Roman Antiquities Manuscript Online

The Princeton University Library’s best-known Renaissance manuscript is the latest addition to “Treasures of the Manuscripts Division,” a steadily growing section of the Princeton University Digital Library (PUDL). Fully digitized for the first time, Garrett MS. 158 has as its principal text the Collectio antiquitatum or Sylloge (or Silloge) antiquitatum, compiled by the Italian Renaissance physician and antiquarian Giovanni Marcanova (ca. 1410/1418-1467). This collection of Roman inscriptions was in part derived from earlier collections of inscriptions, such as that by the humanist Ciriaco d’Ancona (1391-1450). Marcanova dedicated his collection to Malatesta Novello (1418-65), also known as Domenico Malatesta, the lord of Cesena and patron of the Biblioteca Malatestina. The manuscript is known in particular for its prefatory sequence of fifteen full-page drawings (fols. 1v-16v) of the antiquities of ancient Rome, probably produced and illustrated in Bologna in 1471 or after 1473. The somewhat fanciful drawings include Roman monuments (Tomb of Hadrian, Arch of Titus, Vatican Obelisk, Baths of Diocletian, Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue), places (Tiber River, Tarpean Rock, Monte Testaccio, Campidoglio), and scenes (market day, human sacrifice, tournament).

Garrett MS. 158 is related to several early manuscripts of Giovanni Marcanova’s text, including a 1465 manuscript in the Biblioteca Estense (cod. a. L. 5. 15 [lat. 992]), whose 18 full-page drawings and numerous illustrations were the ultimate source for the drawings in the Princeton manuscript. Some scholars have argued that Marcanova employed a scriptorium to put epigraphical inscriptions in book form, and that the scriptorium included the antiquarian and calligrapher Felice Feliciano (1433-1479) of Verona, who has been suggested as responsible for the script and drawings. But there is no conclusive evidence about the artists responsible for the drawings in the Garrett manuscript. In addition to the prefatory drawings, there are smaller drawings scattered throughout the text of the Collectio antiquitatum, including ancient monuments, sarcophagi, vases, aedicules, and stele with inscriptions. Some of these illustrations are accompanied by depictions of classical and mythological figures.

The Baltimore businessman Robert Garrett (1875-1961), Class of 1897, donated the manuscript to the Library in 1942, along with his rich and extensive collection of thousands of manuscripts. For an up-to-date description of Garrett MS. 158, with lengthy provenance note and bibliography, see Don C. Skemer, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library (2012), vol. 1, pp. 368-75, plates 70-73.
Tarpeian Rock
Garrett MS. 158, fol. 10r (Tarpeian Rock).