The facsimile reproduction is accompanied by a volume of essays and comments, containing an introduction by Matthew Holford, an essay by Lucia Battaglia Ricci on Dante and the fourteenth-century manuscripts of the Commedia, a text by Laura Pasquini on the miniatures of the manuscript, and a contribution and codicological sheet by Sandro Bertelli.
The facsimile reproduces the parchment codex measuring Format 35.5 × 23.5 cm, dated, consisting of folio III, 74, III '(I-III and I-III' cart. Mod .
white pp. 55-56), with recent numbering in pencil for pages in the outer corner of the cards from page 1 to page 148 (the front guard cards, from "i" to "vi", and later ones from 149 to 154, also have numbered pages).
The manuscript, in some ways unique among the codices of the Divine Comedy illustrated in the fourteenth century, is accompanied by 147 watercolour drawings, some of them enriched with gold, at the bottom of the pages describing the story of Dante's journey into the underworld. As we leaf through the reproduction of the manuscript, we note the interesting use of colour in the miniatures which, as Professor Pasquini writes, outlines «a path which is above all chromatic [...] which clearly distinguishes the three canticles, leaving mainly dark, gloomy, black tones to prevail in Hell
then tones of brown, the colours of earth and concreteness, combined in some cases with pastel colours, like lilac and violets, in Purgatory
and then flooding the illuminated pages of the last canticle with intense blue, gold and bright colours». The importance of this manuscript is also underlined by Sandro Bertelli, who analysed the manuscript Holkham misc. 48, also in the light of the great diffusion of Divine Comedy codes circulating from the second half of the third decade of the Fourteenth century, not only in Tuscany, but throughout the Italian peninsula and abroad. As Professor Bertelli points out, within the family of codes to which it is attributable, "there is no doubt that the codicological aspect of the Oxford manuscript formally represents the highest level of the whole group, together with [...] that of the so-called Codex Altonensis.” Lucia Battaglia Ricci, moreover, in her essay on the fourteenth-century manuscripts of the Comedy reminds us, quoting Gianfranco Contini, how this work is "an illustratable book, i.e. authorised by the author for illustration." It is precisely the latter, in fact, that in the Oxford manuscript allows us to follow, as Professor Battaglia Ricci puts it, "Dante's journey through the house of eternity: the various landscapes crossed, the crowd of infernal and purgatory guardians who helped or hindered the journey, but above all the souls with whom he measured himself, each of which offered itself to the pilgrim's gaze, and now offers itself to the reader, in the joyful or tragic reality of their otherworldly condition."
The facsimile is printed with a stochastic screen in five colours, plus gold and silver on Stucco parchment paper by Cartiere Fedrigoni
the endpapers are printed in four colours on Ingres paper by Cartiere Fabriano.
The binding is in green full-grain leather with wrinkles and hot impressions, and bas-relief on the plate and on the back. On the front plate, in the centre, we see the golden coat of arms of Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester, who probably bought the codex during a trip to Italy. Thomas William Coke, great-grandson of the first Earl, had the manuscripts he owed bound in Liverpool, with the family crest imprinted in gold: an ostrich with a horseshoe in its beak. This singular emblem was chosen by Sir Edward Coke, initiator of the family fortunes, with the motto Prudens qui patiens etenim durissima coquit ("He who is patient is prudent, because he can digest the hardest things"). According to ancient tradition and the bestiaries of the Middle Ages, ostriches were able to digest even iron, and the Latin word for "digest", coquere, was certainly a pun on the family name.
The edition consists of 399 hand-numbered copies from 1 to 399, plus 10 out-of-number copies.
The commentary consists of over 190 pages, with 33 colour plates.
The facsimile and the commentary are housed in a green glossy lacquered wooden box with gold graphics. This features the ostrich present in the coat of arms imprinted on the cover of the manuscript, and the motifs in the skies of the miniatures of Paradise. The box is lined with Alcantara on the inside, with an integrated lectern and a lower shelf for the commentary.
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