For a while, I’ve had an itch (a Voyn-itch, if you prefer) I couldn’t work out how to scratch.
You see… about six years ago, I found an old history book digitized on archive.org (if I remember correctly): it related how Francesco Sforza assembled an ongoing ad hoc council of representatives of various city-states surrounding Milan, told them all the inside news of what was going on, and even asked their opinions on what Milan should do – Big Tent politics, Quattrocento-style. These representatives then wrote copious letters back to their rulers, passing on as many of Milan’s secrets as they could remember. Fascinating stuff, so I made a mental note to look the reference up again, because it would be a great place to see if I could find a critical edition of whichever of those despatches still existed, to use them to read around critical dates in my reconstructed Averlino/Voynich narrative, to see if any detail either strengthened or refuted my hypothesis.
But do you think I could ever find that book again? That’s right – not a hope.
So anyway, I’d practically given up on finding those despatches when, while (inevitably) looking for something completely different this evening, I stumbled upon one stonkingly huge set of them. The sixteen volume series is entitled Carteggio degli oratori mantovani alla Corte Sforzesca (1450-1500), with each slab containing 500 to 700 pages of letters sent from Milan back to the Gonzaga court in Mantua. The ones that seem to have been published so far are:-
1. 1450-1459 / 2. 1460 / 3. 1461 / 4. 1462 / edited by Isabella Lazzarini
5. 1463 / edited by Marco Folin
6. 1464-1465 / 7. 1466-1467 / 8. 1468-1471 / edited by Maria Nadia Covini
10. 1475-1477 / edited by Gianluca Battioni
11. 1478-1479 / edited by Marcello Simonetta
12. 1480-1482 / edited by Gianluca Battioni
15. 1495-1498 / edited by Antonella Grati, Arturo Pacini
For me, the two most interesting things to look at would be the reception in Milan of the De Re Militari incident which happened sometime in 1461 [Vol.3]; and also August / September 1465 [Vol.6], which is when Domenic Dominici the Bishop of Brescia rode into Milan with his copy of what is now known as ‘Vat. Gr. 1291’ (René Zandbergen’s favourite circular Byzantine nymph-fest, which Fulvio Orsini would then buy), before then leaving for Rome with (I strongly suspect) Antonio Averlino in tow.
Of course, any other fleeting mention of Antonio Averlino / Filarete in the 1450-1465 volumes of these despatches could well turn out to be extraordinarily useful, never mind any rumours or talk of a mysterious unreadable herbal as well! 🙂 One day I’ll get a chance to go through these myself (because the British Library has a copy of all of the above), and who as yet knows what’s there to be found?
In the meantime, please leave a comment here to tell me if there are any other sets of despatches published or currently being edited that were sent out from Francesco Sforza’s ‘Big Tent’ in Milan circa 1450-1465, thanks very much!