Building a Family Library in Fifteenth Century Florence

Building a Family Library in Fifteenth Century Florence

The Florentine citizen Antonio da Filicaia (1430-after 1512) was actively involved in administrative and political life of his hometown and served Florence through several functions in the town and the contado. Although the registration of his professional activities in archival sources offers a unique chance to reconstruct Florentine history in the second half of the fifteenth century, the feature that makes him particularly interesting within the framework of “Cities of Readers” is his aim to create a personal library to be shared with the family and a broader network.

He personally contributed to this enterprise by copying manuscripts and developing into one of the most prolific Florentine copisti per passione (amateur scribes). Seven autograph manuscripts by Antonio are still kept in Florentine libraries, all of them containing lengthy colophons describing his reasons for performing scribal activities in his spare time. He states that “the readers will draw essential lessons from reading these books, and these books should be cherished and passed on”. The significant manuscript corpus that still testifies of his interest in books, reading and transmitting (religious) knowledge could even have been larger: in fact, in a lengthy colophon in MS Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Fondo Nazionale II I 71, fol. 237v he declares to have copied at least 25 manuscripts (see image). In the same colophon, written on 25th August 1493, he writes also about some general rules for organising the circulation of books and preserving the family library:

“I have written 25 or even more books in my own hand (di mia mano) and pray that everyone willing to enjoy these books will keep them with great care and will not let them circulate outside the domestic space without exchanging them with books with the same or higher value. Having all the books at their disposal and reading them, they will have great profit and pleasure and they will hopefully remember to pray God for me because I took a huge effort to copy them.”

The activities of exchanging and lending books Antonio touches upon in his colophon are also testified by Antonio’s copy of the Lives of the Fathers, copied from an older copy owned by the great-grandfather Antonio d’ Andrea del Pannocchia Riccomanni. As stated in colophon (Florence, BNC II.I.338), the manuscript had “to be copied again, as it was worn after having being lent so often”.

Sabrina Corbellini


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