VALTURIUS, Robertus (1413-1484), De re militari, illustrated manuscript on paper [northern Italy, c.1590s]
A striking 16th-century illustrated manuscript of one of the most important books on military technology: Roberto Valturio’s De re militari.
(1) The cursive script is late 16th-century, as is the (German) paper stock: the watermark with the fleur-de-lis and fish, localisable to Strasbourg, matches Piccard 13, Abtlg. 1, Nr. 595 and dates from 1592. (2) ?19th-century sticker on spine, ‘No 105’. (3) MAURICE BURRUS, no 112. Purchased from Maggs in 1940.
Table, Elenchus et index rerum militari[um], ff.1-6; Preface to Sigismundus Pandulphus [Malatesta] ff.7-12; De re militari, beginning ‘Qu[or]um itaq[ue] inter o[mn]es priscae auctoritatis viros’ ff.12-387; Marcus Riminensis, poem addressed to Robertus Valturius, beginning: ‘Valturri nostrae princeps cultissime linguae’, ff.387v-388.
Valturio wrote his treatise on warcraft while serving as engineer to Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta of Rimini (to whom the work is dedicated), and it swiftly became a primary handbook for Renaissance princes and military leaders: Leonardo da Vinci made use of it while acting as chief engineer to Cesare Borgia. The illustrations depict a stunning variety of military equipment ranging from catapults and battering-rams to revolving gun turrets and even a prototype submarine.
The original illustrations for Valturio’s 1472 edition – ‘the first true Italian book illustrations’ are usually ascribed to Matteo de’ Pasti, a medallist and illuminator also in the service of Sigismondo Pandolfo. The illustrations in the present manuscript – both in order and composition – closely follow those of the 1472 edition (with the exception of the flags on ff.289v-291v, here with some creative additions such as a centaur and battling knights). But the use of a flamboyant and bright palette and more detailed definition of each individual scene distinguish them from their printed counterparts.
The illustrations are on ff.44v, 152, 152v, 347v, 248, 249, 249v, 250v, 251, 253, 253v, 254, 255, 255v, 256, 256v, 257, 257v, 258, 258v, 259, 259v, 260, 260v, 261, 261v, 262, 262v, 263, 263v, 264, 264v, 265, 265v, 266, 266v, 267, 267v, 268, 268v, 269, 269v, 270, 270v, 272, 272v, 273v, 275, 275v, 276, 276v, 277, 278, 278v, 279, 279v, 280, 280v, 281v, 282, 282v, 283v, 284, 284v, 285, 285v, 286, 288v, 289v, 290v, 291, 291v, 303, 304, 312, 314, 314v, 315, 315v, 316, 316v, 317, 317v, 318v, 319, 319v, 320v.
For the 1472 edition see HC *15847; BMC VII, 948 (IB. 30705-6); BSB-Ink V-52; Goff V-88; GW M49412; IGI 10114; Klebs 1014.1; PMM 10; Stillwell Awakening, 897; Sander 7481; Schaefer 346.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION AND CONDITION:
380 x 252mm. 388 leaves, COMPLETE, catchwords survive, 28 lines, ruled space 320 x 180mm. EIGHTY-SEVEN ILLUSTRATIONS, many of which full-page (occasional marginal staining and offsetting of text). Contemporary limp vellum blind-stamped binding (slightly stained and warped).