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

MS. Buchanan e. 15


(fols. 1r-42v)
Ps.-Fenestella (Andrea Domenico Fiocchi), De Romanorum magistratibus
Language(s): Latin
Rubric: PLINIVS.DE.MAGI-|stratibus Romanorum. et primum de | Lupercis
Incipit: Omnium deorum uetus Romanorum religio excoluit
Explicit: et omnes prouincias regentes licet senatores sint: Praesides appellantur.
Colophon: .P.E.F.A.

(no modern edition found; pr. in numerous early editions, under the name of Lucius Fenestella, for which see Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke VIII (Stuttgart, Berlin, New York, 1978), cols. 496–500); fols. 43r-44v ruled, otherwise blank.

Andrea di Domenico Fiocchio (or Floccus) (d. 1452) wrote a tract in two books titled De potestatibus Romanorum (or Romanis), probably in the 1420s (see apostolico: alcune notizie e varie lettere di Andrea Fiocchi, canonico fiorentino', in Ultimi contributi alla storia degli umanisti, fascicolo I: Traversariana (Studi e testi, 90: Vatican City, 1939), 97–131, at 97–101, 130–1). Incipits are [preface:] 'Cum per hos dies ...' (Bertalot, Initia humanistica, II/I, no. 3757), [tract:] 'Omnium deorum quas vetus Romanorum superstitio ...'. This work circulated under his name (e.g. Bodleian, MS. d'Orville 50, fols. 1–31v), and anonymously (e.g. Sotheby & Co., Important western and oriental miniatures ... 11 December, 1961 (London), lot 170 and pl. 15, dated 5 Nov. 1465).

Perhaps in Fiocchio's lifetime, however, and at least as early as 1469 (see R. Sabbadini, Le scoperte dei codici latini e greci ne' secoli XIV e XV: nuove ricerche col riassunto filologico dei due volumi (Biblioteca storica del rinascimento, 5: Florence, 1914), 222), an abridged one-book version without the preface appeared, attributed to the Augustan historian, Fenestella, who had indeed written a work about Roman magistrates. The 'Fenestella' version is titled De Romanorum magistratibus, and opens: 'Omnium deorum quos uetus Romanorum religio excoluit ...'. It is the 'Fenestella' which was first printed (Venice, 1474) (see John Monfasani, 'Calfurnio's identification of pseudepigrapha of Ognibene, Fenestella, and Trebizond, and his attack on renaissance commentaries', Renaissance quarterly 41 no. 1 (1988), 32–43, esp. 36).

The present manuscript is a copy (with errors) of the Ps.-Fenestella redaction. The attribution in the rubric to 'Plinius' must refer to Pliny the Elder, who referred to the real Fenestella in his Natural History.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: aptius stragula
Form: codex
Support: Parchment, of good quality, but with occasional natural flaws at the edges (e.g. fols. 7, 8, 14, etc.), and some repaired holes (e.g. fol. 13), sometimes within the text area (e.g. fol. 25).
Extent: i (modern parchment, conjoint with the pastedown) + i (fol. ii, original(?) parchment) + i (18th(?)-century paper, glued to the recto of fol. ii; see under Provenance) + 44 + i (original(?) parchment) + i (modern parchment, conjoint with the pastedown).
Dimensions (leaf): 214–5 × 143–4 mm.
Dimensions (ruled): 138–9 × 83–4 mm.
Dimensions (written): 138–41 × 85–8 mm.
Foliation: Foliated in modern pencil: i-iii, 1–46.


Mostly on quires of 10 leaves: I10+1 (1st leaf inserted, fol. ii) (fols. ii, 1–10), II-IV10 (fols. 11–40), V4+1 (5th leaf inserted, fol. 45) (fols. 41–45); quires arranged flesh side outermost CATCHWORDS in the hand of the main text, between horizontal dashes, to the right of the centre of the lower margin.


27 lines ruled in very pale brown ink, virtually invisible in places, between single vertical bounding lines extending the full height of the page; 27 lines of text per page, written above the top ruled line; each leaf with a single pricking near the fore-edge, about 5 mm. below the bottom line of text, and another near the lower gutter corner, to the left of the vertical bounding line.


Written in a good, regular, humanistic bookhand, perhaps by Paolo Erizzo (see under Provenance)


Headings by the scribe, in pink (not the same as the red of the painted initials).

One five-line faceted initial O[mnium] (fol. 1r) in red and gold, on a square blue ground, containing a bust in camaïeu d'or of a male youth in profile, and, in the centre of the lower border of the same page, a coat of arms (see under Provenance) within a green laurel wreath; two- or three-line square capitals, alternately red or blue, at the start of each section, with guide letters usually visible.

The illumination is attributed by Armstrong to the Master of the Putti or his workshop, c.1471–3, to whom she also attributes the Huntington and Vienna manuscripts written by the same scribe (see under Provenance).


Contemporary blind-tooled binding. Sewn on three double straps, with endbands; bound in polished brown leather over wood boards, the edges of their inner faces bevelled; both covers blind-tooled with ropework designs in rectangular panels around a central cruciform design; originally with two clasps, now lacking, but the impressions left by their mountings indicate that those on the upper board were rectangular, and those on the lower were trefoil-shaped (cf. MS. Buchanan c. 1), their nail-holes skilfully repaired; the edges of the leaves gauffered and gilt; rebacked by 1898, with new parchment pastedowns and conjoint flyleaves, probably by Messrs. Leighton, c.1889 (see under Provenance; advertisements in their catalogues state: 'Old Books and Engravings carefully cleaned, mended, restored, and deficiencies made up in exact facsimile'); the upper joint weak, with the lowest strap broken; the spine lettered in gilt, probably for William Morris (see under Provenance; cf. the spine of MS. Buchanan c. 1): 'PLINIVS | DE | MAGIST-|RATIBVS | ROMAN-|ORVM || MS. | IN | MEMBRANIS', and with a saltire pattern in blind in each compartment. Matching pairs of nail(?)-holes in the bevelled fore-edges of of both the upper and lower boards, near the top, bottom (and perhaps middle?), possibly indicate that thin ties were once used to secure the volume closed.


Origin: Italian, Venice ; 15th century, third quarter

Provenance and Acquisition

Made for a member of the Erizzo family, of Venice; with their coat of arms (fol. 1r): azure, on a bend or a hedgehog and a reversed gothic initial E sable (cf. Rietstap, Armorial général, I, 621, and Planches, II (1909), pl. CCLXXIV; but closer to the design in Marco Vicenzo Coronelli, ed., Arme, blasoni, ò insegne gentilitie delle famiglie patritie esistenti nelle serenissime republica di Venetie ([Venice?, 1694?]; the arms also appear in a slightly earlier manuscript, sold at Sotheby's, London, 11 Dec. 1961, lot 169, ill. in pl. 14). The initials, presumably of the scribe, occur in pink roman square capitals at the end of the text (fol. 42v): '.P.E.F.A.'. The same scribe copied San Marino, Huntington Library, HM 1031 (see Dutschke, Huntington cat., I, 293–4), and Vienna, ÖNB, Cod. 3180 (see Hermann, Verzeichnis der illuminierten Handschriften in Österreich, n.F., VI/2, 19–20, Taf. VII.2), both of which also have the coat of arms of the Erizzo family, and both of which contain the initials 'P.E.A.F.'; de Ricci Census, I, 81 (followed by Dutschke) proposed that the initials may stand for 'Paulus Erizzo Antonii Filius' (fl. 1473–1503?). Dutschke transcribes the following inscription in the Huntington manuscript: '1658 24 Decembre. Questo manoscrito fu comparato da me Marsilio Papafava con molti altri da Messer Paolo Fasolati per ducenti venti.'; it is possible the Buchanan manuscript was also among the those sold by Fasolati to Papafava.

Unidentified Italian library, 18th(?) century: fol. iii is a small sheet of laid paper, pasted to the recto of fol. ii, inscribed on the present recto: 'Falsò in hoc Codice Plinio | inscribitur Opus de Magistratibus | Romanorum | Cum sit Lucij Fenestellæ, ut ex impressis | apparet | Codex iste nitidissimus Saec: XV ad | illustrem familiam Erizzo de | Venetijs pertinuit ut | ex Stemmate in fronte Codicis | adposito apparet.'; the configuration of worm-holes in this leaf and in the following parchment leaves indicate that it was previously inserted slightly higher up, with its present recto as the verso; and traces of glue(?) along the present gutter edge of the present verso suggest that it was originally pasted along this edge to the board, or to a previous pastedown.

Messrs. J. & J. Leighton, London book-binders and -sellers (on whom see David Pearson, Provenance research in book history: a handbook (The British Library Studies in the History of the Book: London, 1994), 161): included in their A list of interesting books, (1889) item 727, priced £5 15s. ('in the original Venetian binding, nice specimen'); Messrs. Leighton and other, unidentified, 19th-century bookseller(s)? are presumably responsible for various pencil inscriptions: in the top left corner of the upper pastedown is '2239', and in the bottom gutter corner 'il/t/-'(?) above '6/SS' (?); and in the top right corner of fol. ir: 'xc'(?).

William Morris (1834–1896); presumably bought from Messrs. Leighton (binders of the Kelmscott Press books) in 1889 or shortly thereafter; the manuscript is no. 42 in the inventory of Morris' library drawn up shortly after his death by F. S. Ellis: the upper pastedown inscribed in pencil with this number in the top left corner.

Richard Bennett, of Manchester: with his posthumous Morris booklabel on the upper pastedown; sold in the 'Morris' sale at Sotheby's on 5 December 1898 and five following days, lot 297; inscribed in pencil below and to the right of the Ellis inventory number: '87', encircled, presumably by Sotheby's (see Introduction).

Rt. Hon. T. R. Buchanan (1846–1911): bought by Buchanan at the 'Morris' sale for £13.

Given to the Bodleian by his widow,Mrs. E. O. Buchanan, 28 May 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.