Biblioteca Palatina di Parma, MS Parmense 1278 (H. H. 1.62)
(Historia naturalis)


Produced: Venice, early 15th century
Current Location: Biblioteca Palatina di Parma, Parma, Italy
Manuscript Type: Encyclopedia
Language: Latin
Folios: 240
Author: Pliny the Elder
Illustrated: Yes
Illustrator: Cristoforo Cortese
Media: Parchment
Folio 141r


A copy of the Historia naturalis by Pliny the Elder.

[From Armstrong, 1983]

... a lavishly decorated manuscript ... a major new attribution to one of the most important early fifteenth-century Venetian miniaturists, Cristoforo Cortese. Its miniatures illustrate the fully developed iconographic cycle for the Historia naturalis which was followed with only minor variations throughout the fifteenth century. ... Folio 1 has a fully decorated border, two historiated initials, and a coat-of-arms at the bas-de-page: argent a lion rampant azure, surmounted by a red cardinal's hat. Each of the remaining 36 books is decorated with a historiated initial, and there are marginal decorations throughout the manuscript. ... The importance of the extensively decorated Pliny in the Biblioteca Palatina of Parma is twofold. Firstly, it can be shown to belong to the mature period of the prolific Venetian miniaturist Cristoforo Cortese. Then, iconographically it is the most complete and varied of the Gothic cycles of the Historia naturalis. ... The iconographic program of the Cristoforo Cortese Pliny in Parma shows that the two principal strands of imagery developed for the Historia naturalis in the fourteenth century have been skillfully merged. The initials for most of the zoological, botanical and medical books are remarkably similar to the Bolognese Pliny of about 1300 [Madrid, Biblioteca Real de San Lorenzo del Escorial, MS R.I.5], and the remaining images can be traced either to the Pietro da Pavia manuscript of 1389 [Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS E. 24 inf.] or to the French Pliny in Turin [Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria, MSS 1.1.24-1.1.25], both of which reflect the naturalism associated with Lombard illumination of the late Trecento. ... Nineteen of the thirty-seven books of the Cortese Pliny correspond closely to the comparable books in the Bolognese Pliny in the Escorial, and five others may also relate to this earliest illustrated Pliny. Examples of the iconographic similarity would be the elephant of Book VIII, the fish and birds of Books IX and X, the crooked grafted tree of Book XVII, and the trees of Books XV, XVI and XXIV. The motif of the grapevine combined with an olive tree is common to Book XXIII of both sequences, as are the flowers of Book XXI and the low-growing plants of Book XXVII. A further parallel between the Bolognese and Cortese manuscripts [is that] both use tiny wavy white lines to indicate rain or snow in the initial for Book XXXI on the curative powers of water.

Additional Descriptions

None known

Editions and Facsimiles

None known