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    Seneca’s Theatre, ms. C.F. 2.5 - National Library of the Girolamini Oratory in Naples

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    Treccani presents the facsimile reproduction of the manuscript C.F. 2.5, kept in the Biblioteca Oratoriana dei Girolamini (National Library of the Girolamini Oratory) in Naples, consisting of 458 pages and dating back to the second half of the 14th century. This valuable 14th-century manuscript illuminated by the “master of the Seneca of the Girolamini”, one of the most influential and skilled illuminators of the Angevin period, contains Seneca’s “Il Teatro” (the Tragedies), which influenced European theatre for centuries. Several references can be found in Shakespeare’s and Racine’s works and it has been staged by renowned contemporary directors (including Artaud, Peter Brook and Ronconi).

    The manuscript is one of the most prized volumes kept in the magnificent Biblioteca Oratoriana dei Girolamini, the oldest library in Naples, housed in the impressive monumental complex that the Philippine fathers had built in the city. Unfortunately, in the last few years, the library has been looted several times and is now undergoing restoration: therefore, this work is meant to pay tribute to this prestigious institution, as well as being a strong reminder of the need to protect and enhance the extraordinary collections of books kept in Italy’s oldest and most illustrious libraries

    This codex, reproduced by Treccani, is of outstanding artistic value as it contains a unique wealth of decorations and illustrations. While leafing through the pages of the manuscript, and therefore of the facsimile, and observing the tabular miniatures placed along the margins, the reader is struck by the brightness of the gold, captivated by the charm of the light blue backgrounds, and fascinated by the sophisticated ornaments and friezes. Several myths that Seneca refers to in his tragedies, which are accurately depicted by the illuminator of the manuscript, such as Hercules’ descent into Hades and the capture of Cerberus, or the tragic story of Orpheus and Eurydice, have a great visual and emotional impact on the reader.

    The illustrations offer a general picture of the narrated events, but also focus on the smallest of details in the text, in line with a common trend in 14th-century Neapolitan illuminated manuscripts: the dramatic exasperation and descriptive efficacy of the illustrated episodes recreate the wealth and charm of Seneca’s narrative for the reader by combining the text with images. This is what makes it the most prolific and meaningful legacy of the art of illumination and book culture in medieval Europe. The classical text reproduced in the codex is just as important: deemed by critics to be “the laboratory of what we might today call an investigation of the unconscious” (Renato Badalì), tragic theatre is the sphere in which the introspective exploration that characterises the philosopher’s writings is expressed in a truly vivid and memorable way. Seneca’s tragedies are well known for having had an extensive and profound influence on plays by Ibsen, Strindberg and Pirandello, to name but a few.

    What is less predictable, yet perhaps more important, is the fact that, for the first time, Seneca’s works display the same deep psychological introspection that would later be found in the writings of Saint Augustine, Petrarch, Montaigne and Proust, proving to be one of the most distinctive aspects and one of the most valuable masterpieces of European literature and philosophy, and of European spirituality too. The superb artwork of this codex can thus also provide an opportunity to rediscover and reread one of the most influential texts in Italian culture. In order to fully grasp its meaning and beauty, a commentary of more than 100 pages is provided for the reader, with essays by Alma Serena Lucianelli, Marco Cursi, Carla Maria Monti and Alessandra Perriccioli Saggese and 32 out-of-text colour plates.

    The facsimile is printed in four colours plus overprints for opaque whites, 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 full red leather; gilded lip, friezes and engravings on both covers and on the spine of the front cover. It is contained in a transparent methacrylate slipcase. Print run of 290 hand-numbered copies plus 10 unnumbered copies.