CICERO, Marcus Tullius (106-43 B.C.). Epistolae ad familiares, in Latin. ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM. [Florence, 1460-1470]
270 x 175 mm. i+155+ii leaves: 1-1510 165(of 6, vi cancelled), COMPLETE. Vertical catchwords in lower margin between double ruled lines at inner margin, modern pencilled foliation including front flyleaf. 36 lines written in brown ink in a fine upright humanist minuscule between 37 horizontal and two pairs of vertical lines ruled in pale ink, justification: 195 x 103 mm, rubrics in pink, two-line initials in blue, SIXTEEN LARGE WHITE-VINE INITIALS, one with a two-sided BORDER WITH PUTTI AND A BIRD AND MOTH. (Lower corner of opening folio thumbed and arms in border erased, initial on f. 18v slightly rubbed, erasure below explicit on f. 156v.)
Binding: late 16th-century gold-tooled olive morocco, perhaps Sicilian (see La Bibliofilía, vol. 68, pp. 181-183), gilt edges (covers worn, sections missing from head and foot of spine); vellum pastedowns (lifted) from a late 14th-century Italian manuscript of Book 4 of Aristotle's Politics in Latin translation; modern cloth box.
Provenance: unidentified original owner: erased coat of arms, f. 2r -- ?Sicilian owner: by the second half of the 16th century the manuscript may have been in Sicily, when it received its present binding -- "Di don Franc:co ?F ?F:lia": 17th-century inscription on flyleaf -- "Di D: Domenico":17th-century inscription on flyleaf -- Giannalisa Feltrinelli: bookplate; sale, Christie's London, 3 December 1997, lot 151 (to Bernard Quaritch).
Contents: Epistolae ad familiares (ff. 2r-156v): Book I (ff. 2r), Book II (f. 11v), Book III (f. 18v), Book IV (f. 27v), Book V (f. 35r), Book VI (f. 46v), Book VII (f. 56v), Book VIII (f. 66r), Book IX (f. 70v), Book X (f. 84v), Book XI (f. 98v), Book XII (f. 107r), Book XIII (f. 118r), Book XIV (f. 130v), Book XV (f. 140r), Book XVI (f. 150r).
The Epistolae ad familiares comprise more than ninety letters which Cicero wrote to friends and relatives with no thought of publication, consequently giving a candid and intimate insight into his life and opinions. The collection includes examples which fall into each of his own three categories of letter: the serious, the informative and the gossipy. The Epistolae ad familiares were among the texts recovered from Antiquity by the researches of Coluccio Satutati (1374-1406), the humanist chancellor of Florence.
Illumination: The handsome border of the opening folio and the finely-executed white-vine initials which open each book are characteristic of the style of Francesco d'Antonio del Chierico of around 1460. They can be securely attributed to this artist, who was the leading illuminator in Florence until his death in 1484.