Dante and Petrarch in Florence

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As part of our commitment to sharing our collections as widely as possible, we regularly loans printed books and manuscripts to other institutions for exhibition purposes. The latest item to be loaned is Italian MS 1, a remarkable late fourteenth-century manuscript of Dante’s Canzoni and Petrarch’s Sonneti e Canzoni, which is currently enjoying the sunshine of Florence, or to be more precise, the low-light, close-controlled conditions of the Uffizi Gallery. It features in their major exhibition ‘Bagliori Dorati 1375-1440‘ (‘The Gleam of Gold: The International Gothic Style in Florence’), which runs until 4 November.

The manuscript is unusual in that it is signed by the scribe, Paul, who says in the colophon that he penned the manuscript for Lorenzo di Carlo Strozzi, one of the richest and most powerful men in Florence, who died in 1383. Most medieval manuscripts are of course unsigned. The opening page of each of the three sections is richly illuminated, with images of the poets and their lovers. The manuscript was purchased by Lord Lindsay (later the 25th Earl of Crawford) at the Guglielmo Libri sale of March 1859, for £250. It was acquired by Enriqueta Rylands when she purchased the magnificent Crawford collection of manuscripts in 1901.

The manuscript was accompanied to Florence by Caroline Checkley-Scott, the Library’s Collection Care Manager, who oversaw its installation. It was a tough assignment, but someone had to do it.

Steve Milner, Serena Professor of Italian at The University of Manchester, said: “The Rylands Library’s collections of books and manuscripts from the Italian Renaissance are truly exceptional. I’m delighted that Italian MS 1 can be seen at the Uffizi this summer. This serves to point out the important, long-standing links between Manchester and Florence.”

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