STORIA D'ITALIA, in Italian, MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER
[Italy, early 15th century]
260 x 135mm. 37 leaves: 19(of 12, lacking i, ii and xii), 2-3s12, 44, also lacking leaves at end, two columns of 42 lines in brown ink in a gothic cursive script between four verticals and 43 horizontals ruled in brown, rubrics and chapter lists in red, some text capitals touched red (faint waterstaining to upper outer corner of first 10 and last 8 leaves, other minor stains, first leaf on guard, penultimate leaf loose). 19th-century Italian vellum-backed boards with green morocco lettering-piece.
This manuscript carries the first three books of a work -- given the title 'Storia d'Italia' on the spine -- that integrates Old Testament and classical mythology to provide the history of the foundation of Italy.
It opens part way through a prologue lamenting the current state of Italy and the defects that have left the people like sheep without shepherds -- 'glianno lassato lo exercitio dellarme et non curano piu honore e sonno dati atutte quale cose che il huomo infeminire cioe ad avaritia e alluxuria e laltro diffecto scie che non hanno ducha'. The author gives a brief description of the excellence of Italy's physical position -- delle piu nobile terre marine e terre seche che siano in tutto il mondo e in mezo dise e la cita di Roma -- and its successive names -- Saturnata and Ausonia before being named after Ytalo. He concludes 'basti del nome e del sito e delle conditione' and the second chapter continues with an account of Janus (Yano or Giano), first king of Italy.
With the same curt means of moving the tale forward -- 'Et basti de Yano..' -- the author moves on to Moses. The work proceeds weaving three strands together, for Moses was the contemporary of Janus, king in Italy, and Jove who reigned in Crete. The second book begins with a description of Crete and its early history, moves on to the origins of the greco-roman gods, gives an account of the manner in which they are represented, covers the pestilence in Egina, the minotaur and the building of the Labyrinth, and finishes with Theseus. The third book returns again to Italy at the time of Faunus and continues onto the life and labours of Hercules, the final folio ending in 'La seconda factiga de hercule dice boeto che fu quando combatecte con lo leone'. Throughout Boethius, Virgil, Ovid and Isidore of Seville are cited as sources, and Dante is often quoted.
The section on the ydoli of the gods, their natures and the manner in which they are represented (ff.30-34), is an abbreviated vernacular version of the Libellus de imaginibus deorum. With its sources in Petrarch and the Moralised Ovid, the Libellus was fundamental to renaissance iconography.