Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65–8 BC) Opera (manuscript)

Manuscript, copied by Bartolomeo Sanvito in Rome, mid 1480s
On parchment, ca 165 x 102 mm

A second manuscript of Horace’s works was copied for Bernardo Bembo by Bartolomeo Sanvito in Rome, probably at the time of Bembo’s ambassadorial visit to the papal Curia in 1485. It is still a small portable book, but it is more elegant and better proportioned in its dimensions than Bembo’s first copy (CUL MS Dd.15.13). Bembo’s ownership is testified by his illuminated arms and the insertion of his Pegasus device and motto, inscribed in gold, within the illuminated initial on the first leaf. Moreover, the manuscript bears corrections, additions, marginal notes and variants throughout identifiable as Bernardo’s; others are in Pietro’s hand, as indeed the marginal variant on fol. 121 verso shown here.

The beautiful cursive hand of the text was identified as Sanvito’s by the calligrapher and scholar James Wardrop by comparison with other signed manuscripts. From the early 1480s Sanvito produced a number of pocket-size manuscripts of classical texts in cursive hand for rich and learned patrons, including a Sallust, a Cicero and the present Horace for Bernardo and a Virgil for Pietro Bembo. It is therefore conceivable that these manuscripts may have been among the libri portatiles (pocket-size books) from Bernardo’s library that inspired Aldus to produce his enchiridia, as he claimed in the dedicatory letter to Pietro in the Virgil of 1514 and as suggested by the similarities in dimension between the manuscript (165 x 102 mm) and Aldus’s 1501 edition (150 x ca 92 mm).

Cambridge, King’s College, MS. 34, fols 121 verso–122 recto
By kind permission of the Provost and Scholars of King’s College, Cambridge