Vat. Gr. 1291 is a manuscript that has had a fair amount of Voynich-related attention over the years. A beautifully illustrated copy of Ptolemy’s Handy Tables, its fol.9r contains a circular astrological / zodiacal diagram with some oddly-familiar carefully-posed naked nymphs:
Though this splendid Greek manuscript was made in the ninth century, it had one well-known bibliophile owner in the 16th century, Fulvio Orsini (1512-1600):
However, what I find intriguing is that the manuscript reappeared (or, to be a little more Renaissance-y, perhaps I should say “was reborn”) in Brescia in the middle of the fifteenth century. Which is (roughly) where we start…
Pietro del Monte (c.1400-1457), Bishop of Brescia
Though the bibliography listed by the BAV for Vat. Gr. 1291 contains over seventy entries, an accessible starting point for us is probably “A Renaissance bishop and his books: a preliminary survey of the manuscript collection of Pietro del Monte (c. 1400–57)” by David Rundle (British School at Rome, The Papers – Vol 69 (2001)). [It’s in JSTOR, if you have access to that.] Msgr Jose Ruysschaert (who we know from other Voynich studies) once planned to write a full study of Pietro del Monte, but never quite got round to it: Rundle took on the slightly more achievable task of reconstructing his library.
Rundle’s readable article paints a picture of (the perhaps quite flawed) papal apologist – who at his death was also Bishop of Brescia – as a resolute book collector much praised by (the admittedly often unreliable) book merchant and librarian Vespasiano da Bisticci. I’m sure book-sellers always liked to hear a “yes” from del Monte (*groan*). After the wannabe humanists’s death in Rome in 1457, the biggest beneficiary was Pietro Barbo (the future Pope Paul II), who seems to have inherited the bulk of del Monte’s huge library. Though some manuscripts (that Rundle speculates had been left behind in Brescia) also went to…
Bartolomeo Malapiero (d.1464), Bishop of Brescia
When Bartolomeo Malapiero was made Bishop of Brescia in 1457 on del Monte’s , he bought some of his books and manuscripts. Yes, Malapiero too was a book collector: Rundle directs us to M. L. Gatti Perer and M. Marubbi (eds), “Tesori miniati: codici e incunaboli dei fondi antichi di Bergamo e Brescia” (Cinisello Balsamo, 199), pp.151-167.
On Malapiero’s death in 1464, a good part of his library became the property of the next Bishop of Brescia…
Domenico de’ Domenichi (1416–1478), Bishop of Brescia
When Domenico de’ Domenichi, formerly Bishop of Torcello, was made Bishop of Brescia, he received (what is now known as) Vat. Gr. 1291 from Bartolomeo Malapiero, as we can see from this note added to it:
Hic liber e[st] mei dominici dedominicis ueneti epi[scopi] brixen[si] et fuit ex
libris. bonae memoriae dom[ini] bartolomej epi[scopi] predecesso[ris] mei et allatus est
mi[hi] ex brixia Roma[m] 1465 de mense septembris
Before being acquired by Fulvio Orsini, the codex belonged to two bishops of Brescia, Bartalomeo Malipiero (1457-1464) and Domenic Dominici (1464-1478); the latter brought it to Rome in September 1465.
For the source of this information, the author (Luigi Michelini Tocci) cites “F. Boll. In « Sitzungsberichte der… Akad. Der Wissenshaften zu München », 1899, pp. 110-138; Lazarev, Pittura, cit., p. 110“.
However, there is no indication in the marginalia of where (or from whom) Bartolomeo Malapiero got it from. It could (possibly) have been Malapiero’s predecessor Pietro del Monte: but given that de’ Domenichi himself didn’t seem to know, perhaps we shall never know either.
De’ Domenichi was a very interesting character: as a well-known orator and theologian and yet also a humanist, he embodies many of the complexities of Renaissance thought. He was also a prolific book author and letter-writer, with an interest in astronomy and astrology: according to this online Italian biography of him:
He shared the general humanist interest in astronomy and astrology, and he himself wrote on these topics in some partly lost works. On 13th June 1456, upon the appearance of a comet, he wrote Iudicium comete visi in urbe romana, now conserved in two copies in the Herzog-August-Bibliothek of Wolfenbüttel (Germany): cod. Guelf. 42.3 Aug. fol. and cod. Guelf. 71.21 Aug. fol., in which he lays out his thoughts on these celestial phenomena. There is also a Quaestio de Sibyllis (Kristeller, Iter, I, p. 152). In his library could also be found manuscripts of astronomy, such as astronomical Tabulae and Ptolemy’s Almagest, Flores ex Almagesto and De astronomia of Geber Hispalensis, as well as the Tabulae [resolutae] of John of Gmunden.
Bibliography on Domenico de’ Domenichi (1416–1478)
De’ Domenichi was (I’m sure you’re seeing a pattern here) also a book collector: as a source on the bibliophilic side of his life, Rundle suggests C. Villa, “Brixiensia”, Italia Medioevale e Umanistica 20 (1977), pp. 243-275. (Which I haven’t yet seen.)
There are two other books I also haven’t yet seen, both of which are, inevitably, tremendously expensive:
* Hubert Jedin, Studien über Domenico de’Domenichi (1416–1478)
* Martin Ederer (2003) “Humanism, Scholasticism and the Theology and Preaching of Domenico De’ Domenichi in the Italian Renaissance” (Ederer tenaciously tracked down 105 of de’ Domenichi’s Latin sermons from archives scattered through Europe, and included two appendixes: “Domenico de’ Domenichi’s Treatises and Letters: Synopsis of Codices”, and “A Finding-List of Domenico de’ Domenichi’s Treatises and Letters”)
Where Next For de’ Domenichi?
What I’ve written above is as far as I reached on the subject: the next step would be to use Ederer’s Finding List to track down his letters, and to see if de’ Domenichi mentioned Vat. Gr. 1291 anywhere there. Given that Regiomontanus was in Rome at exactly the same time, I would have thought that a nice-looking copy of the Handy Tables would have been like astronomical catnip to him: so there might be plenty of interest there from a history of science and astronomy aspect that the more theological biographers might not have teased out to date.
But without a day at the British Library to go through Villa’s, Jedin’s, and Ederer’s works, that’s as far as this goes for now, sorry. 😐