British Library, Additional MS 8785
(De proprietatibus rerum)


Produced: Italy (Mantua), before 1309
Current Location: British Library, London, England, UK
Manuscript Type: Encyclopedia
Language: Italian (Mantuan)
Folios: 325
Author: Bartholomaeus Anglicus
Illustrated: Yes
Media: Vellum
Dimensions: Height: 27 cm Width: 21.5 cm
Folio 296v


The De Proprietatibus Rerum of Bartholomaeus Anglicus. Italian translation by Vivaldo del Belcalzer.

Vivaldo del Belcalzer (d. after 1308) was a notary and councilor of Mantua whose sole known work is his compendium and translation into the Mantuan dialect of 'De Proprietatibus Rerum', an encyclopedia of theology and science in nineteen books by Bartholomaeus Anglicus... Belcalzer, who makes no mention of his source, faithfully reproduces the arrangement and sequence of Bartholomaeus's work in his vernacular abridgment, although the divisions between books 5-7, according to the list of contents in Latin (ff. 5-12v), fall in different places in Belcalzer's work.

Incipit (f. 14r) 'In primament ny referiscom e dom gracie', expl. 'De omnipotent Sant ebenedet y segoy dey segoy. Amen.' Rubricated chapter headings and references to Bartholomaeus's sources (e.g. 'Aristotel', 'Ysidor', 'Costantin') in left and right margins. Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana 2155 (late 14th cent.) and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MSS. Canon. ital. 24 (A.D. 1446) and 131 (15th cent.) are other copies of this text. Add. 8785 is the original given by Belcalzer to Guido Bonacolsi, signore of Mantua 1299-1309, to whom it is dedicated, 'Ding de los e d'onor al segnor so nobel e magnifich meser Gui dey bonacols Capitaniy e perpetual segnor de mantoa ...' (f. 13).

Many inhabited and decorated initials in full color on blue grounds, whose decoration mainly relates directly to the accompanying text. The opening dedication, the beginning of most of the nineteen books and a number of lesser divisions are marked by major initials. There are only a few full color animal images, and most have darkened or otherwise degraded with age.

Book 12 (Birds) is on folio 137r-148v; Book 13 (Fish and aquatic animals) is on folio 148v-160v (aquatic animals are in the last chapter). Book 18 (Land animals) is on folio 260r-302r.

Subjects of the miniatures are as follows:-

  • f. 13. Initial 'D' with presentation of the volume to Guido Bonacolsi by Belcalzer.
  • f. 191v. Earthly paradise.
  • f. 257. Three figures in a vineyard.
  • f. 262. A man being chased by a beast with a red man's head, with three rows of teeth, a lion's body and a scorpion's tail [manticore].
  • f. 269v. A bird standing on the horns of a serpent called 'Cerastes' which has another bird in its mouth.
  • f. 274v. A basilisk with a small quadruped on its hind legs [weasel].
  • f. 278v. A man spearing a beaver beside water in which another beaver swims.
  • f. 284v. monstrous human races: a figure with a hound's head and a cyclops standing on either side of a flowering tree.
  • f. 285r. monstrous human races: two figures with cloven hooves and long noses, one headless with his face in his chest, one with enormous ears, one with feet turned backwards, and one with the feet of a horse.
  • f. 289r. A hyena eating a partially-buried dead man.
  • f. 292r. A beast with a red man's head, with three rows of teeth, a lion's body and a scorpion's tail [manticore].
  • f. 294r. Onocentaur: a beast with the upper half of a man, with a shield and sword, and the body of an ass.
  • f. 296v. A unicorn approaching a woman and, below, a man spearing the unicorn as it sleeps with its head in the lap of the woman.
  • f. 297v. Two apes, one carrying two young, and one seated in a tree.
  • f. 298r: Two sirens with the torsos of women and fish tails in water, one holding a man dressed in red to her side.

[Adapted in part from the British Library catalog]

Additional Descriptions

Additional description 1
Additional description 2

Editions and Facsimiles

Digital facsimiles

British Library