Category: Inscriptions

Ratdolt Eusebius from Pinelli Library identified

By , 28 May 2010 4:40 pm

A copy of Eusebius’s Chronicon printed in Venice by Erhardus Ratdolt and dated 13 September 1483 (Inc.4.B.3.23c[1464]; Oates 1755;  ISTC ie00117000) can be securely identified with the copy formerly in the library of Maffeo Pinelli (1736-1785), director of the official Venetian press and book collector.

Pinelli’s copy was described as no. 2494 in Jacopo Morelli, Bibliotheca Maphaei Pinelli Veneti magno jam studio collecta… (Venetiis, Typis Carolii Palesii, 1787), vol. II, p. 34.  Following Pinelli’s death, the book was bought with the rest of his library by the London bookseller James Edwards (1757-1816), to be sold at auction in London.  It was included in the Pinelli sale catalogue of March 1789 as lot 7395, and again in the catalogue of the “Appendix Pinelliana” sale in February 1790, as lot 68.  As surviving copies of the “Appendix Pinelliana” catalogue in the British Library and the Bodleian Library don’t record the name of a buyer, the book was tentatively identified with a copy of the edition held in the Bodleian Library (Auct. K 3.20, for which see Bod-inc, E-040).

Manuscript evidence allows us to identify the Pinelli Eusebius with the exemplar in the Cambridge University Library, instead.  A manuscript

Pinelli's number

number “2494” in black ink on the upper pastedown matches Morelli’s catalogue number.  An autograph note on the recto of the upper free endpaper records the purchase of the book on 26 February 1790 for £ 2.3.6 by the poet and book collector Michael Wodhull (1740-1816), already known as an active buyer at the Pinelli’s sales.

The book is also identifiable as lot 1050 at Wodhull sale at Sotheby’s, 11-21 January 1886. The British Library copy of the sale catalogue records that the book was purchased for £ 1.1.0 by the London bookseller William Ridler (fl. 1877-1904).  A price code readable as “t/t/” is written in pencil at the centre

Ridler's code

of the fore-edge of the upper pastedown, sloping upwards, and a retail price of “£ 2.2.0” in pencil at the centre of the upper pastedown, the codes and their location corresponding to Ridler’s usual practice (for Ridler’s practice and price code as possibly based on the word “taxidermis”, see Peter Kidd’s note at

Unfortunately Cambridge University Library holds no record of the arrival of the book, but a purchase from Ridler shortly after the Wodhull sale is a likely possibility.

A book from Parrhasius’s library

By , 11 May 2010 3:12 pm

Giovan Paolo Parisio (1470-1522) of Cosenza, better known as Aulus Janus Parrhasius, was a famous humanist from Calabria (Italy).  He taught in Milan, Venice, Naples and Rome and was in contact with the most influencial intellectuals and litterati of his time, such as Giovanni Pontano, Jacopo Sannazaro, Luigi Tansillo, Girolamo Carbone, Vittorino Barzizza, and the Greek exiles Janus Lascaris and Demetrios Chalcondyles, the father of his wife Theodora.  He put together a celebrated library including manuscripts discovered by him at Bobbio in 1493.  At his death, he bequeathed his books and manuscripts to his friend Antonio Seripando (1486-1531).

Parrhasius’s library was already so well known during his life time that in December 1521, when Seripando rushed to Cosenza after hearing of Aulus’s death, he already found losses among the books listed in the inventory hastily compiled by the notary Francesco of Salerno at the request of the widow.

At Seripando’s death in 1531 his books passed on to his brother, Cardinal Girolamo Seripando, who in turn gave his entire library to the Augustinian convent of San Giovanni a Carbonara at Naples in 1536.  From then on what remained of Parrhasius’s library shared the destiny of the convent library, declared “Royal Library” by royal decree of King Ferdinand IV of Naples on 27 August 1792, and incorporated into the Borbone Library after the political and social unrests of 1799.  However, in the time intervened between Cardinal Seripando’s bequest and the royal decree of 1792, the convent library was predated of precious manuscripts and books on several occasions.  In some instances manuscripts and books were actually sold by the monks themselves.  Many of them can now be found in libraries around the world, including the Vatican Library and the national libraries in London, Paris and Vienna.

A copy of Plutarch’s Problemata, printed at Venice by Dominicus Siliprandus around 1477, was one of Parrhasius’s incunables.  Removed from the Augustinian library at an unknown date, it  is now held by Cambridge University Library [Inc.5.B.3.33[1489], Oates 1786].  The book is inscribed “Antonij Seripandi ex Iani Parrhasij testamento” on leaf h10 verso, and it is possibly identifiable with “no. 549. Plutarcii moralia translata” in the 1521 post-mortem inventory of Parrhasius’s library (see Caterina Tristano, “La biblioteca di un umanista calabrese, Aulo Giano Parrasio”, Manziana (Rome), [1988 ?], p. 275, no. 549).


Antonio Seripandi’s inscription and William Milton’s stamp – fol. h10 verso

On 8th September 1837 the book was sold in London by the auctioneer Benjamin Wheatley, who died sometimes afterwards between September and December d. 1837.  It later belonged to William Milton (1820-1882) of Exeter College, Oxford, before being bought by Francis Jenkinson, who presented it to the University Library in 1908.

The margins of the books are filled
with Parrhasius’s copious manuscript
notabilia, nota signs and maniculae.