Monthly Archives: May 2018

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


Lecture by Johanneke Uphof and Joanka van der Laan: “Leken en religieuze cultuur in de laatmiddeleeuwse Nederlanden”, Ruusbroecgenootschap, University of Antwerp

Johanneke Uphof and Joanka van der Laan:

Leken en religieuze cultuur in de laatmiddeleeuwse Nederlanden

Voorjaarslezingen Ruusbroecgenootschap, University of Antwerp, 25 May 2018

In deze duolezing worden een aantal aspecten uit het onderzoeksproject “Cities of Readers: Religious Literacies in the Long Fifteenth Century” gepresenteerd. Dit project onderstreept de actieve rol van leken in de religieuze cultuur van de laatmiddeleeuwse Nederlanden die, onder andere, uitdrukking vond in het verzamelen, ontwikkelen en verspreiden van religieuze kennis in handschriften en vroege drukken. In het eerste deel van de lezing zal Johanneke Uphoff een aantal handschriften bespreken waarin de colofons en eigendomsnotities laten zien dat religieuze kennis zich heen en weer bewoog tussen leken en religieuzen. De aandacht gaat hierbij uit naar de vele boekdonaties van leken aan kloosters en de gedeelde devotionele cultuur tussen stad en klooster. In het tweede deel van de lezing zal Joanka van der Laan de focus leggen op de leesactiviteit zelf. Een analyse van een aantal devotionele vroege drukken maakt duidelijk dat deze werken verschillende kenmerken bevatten die een actieve houding van de lezer in het leesproces veronderstellen. Deze lezing zal demonstreren dat de religieuze partici- patie van leken in deze periode bijdroeg aan een dynamische, bloeiende leescultuur.

Paper presentation by Margriet Hoogvliet at the symposium “Conceptualizing Sacred Space/s”, Giessen

Margriet Hoogvliet:

Religious Reading and Sacred Books in the Late Medieval Household: An Approach to Religious Places and Spaces, Conceptualizing Sacred Space(s): Perspectives from the Study of Culture, International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC), Justus Liebig University of Giessen, D, 23–25 May 2018

Paper presentations by Sabrina Corbellini in New Orleans, Barcelona, and Cambridge

Sabrina Corbellini:

Religious Literacies in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Challenging a Paradigm, Congress Renaissance Society of America (New Orleans, 24 March 2018)

The Power of Books. A Social History of Reading in Late Medieval Europe, keynote lecture workshop Medieval Women and the Arts: Literacy, Education, and Visual Culture (Barcelona, 3-4 April 2018)

Signing a Pact with the Reader, workshop The Medieval City: A Question of Trust (King’s College, Cambridge, 20 April 2018)



Paper presentations by Sabrina Corbellini and Margriet Hoogvliet at the International congress “Escriure i llegir a l’Edat Mitjana”/”Reading and Writing in the Middle Ages”, IRCVM, Barcelona

International congress IRCVM “Escriure i llegir a l’Edat Mitjana”/”Reading and Writing in the Middle Ages” (Barcelona, 25-27 April 2018)

Sabrina Corbellini:
A Call to Write: Writing and the Construction of Identities in Late Medieval Italy,

Margriet Hoogvliet:
Textual and Visual Cultures in the Religious Household during the Late Middle Ages in Northern France

Paper presentation by Margriet Hoogvliet at the “Rethinking the medieval Frontier” conference, Leeds

Rethinking borders and identities in northern France and the southern Low Countries
(c. 1350-c. 1550)
First Rethinking the Medieval Frontier Conference, Leeds University, UK, 10 April 2018.

The area roughly between Antwerp and Paris-Rouen is now divided by political borders: between the nation states France and Belgium, as well as the federal border in Belgium between Flanders and Wallonia. Next to this, a linguistic border between Romance (French, Picard, Walloon) languages and Dutch/Flemish/Nederlands can be detected in this area. National and Federal identities are commonly believed to be strongly linked to one, commonly shared language.

The presentation challenges claims that these modern borders can be justified with history-based arguments, because they would build further on Roman limes and Medieval borders. Firstly, political and territorial borders were continuously shifting throughout the ages and especially in the fifteenth century, often causing uncertainties and endless disputes. Secondly the linguistic situation is strongly marked by bilinguality; stretching from micro examples of code mixing to situations where both languages were commonly used alongside each other, for instance in Saint-Omer (with on top of this a strong presence of English). A final example is the Bruges printer Colard Mansion, who printed texts in both Middle Dutch and French/Picard and who used both languages for the administration of his confraternity, thus confirming the hypothesis that language and identity were much more loosely connected in the fifteenth century than we experience it nowadays.