Bracciolini (folios 58v–66v) and Francesco Micheli del Padovano (folios 66v–71v); Oratiuncula ad Martinum V by Leonardo Bruni; and Florentinorum epistula ad imperatorem Federicum III and Florentinorum epistula ad Concilium Basiliense (folios 74r–79v). The manuscript is bound in a composite codex that gathers together five manuscripts of different ages (dating from the end of the 13th century to circa 1521) and provenance, and which are also dissimilar in layout, graphic style, and format.

Treatise of the World's Creation

This manuscript, which contains a Tractatus de creatione mundi (Treatise on the World's Creation) from the Book of Genesis followed by a narration of the Passion of Christ (folios 99r–128v), is one of the most significant examples of late-13th-century Sienese illumination. The pictures, partly watercolor drawings and partly proper illuminations, were made by an extremely sophisticated Sienese artist who was heavily influenced by Transalpine miniaturists and active from around 1290 through the next decade. The illustrations, sketched by a fast, concise hand, stand out for their strikingly smooth style, unusual in the Sienese production of the time and a quality matched by the spontaneity of the narration and an uncommonly flowing hand. The landscape details make remarkable use of spatial illusionism, a sign of the artist’s awareness of the innovations by the Sienese painter Duccio di Buoninsegna (circa 1255–circa 1319). Scholars have put forward different theories about the identity of the artist, known as the Master of the Tractatus de Creatione Mundi, who created the series of illuminations illustrating episodes from the Creation and the lives of Adam and Eve. Art historian Luciano Bellosi suggested that they are by Guido di Graziano, creator of the 1280 Biccherna tablet, now in the Siena State Archives. Bellosi attributes to Guido a considerable number of works, including the dossal of Saint Peter in the Siena Pinacoteca Nazionale, which are stylistically very consistent with the illustrations in this manuscript. Ada Labriola, on the other hand, argues that the anonymous miniaturist was somewhat younger than Guido and probably trained in his workshop. She bases this conclusion on his more modern narrative style and the fact that the artist clearly was aware of innovations by Duccio and the Florentine painter Cimabue (circa 1240–1302). Labriola also recognizes the hand of this miniaturist as being distinct from the very similar one of the creator of a Crucifixion with Virgin and St. John and of an illuminated initial (folios 99r-v) decorating the Passio Iesu Christi composita ex quattuor evangelistis (Maestro of the Duecento of the Dominican Legendary). The manuscript is bound in a composite codex that gathers together five manuscripts of different ages (dating from the end of the 13th century to circa 1521) and provenance, and which are also dissimilar in layout, graphic style, and format.

The Defeat of Montaperti

This manuscript is an illustrated account of the events relating to the famous Battle of Montaperti of September 4, 1260, which is mentioned by Dante in The Divine Comedy. The battle resulted in the victory of the armed faction of the Ghibellines, supporting the Holy Roman Emperor and led by Siena, over the Guelphs, supporting the pope and led by Florence. The manuscript was written and illustrated throughout by Niccolò di Giovanni di Francesco di Ventura da Siena, who signed it and stated that he completed the text on December 1, 1442, and the illustrations the following year. Little is known about Niccolò other than his name, which is first recorded in September 1402. He appeared on the list of the members of the painters' guild in 1428 and died on April 1, 1464. It is generally agreed that the text is the result of an elaboration of the myth of Montaperti, dating from at least a century earlier, and that it was copied from one or more previous accounts, perhaps with insertions of further facts and information gathered from secondary sources. The illustrations, still bearing 14th-century stylistic traits, also were in all likelihood reproduced from older models. In the absence of contemporary records of the battle, this very popular account represents a precious historical source, thanks to its apparent accuracy and to the richness of its illustrations. The manuscript belonged to the Carmelite prior general, Giovanni Battista Caffardi. It was transferred from its original location in the convent of San Niccolò in Siena to the Biblioteca comunale degli Intronati di Siena in the 18th century by command of Grand Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo.


This antiphonary (a book containing the choral parts of the Holy Office) was transferred to the Biblioteca comunale degli Intronati di Siena in 1811 from its place of origin, the Augustinian monastery of San Salvatore in Lecceto near Siena. By virtue of its specific liturgical function, the antiphonary, designed for the use of the monastic community, contains both the daytime and the nocturnal services. It was illuminated in 1442 as part of an extensive artistic program within the monastery promoted under priors Bartolomeo Tolomei and Girolamo Buonsignori. A bull by Pope Eugene IV in 1446 granted Lecceto independence from the Augustinian vicar general, placing it at the head of a vast network of monasteries. The peculiarities of the manuscript’s iconography, closely linked to the liturgical content, denote a specific visual program, undertaken especially for the Lecceto community. The Sienese painter Giovanni di Paolo has been definitively identified as responsible for completing most of the work’s illuminations. These are mainly historiated initials (decorated with people, animals, or scenes), but also include a depiction of the "Triumph of Death" placed at the beginning of the service for the dead (folio 162r). In this manuscript, the artist brings to fruition his extraordinary ability to render narrative scenes with striking originality. The other illustrations (five initials, of which four are historiated with a Marian subject and one is decorated) belong to a different hand in both technique and style and are the work of an extremely accomplished anonymous master. This master has been variously thought to belong to the Sienese school (the name of Priamo della Quercia has been suggested; so too has Domenico di Bartolo), the Umbrian school, or the Po Valley school.

Atlas of Joan Martines

This manuscript atlas by Joan Martines, cosmographer to King Philip II of Spain, dated 1587, represents the combination of two cartographic schools that existed at the time of its creation. The older one was the traditional school of Majorca, which specialized in decorative portolan maps that by this time were obsolete with regard to the geographic information they conveyed. The newer one was the cartographic school of the Low Countries, which applied Renaissance principles and used different forms of cartographic representation based on new concepts in astronomy, mathematics, and geography to produce maps containing more information than the traditional portolans. The atlas consists of 19 maps, each on two pages, with the drawings occupying nearly the length of the pages and framed by edgings of different colors. Place-names are given in Gothic letters, in red and black ink, and in Roman small capitals. There are six nautical charts, 11 regional maps, and two maps of the world, all luxuriously illuminated in colored-wash drawing, with panes of gold and silver. Most of the maps have a large compass rose showing 16 or 32 directions, and some of the maps depict ships sailing the seas.

Map of the City and Bay of Cartagena de las Indias

This hand-colored pen-and-ink manuscript map was drawn by Antonio de Ulloa (1716–95) in 1735, based on an earlier map by Juan de Herrera dating from around 1721. It shows in great detail the bay of Cartagena de Indias and the adjacent coastal area of the present-day city of Cartagena, Colombia. The territory was then part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada in the Spanish Empire. The map is oriented by a compass rose with north pointing to the left. Longitude is set in relation to the Royal Astronomical Observatory at Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Soundings and fathom lines indicate the depth of the sea bottom for navigation. Also shown are roads and forests. The title, author, and scale of the map are given in the upper right, on a pedestal flanked by figures of Indians. Ulloa was a Spanish naval officer, who in 1735 was appointed a member of the scientific expedition to Peru organized by the French Academy of Sciences. He spent nearly a decade in South America with the expedition. Ulloa was en route back to Spain in 1745 when the ship on which he was traveling was captured by the British. He was taken as a prisoner to England, where he spent a number of years. He gained the respect and friendship of many leading English scientists and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in London. He eventually was allowed to return to Spain and in 1784 published Relación histórica del viaje á la América Meridional, a detailed account of the people, geography, and natural history of South America based on his research on the continent. This map may have been the original of the one that appears in Ulloa’s Relación. The noted Spanish cartographer Tomás López (1730–1802) also used Ulloa’s map for his later chart of the bay and city of Cartagena.

Upper View of the Castillo del Morro Situated at the Mouth of the Bay of Havana

This 18th-century manuscript map shows the plan of Morro Castle, located at the entrance of Havana Bay, Cuba. The fortress was built by the Spaniards, starting in 1585. The Italian military engineer Battista Antonelli (1547–1616) was commissioned to design the fortifications. The structure originally was conceived as a small fort surrounded by a dry moat, but it was expanded and rebuilt on several occasions and became a major fortress of great strategic importance for the island. The map is oriented with north to the left and tilted up at an acute angle. On the right side are the title and an “Explanation” that indicates, through a numeric code, the fort’s bastions, bridges, cisterns, and batteries, with brief descriptions of some of these features. The map is drawn in pen on paper, with scale drawings in black ink and background in gray, pink, green, and orange sepia.

A Hydrographical and Chorographical Chart of the Philippine Islands

This magnificent map of the Philippine archipelago, drawn by the Jesuit Father Pedro Murillo Velarde (1696–1753) and published in Manila in 1734, is the first and most important scientific map of the Philippines. The Philippines were at that time a vital part of the Spanish Empire, and the map shows the maritime routes from Manila to Spain and to New Spain (Mexico and other Spanish territory in the New World), with captions. In the upper margin stands a great cartouche with the title of the map, crowned by the Spanish royal coat of arms flanked each side by an angel with a trumpet, from which an inscription unfurls. The map is not only of great interest from the geographic point of view, but also as an ethnographic document. It is flanked by twelve engravings, six on each side, eight of which depict different ethnic groups living in the archipelago and four of which are cartographic descriptions of particular cities or islands. According to the labels, the engravings on the left show: Sangleyes (Chinese Philippinos) or Chinese;  Kaffirs (a derogatory term for non-Muslims), a Camarin (from the Manila area), and a Lascar (from the Indian subcontinent, a British Raj term); mestizos, a Mardica (of Portuguese extraction), and a Japanese; and two local maps—one of Samboagan (a city on Mindanao), and the other of the port of Cavite. On the right side are: various people in typical dress; three men seated, an Armenian, a Mughal, and a Malabar (from an Indian textile city); an urban scene with various peoples; a rural scene with representations of domestic and wild animals; a map of the island of Guajan (meaning Guam); and a map of Manila.