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

MS. Buchanan d. 4

Poggio Bracciolini, De varietate fortunae. Italy (Florence), 1455.


(fols. 2r-122r)
Poggio Bracciolini, De varietate fortunae (ed. Outi Merisalo (editor) , stating, p. 33, that this is the earliest dated manuscript of his Phase III (cf. p. 15))
Rubric: AD NICOLAVM PAPAM .V. POGGII FLORENTINI DE VARIETATE FORTUNE INCIPIT PROEMIUM' (fol. 2r) ('INCIPIT PRO' over an erasure; see Watson, Dated and datable, Oxford, II, pl. 524)

A similar rubric at the start of Book I; fol. 1r-v ruled in ink, otherwise originally blank; fols. 122v-123v ruled in drypoint, otherwise blank.

Language(s): Latin

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: quam multis
Form: codex
Support: Parchment.
Extent: i (paper) + 123 + i (paper).
Dimensions (leaf): 234–6 × 147–9 mm.
Dimensions (ruled): 149–50 × 82–3 mm.
(95–6 mm. including the bounding lines); fol 1. the ruled space 168 × 89 (97) mm.
Dimensions (written): 151–2 × 83–91 (97) mm.
Foliation: Foliated in modern pencil: i, 1–124.


Mostly in quires of 10 leaves: I10+1 (1st leaf added, fol. 1, glued to fol. 2) (fols. 1–11), II-XII10 (fols. 12–121), XIII2 (fols. 122–123); quires arranged flesh side outermost; horizontal CATCHWORDS present throughout, in the script of the main text, in the lower right margin, the start of the catchword usually aligned with the leftmost of the vertical bounding lines.


25 lines ruled in drypoint on the hair side, with double vertical bounding lines extending the full height of the leaf, the first and last horizontal extending the full width of the page; fol. 1 without visible prickings, ruled with 30 lines in pale brown ink, between double vertical bounding lines ruled the full height of the page (the outermost vertical significantly fainter); PRICKINGS usually visible in the fore-edge margin of quires I-II, pricked from the front of the quire to the back, and in the upper and lower margins throughout, pricked from the hair to the flesh side; the upper and lower margins occasionally re-pricked from the opposite side; quire II is pricked for 25 lines throughout; the second and centre bifolia of quire I (fols. 3 & 10, 6 & 7), however, have 31 prickings in the outer margin, of which the lowest 25 are pricked from the back of the quire to the front: thus it seems that after pricking for 25 lines, these two bifolia were inverted, the wide bottom margin now being at the top, necessitating the extra prickings in the upper margin; other bifolia also have double sets of pricking (e.g. lower margin of fols. 103 & 110, 107 & 108). 25 lines of text per page, written above top line


Written in humanistic script, attributed to ser Giovanni di Piero da Stia (see under Provenance)


Headings in brick red capitals.

The preface with a four-line white vine-stem initial M[ulta] with foliate ornament extending up and down the inner margin (fol. 2r; ibid.); Books I-IV (fols. 4v, 32v, 66v, 96r) each with a three- to five-line initial in gold on a green and/or red ground framed in blue.


Sewn on four cords, and bound in 18th-century Italian(?) parchment over rather thin pasteboards; with endbands sewn in plain thread; the spine with a red leather title-piece lettered 'POGGIU. | VARIET | FORT: | MSS.' in the second compartment, and with a black ink cross inscribed in the compartment below; marbled pastedowns and plain laid paper flyleaves without visible watermarks; the edges of the leaves gauffered and gilt, demonstrably pre-dating the present binding, since the gilding on the fore-edge shows the marks of two straps, of which no trace remains on the present binding. Prickings in the gutter margin c. 21, 52, 116, 178 and 209 mm. from the top (i.e. at the mid-point, and approximately 22 mm. and 53 mm. from both top and bottom, visible e.g. at fol. 24r), perhaps correspond to the placement of the sewing-stations (kettle-stiches and three cords) of a previous, perhaps original, binding (cf. MS. Buchanan c. 1, a contemporary Florentine manuscript in its original binding).


Origin: Italian, Florence ; 15th century, dated 1455

Provenance and Acquisition

Written in Florence and dated 1455 by the scribe 'DE VARIETATE FORTVNE LIBER | QVARTVS EXPLICIT :- :- 1455.' (fol. 122r); the script is attributable to the Florentine notary ser Giovanni di Piero da Stia (c.1406–74), to whom de la Mare ('New research', I, 425–6, 499–500) has attributed over forty manuscripts, two of them signed, and most of them dated; he had previously copied the same text in 1450 (now Vatican, Ottob. lat. 2134; see Merisalo, op. cit., 27–8 no. 5). Merisalo suggests that the present manuscript comes probably from the workshop of Vespasiano da Bisticci (ibid., 33), but de la Mare does not include it in her list of Vespasiano manuscripts (op. cit., I, 555–64).

? Fruosino and/or his son Girolamo da Panzano (see Ullman & Stadter, The public library of renaissance Florence, 43–4): erased inscriptions leave doubt as to who first owned the manuscript (see below), but if Girolamo died after 1500, as is probable, then this manuscript, written in 1455, is perhaps more likely to have been commissioned by his father Fruosino, who seems also to have owned Florence, Bibl. Laurenziana, MS. San Marco 366, which is signed and dated 1449 by the same scribe (ibid., 44 n. 3; de la Mare, op. cit., 499 no. 10). Ullman & Stadter, Watson, and Merisalo all give variant readings of the erased inscriptions, usually supplying Girolomo's name, but inspection under UV, IR, and blue lights has not clarified the situation. Girolamo bequeathed London, BL, Add. MS. 14798 (written by our scribe), and Harley MS. 2630 to San Marco (Ullman & Stadter, op. cit., 43–4).

The Dominican convent of San Marco, Florence , probably after 1500, since the manuscript does not appear in the San Marco inventory of that date (Ullman & Stadter, op. cit., 44): erased inscriptions on fols. 1r and 1v have been read variously as, e.g. (fol. 1v): 'Iste liber est conuentus s(an)c(t)i Marci de Florentia ord(inis) pred(icatorum) ab heredibus ... de Panzano de[?] Florentia' (this reading based on a note in the hand of R. W. Hunt).

Unidentified 18th-century Italian collection: inscribed in an 18th-century Italian hand in ink (fol. i verso): 'Codex Saec: XV | Codex iste nitidissimus idem | est, quem Auctor Nicolao V. | obtulit, habemus editum | inter Opera Poggij' (apparently in the same hand as a similar note in Bodleian Library, MS. Add. C. 139, which was owned by Libri (see below), so presumably they both came from the same source). The inscription is similar to those of Antonio de Santo (on which see J. B. Mitchell, 'Trevisan and Soranzo: some Canonici manuscripts from two eighteenth-century Venetian collections', Bodleian Library Record 8 no. 3 (1969), 125–35, esp. pl. XV), one of the librarians of Jacopo Soranzo (1686–1761), many of whose manuscripts passed to Matteo Luigi Canonici (1727–1806), and thence to the Bodleian in 1817; although the binding resembles some other Canonici bindings, but there is no clear evidence that the present manuscript was ever owned by him.

? Guglielmo Libri (1802–1869) (on whom see Marco Mostert and P. Alessandra Maccioni Ruju, The life and times of Guglielmo Libri (1802–1869), scientist, patriot, scholar, journalist and thief: a nineteenth-century story (Hilversum, 1995): inscribed in pencil 'Libri' in the top left corner of fol. i verso in a 19th(?)-century hand; but not found in his sale catalogues of 1853, 1859, 1862, or 1864.

Unidentified 19th-century booksellers: inscribed in pencil (fol. ir) '99' upper left, '72', upper right; (fol. iv) 'elyz', upper left corner); and (fol. 124r) 'r,m/'(?), centre right, and '41' lower right; an erasure, presumably of an ink inscription, in the upper right corner.

Unidentified English 19th-century owner: inscribed with an ironic comment in pencil, below the 18th-century ink flyleaf inscription (fol. i verso): 'This note is quite correct, with the exception that this is not the copy presented to Nicolas V. and that it is not printed in the works of Poggio.'; the tone is reminiscent of notes inscribed by William Beckford in his books, but the hand is probably not his.

William Morris (1834–1896), acquired between c.1876 and 1891: the present manuscript does not appear among the medieval manuscripts listed in a catalogue of the former date, but occurs as one of only six western medieval manuscripts in a catalogue of Morris's collection drawn up in 1890–91 (see Needham, 'William Morris: book collector'); it also appears as no. 70 in the inventory drawn up shortly after his death by F. S. Ellis, and has this number inscribed in pencil in the top left corner of fol. i verso (see Introduction).

Richard Bennett of Manchester , with his posthumous Morris booklabel on the upper pastedown (cf. MSS. Buchanan c. 1, e. 15); sold in the 'Morris' sale at Sotheby's, 5 December 1898 and five following days, lot 863, bought by Buchanan for ,12 12s; inscribed in pencil (fol. i verso): '40.' below and to the right of the Ellis inventory number, probably by Sotheby's (see Introduction).

Rt. Hon. T. R. Buchanan (1846–1911), 1898: bought at the 'Morris' sale; with the description from the sale catalogue pasted to the upper pastedown, inscribed by Buchanan in ink 'Morris Sale | Dec 98.'.

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 (2 images from 35mm slides)


Last Substantive Revision

2017-07-01: First online publication.