Description of the Eight Pageants Held during the Games on the Occasion of the Christening of Princess Elisabeth of Hesse, 1596

In 1596 Landgrave Moritz of Hesse (1572–1632) celebrated the christening of his daughter, Elisabeth von Hessen-Kassel (1596–1625), with four days of lavish games, tournaments, and fireworks. This manuscript was compiled and executed by an unknown hand. It details the costumes of eight inventions (pageants) accompanying the central Ringelrennen (game of skills as a late variant of the medieval tournament games), which took place on August 27, 1596. Each pageant presents an allegorical or mythological motif, using an abundance of 165 finely detailed fantastic costumes. The eight pageants presented are: I. Jason and Perseus; II. On vices; III. The four seasons; IV. The deeds of a true prince; V. The sun and moon; VI. The judgment of Paris; VII. On the seven liberal arts (artes liberales); and VIII. On the four continents. The section on the continents features fanciful personifications of America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Excerpts from the Decades by Flavius Blondus

Giovanni Marco Cinico from Parma wrote and signed this manuscript for Alfonso II of Aragon, King of Naples, in 1494. The text comprises excerpts from Historiarum ab inclinatione Romanorum imperii decades (Decades of history from the deterioration of the Roman Empire) by Flavius Blondus, the Latinized name of Flavio Biondo (1392–1463). Biondo was an early Renaissance Italian historian and archeologist, who wrote several books on the history of Rome. The excerpts were compiled by Johannes Albinus (also called Giovanni Albino), an enthusiast for the literature of antiquity and a statesman, counselor to Ferdinand of Aragon, and historian who died in Rome circa 1496. The lavishly ornate manuscript is especially remarkable for the illuminations on the title pages displaying, in front of an architectural framework, victorious Rome personified as a woman on the verso page, next to a female personification of the defeated enemies of Rome on the right-hand page, sitting amid her broken armor. The manuscript contains gold and ornamental initials as well as edgings consisting of foliage, vases, and pearls. The decorations are ascribed to the Neapolitan painter Giovanni Todeschino (flourished 1482–1503), and their high quality exemplifies the art of the Italian Renaissance.

Qajar Album

This small Qajar album from the time of Fath-Ali Shah Qajar (1772–1834; ruled, 1797–1834) combines calligraphic art from various epochs with early 19th-century illustrations of high artistic quality. Although the depiction of persons is standardized and lacks individuality, the use of perspective, especially in the background, reveals European influence. Two of the miniatures portray princely scions dressed in expensive robes. Two other pages are dedicated to one of the most popular motifs of Persian book painting: the love of the nightingale for the rose, a symbol of unconditional, self-sacrificing love. The Qajar dynasty ruled Persia (present-day Iran) from 1785 to 1925. The artist makes reference to the new dynasty, depicting in delicate gold in the upper margin of both miniatures the motif of the Qajar coat of arms: a lion in front of the rising sun. This suggests that the pictures may have been commissioned by a member of the ruling house. The album later was acquired by the French orientalist Baron Antoine Isaac Silvestre de Sacy (1758–1838) and subsequently came to the Bavarian State Library as part of the library of Étienne Marc Quatremère (1782–1857), also a noted French orientalist.

Eight Books Concerning Medicine

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 the text De medicina by the Roman author A. Cornelius Celsus. The original text, composed during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius (AD 14–37) as part of an encyclopedia (Artes), was frequently copied in the Middle Ages. Following the death of Corvinus, it was acquired by Johann Jacob Fugger, with whose library it came to the Munich court library of the dukes of Bavaria in 1571. The Bibliotheca Corviniana Collection was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2005.

The Song of the Nibelungs (Codex A)

The Nibelungenlied (The Song of the Nibelungs) is the most famous heroic poem in Middle High German. It tells the story of the dragon-slayer Siegfried from his childhood and his marriage to Kriemhild to his murder by the evil Hagen and Kriemhild's subsequent revenge, culminating in the annihilation of the Burgundians or Nibelungs at the court of the Huns. Originally based upon an older oral tradition, the poem was written down about or shortly after the year 1200, probably at the court of Wolfger von Erla, Bishop of Passau from 1191 to 1204. Today it is known only in the versions that have come down to the present in 37 manuscripts and fragments dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries. In the 19th century, the Nibelungenlied had an enormous influence as a German national epic poem, as reflected in numerous works of visual art and in Richard Wagner's musical dramas. Codex A, which is preserved in the Bavarian State Library, was listed, together with two other primary manuscripts used to establish the text (Codices B and C), on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2009.

A Book Concerning the Nature of Things. Natural Questions in Seven Books

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 the short treatise De natura rerum, composed by the Venerable Bede, the well-known Anglo-Saxon monk and scholar, at the beginning of the eighth century. The text, copied in the last decade of the 15th century, is bound with another treatise on a similar subject, the Naturales quaestiones by the Roman statesman and philosopher L. Annaeus Seneca (died AD 65). The text appears in a humanistic book script and is richly illuminated, bearing the crests both of Corvinus and of his successor, Wladislav II. The Bibliotheca Corviniana Collection was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2005.

Books 1–5 of the Histories

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 Corvinian, 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 Latin translation of De bello Gothicorum (Concerning the Gothic war). The text is an account of the years from 552 to 559 by the Greek author Agathias (sixth century AD); the translation is by Cristoforo Persona (1416–1485), the prefect of the Vatican Library from 1484 onward. The Latin text appears in humanistic book script, richly illuminated by Joachinus de Gigantibus, and is dedicated by Persona to Corvinus. The Bibliotheca Corviniana Collection was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2005.

Speeches

Under the influence of Italian humanism and of his book-collector tutor János Vitéz, 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 several speeches and letters by Aeschines and Demosthenes, among which is Demosthenes' most brilliant speech, “On the Crown,” in the translation by the humanist Leonardo Bruni from Arezzo (1370?–1444), who also contributed a preface addressed to Niccolò Medici. The book, which bears the Corvinus coat of arms, may originally have been owned by Vitéz. Following the death of Corvinus, it was acquired by Johann Jakob Fugger, with whose library it came to the Munich court library of the dukes of Bavaria in 1571. The Bibliotheca Corviniana Collection was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2005.

The History of Bologna in Four Books. Poems to Galeatius Marescottus

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 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 produced in Ferrara, Italy, in 1460. Its binding, made in Buda, where the king had set up his own workshop, is decorated with the royal arms. The binding reflects a blend of local Gothic style and Eastern-inspired elements from the Italian Renaissance, based on oriental models that are thought to have originated in North Africa, particularly in Egypt. The volume is believed to have been presented by Georg Hörmann, who was in the service of the Fugger family, to Johann Jacob Fugger, with whose library it came to the Munich court library of the dukes of Bavaria in 1571. The Bibliotheca Corviniana Collection was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2005.

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.