A well-preserved manuscript. First leaf slightly soiled, four small round wormholes in blank outer margin of the first leaves reducing to one and then disappearing. A few marginal stains; old repair to the lower blank margin of fol. 14/3.
fols. 1/1r-2/7v: G. Aliotti, Ad Maximum beatissimumq; Pontificem Pium II. Pro felici ac secundo ex Mantuana peregrinatione reditu (G. Aliotti, Epistolae et opuscula, II, pp. 323-345).
Inc. Ego beatissime pater cum per hos superiores dies Roma rediens
Expl. meae gratulationis cantus adoriar sic placet
78-verse poem follows on fols. 1/8r-2/9v (inc Inclita signa uago lumen radiantia mundo)
fols. 2/10v-4/10r: G. Aliotti, Dialogus de optimo vite genere deligendo (C. Caby, Réseaux sociaux, pratiques culturelles et genres discursifs: à propos du dialogue De optimo vitae genere, pp. 461-482).
Inc. Nuper apud foianum agri aretini opidum
Expl. Hiero. Vale o cimber! Mar. valete & reliqui. Finis
fols. 4/10v-14/8r: G. Aliotti, De monachis erudiendis (G. Aliotti, Epistolae et opuscula, II, pp. 176-292).
Inc. Plerosque nostrorum temporum religiosos
Expl. beatissimi martiris donati inscriptum nomini atque constructum. Finis
- fol. 1/1r: papal coat of arms of Pius II Piccolomini (55x109 mm) in shield in the bas-de-page, in blue and gold embellished with floriated extensions in red, green, purple, and gold;
- fol. 2/8r: large miniature (112x78 mm) bearing at the centre the coat of arms of Pius II in burnished silver, blue, and gold surmounted by a white and gold mitre and surrounded by a laurel crown held by two winged putti; the background is coloured in red and patterned in white, while the white-vine border and the putti are in blue, red, and green; attached to the miniature is a three-line gold and white-vine initial (18x19 mm);
- 5 four- to six-line gold and white-vine initials (34x31 mm) in blue, red, and green;
- 14 smaller gold initials (18x13 mm) variably mixing blue, red, and green for the ground with patterns in white.
Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405-1464), later Pope Pius II, gifted by the author;
'Dr. Adolph […]horn', small round stamp on title page, repeated on fol. 14/8r;
Moritz Diesterweg (1834-1906), publisher and bookseller in Frankfurt: pasted envelope on the first flyleaf verso, housing half a card from Diesterweg with some pencilled notes ('Pius II Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini in humanistischen Minuskel geschrieben, sehr gut erhalten') and a folded piece of thick paper bearing several pencilled notes on both sides (side A: 'Hieronymi Aretini monachis eruditis gehört Papst Pius II 1440. Dedicationexempl. Manuscript auf Pergament in humanistischen Minuskel 2 Teile nebst Einleitung u. Widmung am Papst Eugen IV (Aeneas Silvio Piccolomini ) mit 19 blauen Initialen, 2 Bordüre auf 1 Blatt, 1 schönes Kopfstich mit Papstwappen in 4 Farben'; side B: Mk 900- Widmung an Papst in Hexameter in einen gepresste neueren Holzband. Vollständiges als das Exemplar in der Libreria Vaticana segnanto [sic] del num. 1063 139 Blatt. Aretino Girolamo Abate di Santa Flora Allen Maggs - Breslauer, R. - H. Rosenthal L. Bibl. Vatic. Hiesermann').
A deluxe illuminated manuscript offered as a gift by the Aretine abbot and humanist Girolamo Aliotti to Pope Pius II Piccolomini, produced in the Florentine workshop run by the 'king of the booksellers' Vespasiano da Bisticci and narrating a fascinating tale of patronage.
Girolamo Aliotti, a native of Arezzo and from 1446 Prior of the Benedictine monastery of St. Flora and St. Lucilla, had been always very zealous in promoting himself and his relatives, and the present manuscript offers striking evidence of the different strategies he employed in an effort to attain a higher social status, as well as the particular use and re-use of his writings in order to win new and more effective patronage. Aliotti was able to build a wide network of mutual recommendations and favours not only within – as Carlo Ginzburg states – the "clan of Aretine humanists" but also in Rome as well other Italian cities, as evinced by a voluminous manuscript held at the Biblioteca Città d'Arezzo (ms. 400), in which he collected a large selection of his letters. Among his numerous correspondents the names of Ambrogio Traversari, Poggio Bracciolini, Giovanni Tortelli, Carlo Marsuppini, Guarino from Verona, and Leonardo Bruni particularly stand out.
Aliotti had become acquainted with the Sienese humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405-1464)
in the early years of their common training at the Gymnasium in Siena. Piccolomini counts among the most interesting and multifaceted figures of the Italian Renaissance; he was a diplomat as well as a prolific writer, having also composed love poetry and prose, and in 1442 was crowned poet laureate by Emperor Frederick III. He was elected pope in 1458 and took the name of Pius II, a reference to 'pious Aeneas', the hero of Virgil's epic: in this context, his phrase Aeneam suscipite, Pium recipite, i.e., 'Reject Aeneas, accept Pius' is well known.
Aliotti decided to try his luck. He composed, in the Pope's honour, the laudatory the Oratio pro Populo Florentino, and sent it to him, though it failed to have much effect. At the beginning of 1460 Aliotti learned that Pius II, returning from Mantua to Rome, intended to sojourn in his hometown of Siena. Aliotti did not let the occasion go to waste, and – possibly through the intercession of one of his patrons, Cardinal Juan de Torquemada (1388-1468)
managed to obtain an invitation to the aula pontificalis from the new Roman pontiff. Aliotti immediately wrote the Gratulatio ad Pium II pro foelici, ac secundo ex Mantuana peregrinatione reditu, and decided to commission a gift to the Pope in the form of a luxurious manuscript containing this laudatory text along with two other works, the Dialogus de optimo vitae genere deligendo and the well-known De monachis erudiendis.
No expense was spared in preparing this manuscript for its illustrious recipient. From his maternal uncle – the wealthy wool merchant Paolo di Nanni Spadari – Aliotti had received the sum of 70 florins to finance his travel to Siena and for the production of a codex for a Pope. As attested by sources preserved at the Archivio Capitolare in Arezzo, and especially by Gabriele Maria Scarmagli's manuscript
Synopsis Monumentorum SS. Florae et Lucillae, the transcription of texts and illumination were commissioned to none other than the Florentine cartolaio or bookseller Vespasiano da Bisticci (1421-1498), an established and internationally renowned figure in the production of illuminated manuscripts who counted among his clients kings, popes, cardinals, and bishops, in addition to a number of eminent and (and affluent) scholars throughout Europe. Aliotti's account book transcribed by Scarmagli – and now lost – reports the sum payd already on 2 January 1460, and possibly in advance to Vespasiano "quando fece scrivere il Dialogo al papa, per la miniatura" (G. M. Scarmagli's Synopsis Monumentorum SS. Florae et Lucillae, p. 943), i.e. for the copying and illumination of the Dialogue
commissioned as a gift to to Pope Pius II: precisely this newly discovered manuscript, which scholars had believed to be no longer extant.
The manuscript is a total work of art: the parchment employed is of the highest quality, the script is extremely elegant and accurate, the page layouts are spacious and light, of pages features spaciousness and lightness, the fine white-vine initials opening each works as well as Piccolomini's illuminated coats of arms are executed with exquisite taste. A still unidentified but very talented humanist scribe was responsible for the transcription of the texts, while the two papal crests – and especially the larger one, held up by two winged putti (fol. 2/8r) – were doubtless executed by one of the illuminators most closely associated with the pre-eminent Florentine bookseller Vespasiano; they are possibly to be attributed to Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (1433-1488) or his workshop, as suggested by the similar decorative elements and nuance in colour handling and composition. Through Vespasiano da Bisticci, Francesco di Antonio del Chierico came to work for several princely patrons, including the Medici family, Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, Louis XI, King of France, and Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary.
On 5 February 1460 Aliotti travelled to Florence to collect the illuminated manuscript commissioned; a few days later he arrived in Siena, riding the horse he had purchased bought with his uncle's money and, to enhance his prestige, with a chaplain and two monks in tow. In the aula pontificalis he could finally meet Pius II, and offer him his precious manuscript gift. Cardinal Torquemada received a bushel of apples and pears (cf. G. M. Scarmagli, Synopsis Monumentorum SS. Florae et Lucillae, p. 943).
The manuscript opens with the Gratulatio ad Pium II, written in the form of a fictional dialogue between Pope's nephew Guidantonio Piccolomini and Aliotti himself. The conversation concerns an especially pertinent topic at the time, and one of Pius II's highest priorities, i.e. the crusade against the Ottoman Turks, who had conquered Constantinople in 1453. In 1459 Pius II had called a council in Mantua for discussing his project with the representatives of European states, an initiative strongly supported by Cardinal Torquemada, Aliotti's patron. The assembly opened in Mantua on 1 June 1459 and the Pope held various orations on the rewards of a war against the Turkish Sultan, Mehmed II. His efforts, failed, however, and the Council closed in January 1460 without apparent issues. Disappointed, Pius II left for Siena, in the company of the loyal Torquemada.
The Gratulatio contains an unbounded defence of the planned crusade against the Turks, and ends with a 78-verse poem in praise of Piccolomini and his plea for Christian unity. Aliotti's work therefore represents an interesting and yet understudied piece of evidence regarding the attitudes of Western intellectuals toward the Turks, as well as the Renaissance perception of crusading more generally. Furthermore, the Gratulatio
offers some of the earliest documentation of Western, Christian interest in modern Turkey, written by Aliotti just seven years after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, an event which "had an enormous psychological and intellectual impact [...] and intensified a growing interest in the Turkish advance" (N. Bisaha, Creating East and West, p. 63). Until the discovery of this 'original' version, the text of Aliotti's Gratulatio was testified by a miscellaneous codex dated to 1461 and preserved in the National Library of Florence (cod. Magl. XXI.151).
Aliotti's intent to flatter is clear, and the other two writings included in the present manuscript – the
Dialogus de optimo vitae genere deligendo and the De monachis erudiendis – are likewise part of an identical strategy to ingratiate himself with Pope Piccolomini and gain his patronage. Both works had been composed during the 1430s, and addressed by Aliotti to other patrons in order to win their favour.Aliotti regarded his literary production as a "monnaie d'échanges de faveurs" (C. Caby, Autoportrait d'un moine en humaniste, p. 298): in 1460, each work was now introduced by four dedicatory verses to Pius II written on the verso of the preceding leaves.
The Dialogus de optimo vitae genere deligendo is the first humanistic work composed by Aliotti. The text was written in 1437, and originally dedicated to the bishop of Split and future archbishop of Florence Bartolomeo Zabarella (d. 1445). The new verse dedication to Pope Piccolomini – 'Ad maximum ponteficem Pium secundum versiculi ante dialogum hunc de optimo vite genere deligendo' – also includes a captatio benevolentiae, preempting the possible criticism of a youthful work ('Iunior haec scripsi mitior erga legas'). Only one manuscript of the version of 1437, supplemented with the dedicatory to Zabarella, is recorded, included in miscellaneous codex held at the Casanatense Library in Rome (ms. 4063). The renewed version addressed to Pius II was, until now, by two manuscripts, preserved respectively in the Biblioteca Città d'Arezzo (ms. 459) and the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice (Marc. lat. XIC.180, 4467), evidently these are to be considered evidently copies, with a few textual variants, of the newly discovered 'original' manuscript.
The third and more lengthy text included in the present manuscript is one of the most famous works by Aliotti, the dialogue De monachis erudiendis, composed around 1439. Divided into two books, the work is a manifesto for a reform of traditional monastic life, remediating the decline of monasteries encouraging studies. Aliotti had already presented this writing to a pope in 1445: in fact, the Vatican Library preserves Aliotti's presentation manuscript for Eugenius IV (Vat.lat. 1063), offered as a gift for receiving ecclesiastical benefices, and consequently obtaining greater social stature. The Vatican codex, whose decoration and script are however of minor quality, is introduced by an obsequious epistola consultoria to Eugenius IV, which Aliotti uses again in the present manuscript, this time preceded by a short metric dedication to Pius II. On 6 November 1445 Aliotti sent a supplication to the Pope for obtaining as a reward the benefice of the abbey of St. Fedele de Strumi at Poppi, near Arezzo. In 1460 he attempted to re-use the De monachis erudiendis to obtain a bishopric from Pius II, possibly the one of Civita Castellana, in the region of Umbria, whose then-bishop Rodolfo was in a precarious state of health. His plan to reform monastic life, transforming monasteries into veritable humanistic academies, would have been even more welcomed by Pius II, the Humanist Pope par excellence! Aliotti revised the text, corrected various scribal errors, and partially reworked the section dealing with the study of philosophy. As a result, the text of De monachis erudiendis included in the present manuscript is quite different from that testified by the Vatican codex. The present manuscript is therefore not only a splendid example of Florentine humanist book production, but also of highly significant import from a textual point of view.
Unfortunately, even this second tribute to Pius II did not have the desired effect. On 8 June 1460 – only one day before the death of the Titular Archbishop Rodolfo – Aliotti personally wrote to Pope Piccolomini, reasserting their familiarity, originating from their common studies of litterarum bonorumque artium at the University of Siena, along with and their shared cultural interests. Aliotti's supplication seems to have fallen on deaf ears, and on 31 August he sent a letter to Cardinal Torquemada, enquiring as to Pius II's opinion on his Gratulatio. Torquemada
answered politely: the Pope had obviously appreciated Aliotti's works, but could read only a few pages of the volume, owing to his "maiores et continua occupationes" (Epistolae et opuscula, II, pp. 369-370).
Aliotti would have remained prior of the St. Flora and St. Lucilla monastery until his death in 1480, while the luxurious and expensive manuscript commissioned to Vespasiano da Bisticci remained among the shelves of the large library, which Pius II had amassed in his Sienese residence. In fact, the present manuscript never even entered the Vatican Library, and was inherited – along with the greater part of the pope's Sienese library – by his nephews. Pius II's books were later dispersed, and manuscripts bearing his papal coat of arms are presently scattered across various European and American libraries.
It is quite difficult to trace the subsequent story of Aliotti's codex. A clue is offered by notices written on the pastedowns and on the pasted-in card, both of which attest to its circulation on the German market. One hypothesis is particularly intriguing: a possible link could in effect be represented by the Hungarian humanist and celebrated editor of classical texts János Zsámboky (1531-1584), better known as Johannes Sambucus. Sambucus travelled extensively throughout Italy from 1553 to 1558, when he entered the Imperial court in Vienna. He sojourned in Italy again in the 1560s, when he also went to Siena and became well acquainted with the German community residing in the city. Sambucus was one of the greatest bibliophiles of the sixteenth-century, and doubtless the greatest collector of manuscripts of his age. Financial difficulties compelled him to sell a substantial number of his manuscripts to the Imperial Library of Vienne. From among Sambucus' codices, the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek preserves the autograph manuscript of Piccolomini's Historia Austrialis, which was acquired by the Hungarian humanist precisely in Siena, in all likelihood from the Piccolomini family. As his correspondence reveals, Sambucus had a keen interest in Turcica, and especially the Hungarian-Turkish situation: on this occasion, he may have therefore also bought this codex, which – by means of Aliotti's Gratulatio – reaffirms Pius II's plea for Christian unity against the Ottoman Turks. Such a beautiful manuscript produced by Vespasiano da Bisticci and dedicated to Pope Piccolomini would almost certainly have caught the attention and taste of such a refined collector as Sambucus.
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H. Gerstinger, "Johannes Sambucus als Handschriftensammler", Festschrift der Nationalbibliothek in Wien, hrsg. zur Feier des 200 jährigen Bestehens des Gebäudes, Wien 1926, pp. 251-400;
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C. Caby, Autoportrait d'un moine en humaniste. Girolamo Aliotti (1412-1480), Rome 2018. (Inventory #: 48)