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Composite manuscript containing three texts, 15th century

Identifier: MS 120


This manuscript is a composite manuscript containing three main texts and some miscellaneous notes. It was made in Italy in the 15th century, probably at or for the Aragonese Library in Naples. It is a collection of texts about Greek and Roman history and learning.

The contents are as follows:

Flyleaves: Some notes, poems, etcetera, in Latin and Greek (italic hand) on two vellum fly-leaves

ff. 1v-2r: Two miniatures (see “Illumination”)

f. 2v: Note that seems to be a list of chapters in Coluccio Salutati’s De seculo et religione, beginning with Mundus est campus diaboli and ending with Laqueus animarum parens

ff. 4r-34v: Epistola ad nepotes de utilitate studii librorum gentilum by Saint Basil, translated by Leonardo Aretino

ff. 34v-37r: Description of the Sibyls

ff. 37v-43v: Nomina Ofhciorum et Dignitatum Urbis Romae ac Omcialium (a text on the officials, functions and institutions of the Roman empire)

ff. 44v-45v and on the final fly-leaf: Greek alphabet and miscellaneous jottings

The texts main texts are described separately under MS 120/ff. 4r-34v; MS 120/ff. 34v-37r; and MS 120/ff. 37v-43v.


The hand is Italian minuscule, the ink being very yellow. The small capitals are either red or green, and the rubrics are in square capitals, the words being alternately lake green or gold. The notes are in various other hands.


There are three sectional initials on ff. 4r, 6v, and 37v, elaborately floriated in blue, lake, and green, and two miniatures in watercolour. There is also a sketch in ink on the verso of the final fly-leaf, which resembles the second miniature of Pallas.


  1. f. 1v: Two cherubs playing an organ. The organ has a carved wooden pedestal and case, and two rows of metal pipes. One cherub is playing the instrument standing, the other is blowing for him.
  2. f. 2r: Pallas. Nude figure with an aureole of golden hair, a spear with banner in her right hand, while the left hand rests upon a golden embossed shield. The letters MX. MAN. are written below, and have apparently given rise to the idea that this miniature is by Mantegna, a supposition which does not seem to be borne out by its appearance.


  • Creation: 15th century

Language of Materials

Latin; Greek

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to all. The manuscripts can be consulted in the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Main Library.


1 bound MS volume

Custodial History

The script and illumination are Italian. The arms on f. 4 are identified by Mr. Van de Put as those of Alphonso V, the founder of the Aragonese Library (Delisle, Cabinet de Manuscrits, tom, i, f. 220). Catherine Borland was not able to find this manuscript among the contents of this library noted by Delisle.

The statement made in the Sale Catalogue entry, attached to the volume, that the arms are those of Frederic de Gonzague, 4th Marquis de Mantoue, is not correct, nor does the further statement that the figure of Pallas on f. 2, signed MN. MAN., is by Mantegna, done when he was at Mantua, detained by the Gonzaga (after 1468), seem possible. Neither in style nor in execution does it appear to justify this statement.

There are notes at the beginning and end, and an almost entirely defaced list of contents on the vellum end paper at the beginning in an Italian hand of the 17th century. The sale entry is taken from a French catalogue. There is a signature at the foot of the first fly-leaf, which (using U.V.) can be deciphered as L. Schwanthaler, German sculptor (see Laing.II.132). There is also a library number (264) on the back of the front board, alongside a painted book plate (heraldic) with a cock or hen and 2 rosettes. This could be Schwanthaler’s.

Previous reference

Laing 141

Previous title

Title given to the manuscript in Catherine Borland’s catalogue: Leonardi Aretini, etc.


De Marinis, Tammaro. La Biblioteca Napoletana dei re d'Aragona. Milan: Ulrico Hoepli editore, 1947-1952.

Physical Facet

Material: Vellum

Binding: Oak boards covered brown stamped leather, 2 straps lost, rebacked.

Collation: Two fly-leaves, a2, b1, c12, d10-f10, g1=46


16.83 cm x 10.16 cm


Secundo folio: Trithonia Pallas

Foliation and number of lines to a page: ff. 46 (+2 fly-leaves), 16 lines to a page

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379