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

MS. Canon. Ital. 85

Summary Catalogue no.: 20137

Boccaccio, Filocolo; Italy (probably Mantua), c. 1464


(fols. 1r-239v)
Boccaccio, Filocolo
Incipit: Mancate gia tanto le forse del valoroso popolo
Explicit: la cui vita nelle mani della tua donna amore conservi
Language(s): Italian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment
Extent: 2 (medieval parchment bifolium) + 240 + 2 (medieval parchment bifolium) leaves, with a short 18th-century description of the manuscript in Italian, unfoliated, pasted to fol. 241r.
Dimensions (leaf): 355 × 230 mm.
Foliation: i-ii, 1-35, 35a-239, 240-1


1(10)-24(10) (de la Mare and Reynolds, 53)


1 col, 42 lines; column space 239 × 126 mm. ; ruled in ink (horizontal lines) and drypoint or plummet on versos (verticals), double horizontal bounding lines (de la Mare and Reynolds, 53)


Humanistic script. Written by Andrea de Laude for Lodovico Gonzaga, c. 1464, as is shown by a letter from Andrea to Lodovico in the Gonzaga archive dated 30 Jan. 1464 and referring to the copying of the manuscript (J. J. G. Alexander, 'The scribe of the Boccaccio Filostrato identified', BLR 9 (1973-8), 303-4, with text). De la Mare and Reynolds (p. 53) identified the scribe's hand in Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino, Ms. N. VI. 11 (Dante, Commedia, badly damaged in 1904; see further under Decoration). They also suggested (ibid.) an identification with Andrea Morena da Lodi, who copied Paris, BnF MS. Italien 81, but there are several differences between the script of the Oxford and Paris manuscripts.


'Important miniatures, borders, initials' (Pächt and Alexander ii. 393, pl. XXXVII and frontispiece).

Half-page miniatures at the beginning of each book illustrating 'episodes described or referred to early in each book' (Alexander 1994):

  • (fol. 1r) Juno in her chariot drawn by peacocks with Pope, Cardinal and two attendants
  • (fol. 25r) Venus, Mount Cythera, and Cupid tempering his arrows
  • (fol. 67r) Four youths in a walled garden with falcon and dog
  • (fol. 114v) A group of horsemen in a city square
  • (fol. 190v) Filocolo/Florio and Biancafiore parting from the Admiral
The artist of the miniatures has also been identified (first in print by Pächt and Alexander in 1970) in British Library Harley MS. 3567 (written for Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga), and (by Fumian in 2014) in Turin, BN, Ms. N. VI. 11, written perhaps also by Andrea de Laude for an unknown patron (see above, Hands). The artist of the Harley manuscript was identified by Meroni in 1966 as Pietro Guindaleri of Cremona (-1506) whose documented work is Turin, BN, Ms. I. I. 22-23 (Pliny, Natural History), although this identification has not been universally accepted (see the entry in Dizionario biografico dei miniatori italiani: secoli IX-XVI, ed. M. Bollati (Milan, 2004)). The artist of the Turin Dante was tentatively identified by Fumian in 2014, on the basis of documentary evidence, as Jacopo Bellanti da San Pietro di Galatina. For more detailed descriptions of the miniatures see Alexander 1994 and de la Mare and Reynolds 1991-1992, who suggest that the border and initials (below) may have been the work of different artists.

Strapwork borders on gold ground at the beginning of each book; Alexander 1994 compared the borders of Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS. Vit. 22-5 (Plautus, written for Lodovico Gonzaga III).

Large interlace initials on gold ground at the beginning of each book; 5-line initials in different styles (gold with vine-stem decoration on coloured grounds, or coloured interlace on gold grounds, or coloured with acanthus decoration on gold grounds). De la Mare and Reynolds compared the initials in BL Addit. MS. 14777, BL Harley MS 3691, and Victoria and Albert Museum L. 366-1956.


17th century?, Italian or French?: pasteboards; red leather with all-over gilt tooling in a diamond-shaped panel with elaborate corner- and centre-pieces, all areas richly infilled with a small fleur-de-lis tool; spine similarly gilt (damaged and re-laid); edges of boards also gilt-tooled with a narrow roll; gilt gauffered edges. Rebacked, 19th or 20th century, Bodleian. 364–365 × c. 240 × c. 65–70 mm. (book closed) (Barker-Benfield, 2020).


Origin: c. 1464 ; Italian, Mantua or possibly Ferrara

Provenance and Acquisition

Produced for Lodovico III Gonzaga of Mantua (above, Hands); arms of Gonzaga of Mantua integral to the border decoration.

Perhaps dispersed from the Gonzaga library either during its sack in 1630 or in the sale of the library at Venice at 1707 by Ferdinando Carlo Gonzaga (C. H. Clough, ‘The Library of the Gonzaga of Mantua’, Librarium 15, no. 1 (1972), 50-63); there is no evidence of ownership by Bernardo Trevisan or Jacopo Soranzo.

On fol. ii verso is (18th-century?) a device with initials 'S E' and below 'Francesco Squarcione ?', referring to the Italian painter (d. 1468); the connection with the present manuscript is unclear.

Matteo Luigi Canonici, 1727–1805, source of acquisition not known.

Giuseppe Canonici , -1807

Purchased by the Bodleian in 1817.

Record Sources

Description adapted (May 2022) by Matthew Holford from the following sources, with additional reference to published literature as cited:
B. C. Barker-Benfield, Bookbindings of Canonici manuscripts : a survey of early and non-standard bindings, mostly Italian, in the Canonici collection of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (Oxford, privately printed, 2020).
Andrew G. Watson, Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts c. 435-1600 in Oxford Libraries (1984), no. 229
Otto Pächt and J. J. G. Alexander, Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Oxford, II (1970), no. 393
Previously described in the Quarto Catalogue (A. Mortara, Catalogo dei manoscritti italiani che sotto la denominazione di Codici Canoniciani Italici si conservano nella Biblioteca Bodleiana a Oxford, Quarto Catalogues XI, 1864).


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Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)
Digital Bodleian (13 images from 35mm slides)


    Selected printed descriptions and studies:

    Fumian, Silvia. ‘Una Nuova Proposta per Il Miniatore Del Filocolo Gonzaga (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Canon. Ital. 85)’, in Il Codice Miniato in Europa: Libri per La Chiesa, per La Città, per La Corte, edited by Giordana Mariani Canova and Alessandra Perriccioli Saggese. Padua: Il Poligrafo casa editrice, 2014.
    Alexander, J. J. G., ed. The Painted Page: Italian Renaissance Book Illumination, 1450-1550, Munich: Prestel, 1994, cat. 22 (p. 80).
    De la Mare, A. C., and C. Reynolds. ‘Illustrated Boccaccio Manuscripts in Oxford Libraries’. Studi Sul Boccaccio 20 (1992 1991): 45–72.

Last Substantive Revision

2022-05-18: Description revised for publication on Digital Bodleian.