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    The Cavallini Bible

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    Treccani presents the facsimile reproduction of one of the most beautiful Bibles ever made in history, illuminated in gold by Pietro Cavallini: the manuscript Civ. A. 72 kept in the Biblioteche Riunite “Civica e A. Ursino Recupero” in Catania. This masterpiece of Italian illuminated manuscripts, produced in the Middle Ages, is one of the most important manuscripts containing the Holy Scriptures. Cavallini’s illuminated gilded Bible, regarded as one of the five most beautiful Bibles in the world, was only put on display in three exhibitions in Rome (1954), Brussels (1965) and Catania (1990) until Treccani reproduced it in facsimile. Completed between 1510 and 1520, this work was commissioned by Cardinal Landolfo Brancaccio, who is depicted kneeling next to the Crucifixion of Christ on l. 4v, on the opening page of the Book of Genesis. The cardinal was a member of the powerful Brancaccio family from Naples, which maintained close relations with the Angevin kings of Naples. The family’s coat of arms is featured prominently on the opening page of the Gospels, which includes a spectacular depiction of the Tree of Jesse.
    The Catania manuscript is decorated with more than 100 illustrated illuminations decorated with historical figures, 167 decorated initials – almost all gold leaf – and more than 270 calligraphies. It is therefore an extensive series of illustrations that stands out for the high quality of its workmanship and materials. The folio codex consists of 440 folios (Old and New Testament, with the Epistles and Prologues of Saint Jerome), well written in Gothic calligraphy, with rubricated titles and decorated with historiated initials and marginal friezes made up of stems that frame the biblical narrative, embellished with human and grotesque figures, often enclosed in medallions. The historiated letters are inscribed in light blue or gold panels, which are often divided into red and light blue rhombi, with white crosses inscribed in them.
    As previously mentioned, the Bible reproduced in facsimile by Treccani is named after the famous Roman master Pietro Cavallini (Petrus Caballinus de Cerronibus), an illustrious mosaicist and painter who worked mainly in Rome (his works include the monumental fresco of the Last Judgement in the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere) and Naples between the last quarter of the 13th century and the first decade of the 14th century. As noted on several occasions by Alessandro Tomei, a leading expert on Cavallini and author of the historical-stylistic essay on the Bible of Catania, which is contained in the commentary that comes with the facsimile, Cavallini’s contribution to art history is far greater than Vasari’s outdated interpretation, according to which Giotto was the master and Cavallini was the pupil (even though the latter was older than the former).
    The codicological analysis of the folio manuscript is entrusted to Gianluca M. Millesoli, an expert in liturgical book palaeography. The commentary is also supplemented with contributions from Carlo M. Ossola – on the Bible as a ‘Book of Books’ – and Rita Angela Carbonaro – on the history of the Biblioteche Riunite “Civica e A. Ursino Recupero” in Catania. The commentary, consisting of more than 130 pages, also contains 58 out-of-text colour plates. It is also worth noting that as much as 48% of Italy’s entire heritage is to be found in Southern Italy (also known as “Mezzogiorno”), although this wealth is hardly ever given the exposure it deserves and runs the risk of not being adequately protected. When it came to reproducing a codex of such great importance and immeasurable value in a facsimile version, Treccani set itself a goal, that is, to come up with new ways and ideas to ensure that masterpieces such as the Cavallini Bible can be handed down to future generations and become more widely known outside the circle of specialists.  

    The facsimile is printed in four colours with Bigamut wide-colour space technique, application of gold-coloured foil, machine reworking for special colours (whites, effects, patina on the golds and opacifiers) on Luxor parchment paper by Cartiere Fedrigoni. Hand folded and sewn, with a two-tone headband hand-sewn on the book block. The cover is in red cotton velvet; on the front cover, the corners and the centre feature gold-plated bronze casting with a completely hand-shaded patina; a lapis lazuli is set in antiqued metal in the centre; the motif used for the corners is repeated on the back cover. The facsimile and commentary are contained in a clamshell box covered in silk, with velvet interiors and a compartment for the commentary, bound in parchment paper with gold print on the front cover. Print run of 699 hand-numbered copies plus 10 unnumbered copies.