A catalogue of Western manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries and selected Oxford colleges

MS. Buchanan c. 1

Leonardo Bruni, Historiarum Florentini populi libri XII, and Rerum suo tempore gestarum commentarius. Italy (Florence), c. 1440–50


1. [Books I-VII of item 1 occupy quires I-VII, Books VIII-XII occupy quires VIII-XXIV]
(fols. 1r-238v)
Leonardo Bruni, Historiarum Florentini populi libri XII (ed. Emilio Santini (editor), Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, 19, pt. 3: Città di Castello, 1914)

with one or more lines left blank for a rubric before the preface and before each book, except for Book I (fol. 1v) which runs straight on from the preface (marked later with '1/' in the margin), and Books XI (fol. 212v) and XII (fol. 229r), which run on from Book X without break; incipits and explicits of each book are the same as in the pr. ed., except that the manuscript has an extra passage at the end of Book XI (fol. 228v, third line from the bottom, to fol. 229r line 1): 'Hec omnia sic ab eo fiebant ... populorum motus'; and the manuscript omits the first sentence of Book XII of the pr. ed.

Language(s): Latin
2. [Item 2 occupies quires XXV-XXVI]
fols. 239r-257r
Leonardo Bruni, Rerum suo tempore gestarum commentarius (ed. Carmine di Pierro (editor), Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, 19, pt. 3: Bologna, 1926)

with a line left blank for a rubric; the order of the fourth and fifth words of the incipit reversed: 'Qui per italiam excelluerint homines ...', the correct order indicated with a superscript 'b' and 'a' by the scribe; similar corrections made elsewhere (e.g. fol. 257r, third line from the bottom); fols. 257v-258v ruled, otherwise blank; fols. 259r-260v, original flyleaves, blank.

Language(s): Latin

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: notitia aperiendum
Form: codex
Support: Parchment
Extent: i (original parchment) + 258 + ii (original parchment).
Dimensions (leaf): 351–3 × 256–7 mm.
Dimensions (ruled): 230–2 × 146–9 mm.
Dimensions (written): 224–5 × 146–52 mm.
Approximately every fifth quire (quires III, VIII, XIII, XIX, XXIII) projects somewhat further at the fore-edge than its neighbours, but the projecting quires were not affected by the binding straps, so this is probably the result of gradual creepage.
Foliation: Foliated: i, 1–260; fols. 1–34 have near-contemporary(?) foliation in ink in arabic numerals, probably by the hand that added marginal dates (see under Provenance); the remaining leaves are foliated in modern pencil.


Mostly in quires of 10 leaves (but see the Note below): an original flyleaf, conjoint with the pastedown, then: I-XIII10 (fols. 1–130), XIV8 (fols. 131–138) | XV-XXIV10 (fols. 139–238) | XXV-XXVI10 (fols. 239–258); followed by two original flyleaves, conjoint with two pastedowns; quires arranged with hair-sides outermost (on the arrangement of the quires, see the Note below); CATCHWORDS are present at the end of all quires except XIV, XVI, XXIV, and XXVI (see the Note below), written horizontally near the centre of the lower margin, in the same hand as the main text, usually between two dots; contemporary quire signatures '.5.', '10' and '14' in ink remain at the lower outer edge of the final versos of quires VI, XI, and XV (sic) (fols. 60v, 110v, and 148v), respectively; leaf signatures partially cropped, consisting of a letter and a number, are present only in quires which contain an illuminated initial (see the Note below).


Often with a marked difference between hair and flesh sides and often with irregular edges, though generally of fine quality.


28 lines ruled in pale brown ink, with single vertical bounding lines, extending the full height of the page, ruled on the flesh side of the leaves with an instrument which produced a scored line, but also often left a brown 'crayon' trace.

PRICKINGS are often visible in the upper and lower margins, and in the outer margin c.7 mm. below the bottom ruled line.


Written in a fine humanistic script, probably by a single scribe, with 27 lines of text per page; enlarged capital letters are written to the left of the ruling when a sentence starts on a new line (e.g. fols. 13v-14v); various corrections (including an omitted line and a half, supplied in the lower margin of fol. 178r) are by the original scribe.


Spaces were left for rubrics but these were never executed.

One inhabited five-line initial D[iuturna] of burnished gold enmeshed in white vine-scroll decoration, containing a yellowish lion (fol. 1r); the lower margin with a roundel formed of penwork, gold dots, and painted foliage and flowers, enclosing a winged putto holding a blank shield.

Ten similar but less elaborate initials, each 4–5 lines high (approx. 40–5 × 40–5 mm.), at the start of most of the books of the Historia: Book II (fol. 19v); Book III (fol. 43r); Book IV (fol. 61r); Book V (fol. 88r); Book VI (fol. 116r); Book VII (fol. 139r); Book VIII (fol. 159r); Book IX (fol. 182v); Book X (fol. 201r); and the start of the Commentarius (fol. 239r).

A. C. de la Mare has attributed the illumination to Bartolomeo d'Antonio Varnucci (1412–5? - 1479) (on whom see Levi d'Ancona, Miniatura e miniatori a Firenze, 29–37; Annarosa Garzelli, 'Le immagini, gli autori, i destinatari', in La miniatura fiorentina del Rinascimento, 1440–1525: un primo censimento ed. Annarosa Garzelli (Inventari e cataloghi toscani, 18–19: 2 vols., Florence, 1985), I, 5–391, at 29–31; II, ills. 53, 73–81, ; and Anna De Floriani, 'Per Bartolomeo Varnucci: un Messale e alcune precisazioni', Miniatura 5/6 (1996), 49–60): in Alexander and de la Mare she compared the present manuscript to the former Abbey MS. J. A. 3227 (subsequently in the Ludwig Collection, Aachen, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. Ludwig XI. 2; de-accessioned in 1997); in 'Vespasiano da Bisticci as producer of classical manuscripts in fifteenth-century Florence', in Medieval manuscripts of the Latin classics: production and use. Proceedings of The Seminar in the History of the Book to 1500, Leiden, 1993 ed. Claudine Chavannes-Mazel and Margaret M. Smith (Los Altos Hills, CA, and London, 1996), 166–207, at 169 n. 10, she attributes the former Ludwig manuscript to Bartolomeo Varnucci, along with those she compared with it in the Abbey catalogue, and she gives bibliography and attributes the decoration of further manuscripts him. Not mentioned is Lincoln College, MS. Lat. 20, containing further Leonardo Bruni texts (see Alexander and Temple, Oxford college libraries , no. 919).


Most of the quires which contain an illuminated initial—and only these quires—have the cropped remains of a series of leaf signatures consisting of a letter and number (notionally from a1-a6 in quire I, to h1-h6 in quire XVII): quire II has 'b5' extant (fol. 15r), quire V has 'c1', 'c2', and part of 'c3' (fols. 41r-43r), quire IX has 'e2'-'e6' extant (fols. 82r-86r), quire XII has parts of 'f2'-'f6' (fols. 112r-116r), quire XV has 'g1'-'g5' (fols. 139r-143r), and quire XVII has parts of 'h1'-'h5' (fols. 159r-163r). These leaf signatures were presumably provided to facilitate the re-assembly of the bifolia of each of these quires in the correct order, after they had been dis-assembled so that the illuminator could work on them. Each quire has a catchword except when the following quire contains an illuminated initial: presumably the binder assembled the quires according to catchwords, and on encountering a quire without a catchword, he followed it by a quire with leaf signatures, in alphabetical order. The purpose of the quire numbers at the end of quires VI, XI, and XV, is unclear; and the reason why they are each one ahead of the true quire number is obscure unless a prefactory quire is now lost; the numbers may possibly have been part of a tally of the amount of parchment used.

The collation shows that the makers of the book wanted to keep open the possibility that the Historia would be bound in two volumes, perhaps without the Commentarius, since the Commentarius starts on a new quire, and in the Historia the end of Book VII falls at the end of a short quire. Several copies of the Historia are divided into two volumes at this point; see Emilio Santini, 'Leonardo Bruni aretino e i suoi Historiarum florentini populi libri XII', Annali della R. Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 22, Filosofia e Filologia (1910), (separately paginated:) 1–173, 125–9, nos. II, III, VIII, XI, XVIII, XIX.


Contemporary blind-tooled binding. Sewn on five wide split/double straps, the seven sewing-stations (for kettle-stitching and five straps) marked-out by prickings near the gutter-edge of the leaves (clearly visible, e.g. fol. 1; cf. MS. Buchanan d. 4); each strap pegged into its channel using (wood?) pegs and pairs of ferrous nails; with (faded) green and yellow five-core end-bands; bound in polished brown leather over wood boards, each decorated in blind with the same design; working inwards from the edges are: a plain band flanked by fillets, a band of interlace with four-pointed starlets in the interstices, and another plain band flanked by fillets, all enclosing a rectangle of ropework containing a central square panel, in which is an eight-pointed star design filled with further ropework; all these areas, except the interlace, have punched circlets, often with traces of copper-coloured gilding or paste; the upper board with a rounded brass boss at each corner (one at the centre missing), and the remains of four textile strap fastenings (two at the fore-edge, and one each at top and bottom; the straps themselves all missing), each held with three nails (one missing) in a triangular pattern, the nail-heads with a punched star pattern; the lower board with four bosses at the corners (one missing), and one in the centre, and four brass rounded-fleur-de-lys-shaped clasp fittings, corresponding to those on the upper board, each secured with three round-headed nails (the whole board ill. in Hobson, Humanists and bookbinders, fig. 11); the flat spine with five slightly raised double bands, each compartment tooled in blind with a simple lattice; the second and fourth compartments lettered in gilt, probably for William Morris, perhaps by Messrs. Leighton (see under Provenance; cf. MS. Buchanan e. 15): 'L. ARETINI | HISTORIA | FLORENTINÆ | REIPUBLICÆ' and 'MS. | IN | MEMBRANIS'. Boxed, 1987.


Origin: Italian, Florence ; 15th century, not earlier than 1440, c. 1440–50

Provenance and Acquisition

The text of the Commentarius goes as far as the year 1440, providing the terminus post quem; the empty shield on fol. 1r suggests that the book was copied and decorated without a particular recipient in mind (de la Mare, 'New research'); it is possible that the book was produced on spec in the workshop of Vespasiano da Bisticci, for whom the illuminator of the present manuscript, Bartolomeo di Antonio Varnucci, is known to have worked.

Unidentified 15th- and/or 16th-century Italian owners: the foliation of fols. 1–34; marginal corrections (e.g. fols. 24v, 27r); and dates (e.g. fols. 72r, 72v); a 'Nota' mark (fol. 101r); other inscriptions in humanistic script (e.g. fols. 143v, 144v); and the illegibly scrawled inscription: 'I.storii.flori.mini'(??) on the lower pastedown, were presumably added by early owners.

Unidentified Italian owner, 1536: inscribed semi-legibly: 'Istorie fiorentine della[?] []ade[?] di marciotto[?] | ..[?] haliles[??] etc.[?] alla nuova[??] lerenda[??] | e son(n)o in latin(n)o anno D' 1536 –', on the upper pastedown; another inscription, partially visible under the bookplate (see below), seems also to read 'haliles'(?).

Unidentified 17th-century Italian collection; inscribed with a title and shelfmark(?) (fol. ir): 'Historia Florentine Reipublice | Authore Leonardo Aretino | H. 769'.

John Adrian Louis Hope (1860–1908), 7th Earl of Hopetoun and 1st Marquis of Linlithgow ( DNB, Second Supplement, II (1912),299–301; G.E.C., VI, 575–6; and 'Sir James Hope of Hopetoun' ed. Quaritch): with the (later?) larger Hopetoun bookplate (see Gambier Howe, Franks bequest , II, no. 15273) pasted to the upper pastedown, inscribed with a shelfmark(?) 'T-3', in brown ink in a shaky hand (see pl. 000); above the title and shelfmark(?) on fol. ir (see above) is, written by another hand, 'O.3.20' (the '20' corrected from '19'), between two roughly horizontal lines. Very similar inscriptions (usually without horizontal lines or correction) occur on the bookplates and flyleaves of other manuscripts from the Hopetoun collection (e.g. Bodleian, MS. Lat. misc. c. 5, which has 'F-9' and 'O.3.9'); according to Quaritch, op. cit., the 7th Earl was not a bibliophile, so it is probable that the manuscript had already been in the family for at least one generation; it was in the 7th Earl's sale at Sotheby's, 25 Feb. 1889, lot 228, bought by Leighton for £12 10s., with the description cut from the sale catalogue glued to the upper pastedown.

Messrs. J. & J. Leighton: erased pencil notations, perhaps include a price starting '£15[...]'?, below and to the right of the centre of fol. i recto, and a price-code(?) in the bottom gutter corner of the pastedown (cf. MS. Buchanan e. 15).

William Morris (1834–96); apparently acquired after 1890, since it does not appear in the Morris catalogue compiled during 1890–1 (see Paul Needham, 'William Morris: book collector', in William Morris and the art of the book (London, 1976), 21–47, at 32–3); no. 6 in the inventory drawn up by F. S. Ellis after his death (ibid, pl. 9).

Richard Bennett of Riversdale, with his posthumous Morris booklabel on the upper pastedown; sold at the 'Morris' sale, Sotheby's, 5 Dec. 1898, lot 131, bought by Buchanan for £25; inscribed probably by Sotheby's in pencil: '104', encircled, on the upper pastedown

Rt. Hon. T. R. Buchanan (1846–1911), 1898; bought at the 'Morris' sale (cf. MSS. Buchanan d. 4 and e. 15); with the description from the sale catalogue (erroneously describing the volume as having 277 leaves) glued to the upper pastedown, and inscribed by Buchanan in pencil: 'Good title', presumably before the sale; and in ink: 'Morris Sale | Dec. 98.', after it.

His widow, Mrs. E. O. Buchanan.

Given by her to the Bodleian in 1941.

Record Sources

Adapted from Peter Kidd, Medieval Manuscripts from the Collection of T. R. Buchanan in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Oxford, 2001)

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (3 images from 35mm slides)

Last Substantive Revision

2017-07-01: First online publication.