CAESAR, Caius Julius (100-44BC). Commentarii de bello gallico, de bello civili, de bello alexandrino, de bello africano, de bello hispaniensi, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Milan, third quarter 15th century]345 x 242mm. 280 leaves, 1-358, COMPLETE, vertical catchwords down inner vertical of final folios except f.8v with horizontal catchword, cut signature marks on the lower outer corner of first four versos of gatherings, 27 lines written in brown ink in an elegant sloping humanistic hand between 28 horizontals and two pairs of verticals ruled in blind, justification: 230 x 145mm, first title and incipit in burnished gold capitals, subsequent rubrics and marginal titles in pink, FIFTEEN LARGE WHITE-VINE INITIALS with staves of burnished gold, a further illuminated initial with a stave of gold and quartered ground of pink and green and infill of blue with white penwork decoration, later vellum page-edge tabs to mark the opening of each text or book, title written on upper page-edges (narrow dampstain at edge of outer margin of first and final two folios, a few small wormholes at beginning and end, careful professional replacement of the excised lower margin and bottom two lines of f.1 and affecting end of three lines of text on conjoint f.8, smudging of ten lines on f.162 not affecting legibility). ORIGINAL PANELLED GOATSKIN with triple fillets bounding the zig-zag border, central section of rope-work and repeated agnus dei stamped in blind, four brass clasps and repoussé catches, two with the agnus dei and two with a half-length Virgin and Child (lightly wormed, replacement straps, rebacked, corners and joints restored). Brown morocco-backed box.
1. Giovanfrancesco Marliani: his cancelled ownership inscription, in Latin and Greek, on the inside of the rear cover begins 'Io:Francisci Marliani...'. The Marliani were a prominent Milanese family. Two editions of Giovanfrancesco's Oratio habita apud Innocentium VIII were printed in Rome (Goff M275 and Goff Suppl.M275a) between 1485 and 1490 and a further work survives in manuscript copies. This is an epithalium written in 1487 for the planned marriage of Bianca Sforza, daughter of Lodovico il Moro, to the son of Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary. The wedding was called off when Lodovico realised that his intended son-in-law would never succeed to the crown. It is known that later Giovanfrancesco acted as one of Lodovico's envoys to the Emperor Maximilian.
The presence of the arms of the original owner was, presumably, the reason for the removal of the lower margin of the opening folio; it is not therefore certain whether Giovanfrancesco was the person for whom the manuscript was made. Nonetheless, both decoration and script are Milanese in style, and are frequently found in manuscripts made for members of the Sforza court.
This manuscript, known from sale catalogues, has been identified as the work of the scribe who wrote the copy of Petrarch's De vita solitaria made for Count Filippo Borromeo, who died in 1464 (Chicago, Newberry Lib. Ms f.95), and the commentary of Servius in the famous Vergil written in 1465 for Ippolita, daughter of Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan (Valencia, Bib. Univ., Ms 780): A.C. de la Mare, 'Script and Manuscripts in Milan under the Sforzas', Milano nell'età di Ludovico il Moro: atti del convegno internazionale 28 febbraio-4 marzo 1983, pp.404 and 406, n.30. Professor de la Mare drew attention to the evident influence of the poet and humanist Francesco Filelfo on this scribe's hand. Filelfo (1398-1481) enjoyed the patronage of the Sforzas over several decades, he served as tutor to the young Lodovico, and Giovanfrancesco was clearly a member of his circle -- letters exchanged between them survive, for example in the Biblioteca Trivulziana in Milan: C. Santoro, I codici medioevale della Biblioteca Trivulziana (1965), p.226.
It is known that at least one member of the Marliani family, Fabrizio, Bishop of Piacenza, had a significant library: M.A. Casagrande Mazzoli, 'Per la biblioteca di Fabrizio Marliani, vescovo di Piacenza (1476-1506)', Libri e documenti, Archivio storico civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana, XXIII, 1-3 (1997), pp.59-72.
2. Charles Harry St John Hornby (1867-1946); his name with the date June 1935 on front flyleaf and M.93 inside upper cover
3. Major J.R. Abbey (1894-1969): J.A. 3232. 15.9.1946. inside lower cover. This was one of the 68 illuminated manuscripts from the Hornby estate that Major Abbey purchased en bloc in September 1946, and was among those that he sold the following year: lot 246, Sotheby's 18 February 1947
Commentariorum de bello Gallico ff.1-126v; De Bello Civili ff.127-208; De Bello Alexandrino (here as Liber quartus de bello civili) ff.208-234; De Bello Africano (here as Liber quintus de bello civili) ff.234v-266; De Bello Hispaniensi (here as Liber sextus de bello civili) ff.266-280v
His memoirs of the campaigns in Gaul from 58-52BC and of the civil war against Pompey in 49-48BC are the only works of Julius Caesar to survive intact. Although presented here as though they form part of Caesar's account of the civil war, the final three works were most likely written by soldiers who took part in the campaigns in Africa, Egypt and Spain between 48 and 45BC; the De Bello Alexandrino was probably the work of Hirtius who wrote Book 8 of De Bello Gallico, a continuation of Caesar's work.
The white-vine initials of this manuscript are closely comparable with work in a copy of Servius's commentary on Vergil made for Gian Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, between 1476 and 1481 (Sotheby's, 23 June 1998, lot 57). The illumination of the Servius was the work of two artists, Ambrogio da Marliano and the anonymous illuminator known as the Ippolita Master. The latter is named after his work in manuscripts that were given by Francesco Sforza, 3rd Duke of Milan, and his wife Bianca Maria Visconti to their daughter Ippolita in 1465, on the occasion of her marriage to the heir of the throne of Naples, Alfonso of Calabria. This illuminator was clearly highly favoured by the Duke, and he decorated a number of manuscripts destined for members of the ducal family including classical texts intended for the education of the Duke's son Galeazzo Maria. Almost twenty years later he was still being called upon to illuminate comparable texts for a comparable recipient -- Galeazzo Maria's own son Gian Galeazzo. It is the white-vine decoration on the opening folio, and the initials of identical forms and technique, painted by the Ippolita Master in Gian Galeazzo's Servius that match the initials of the present manuscript and enable its attribution to the same illuminator.
The illuminated initials are on folios 1, 19v, 29v, 38v, 49, 67v, 81, 110, 110v, 127, 154, 170, 208, 219v, 234v, 266