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    Aeneid, ms. Bnf Latin 7939 A
    Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris

    Treccani presents the facsimile reproduction of the manuscript Bnf Latin 7939 A, kept at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France) in Paris, a collection of Virgil’s works such as the Aeneid, the Eclogues, the Georgics, the Appendix Vergiliana and Donatus auctus, with commentary by Servius. Consisting of 456 pages and dating back to 1458-1459, the manuscript is regarded as one of the masterpieces of Italian book art and illuminated manuscripts. It can be considered an ideal guide for readers who appreciate both the beauty of the artwork and the profundity conveyed through his texts, sheet by sheet. Leonardo Sanudo, the amanuensis – who also commissioned the codex – was a cultured Venetian patrician interested in the humanities, but still greatly influenced by traditional scholasticism, which originated in the Middle Ages. He supplemented Virgil’s texts with a comprehensive series of annotations and marginal notes taken from Servius and other 15th-century exegetes and lexicographers. Moreover, Sanudo has prefaced the three main works with a series of useful abstracts that are meant to help the reader better understand by explaining the hidden meanings of Virgil’s delicate verses. While living in Ferrara, the amanuensis/client, as unequivocally documented in the archives, decided to entrust two of the most talented illuminators at the court of Borso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, with the task of decorating the manuscript: Giorgio d’Alemagna and Guglielmo Giraldi.

    The harmonious iconographic shapes created by the two illuminators (more than 80 illustrations in total) are the perfect match for Leonardo Sanudo’s elegant graphic shapes. In this way, readers can enjoy an outstanding and valuable illustrated book which, as Professor Giordana Mariani Canova writes, is “the first work by Virgil, illuminated with narrative images, that European civilisation has produced since antiquity” as well as one of the finest examples of Italian and European illuminated manuscripts. The wonderful illustrations by Giorgio d’Alemagna and Guglielmo Giraldi, which are heavily inspired by the models of some of the finest painters from Ferrara such as Cosmè Tura, Francesco Cossa and Mantegna and imbued with Piero della Francesca’s teachings, recreate famous episodes of the Aeneid with vividness and emotional tension. The figures of the Aeneid seemingly come to life, with sorrowful expressions, in various settings, skilfully drawn with a sense of spatial perspective, which easily recalls Leon Battista Alberti and his research into urban perspective.

    When leafing through the pages of the codex, and therefore of the facsimile, the ability of the two illuminators to capture the spirit of Virgil’s text is instantly evident, as is the superb combination of epic, dramatic and elegiac tones. It therefore becomes easy for the reader to recognise Virgil’s episodes and stories, which have shaped Western cultural imagination: among others, the conquest of Troy with the horse being dragged into the city, the tragic murder of King Priam, or the suicide of Dido who, after being abandoned by Aeneas, kills herself with a sword. With the Latin 7939 A codex, now reproduced in a version that is extremely faithful to the original, Treccani offers its readers not only an extraordinary example of the art of manuscript books, but also a representation, using lively illustrations, of the work of Virgil, the most renowned Latin poet who, as Thomas Stearns Eliot wrote, is still “our classic, the classic of all Europe”. In order to fully grasp its meaning and beauty of this manuscript, a commentary of more than 180 pages is provided for the reader, with essays by Luciano Canfora, Andrea Mazzucchi and Gennaro Ferrante and 32 out-of-text colour plates.
    The facsimile is printed in four colours plus flexographic gold, gold paste and gold foil on Luxor parchment paper by Cartiere Fedrigoni. Hand bound and stitched. The cover and headbands are made of leather, with gold friezes and engravings. It is contained in a transparent methacrylate slipcase. Print run of 499 hand-numbered copies.