The Codex Rustici (1448-1453), conserved in the Library of the Archbishop’s Seminary of Florence, is a “monument on paper” to the artistic and religious splendour of Florence in the early fifteenth century and one of the most precious manuscripts in the world. The Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze has funded the restoration of the codex, which is named after its author, the Florentine goldsmith Marco di Bartolomeo Rustici (1393-1457), as well as supporting the production of a facsimile edition complete with critical appendices, published by Olschki.
The work is the story of a real or imaginary pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and offers the opportunity for a full description of Florence at the time: a welcoming and supportive city, packed with churches. The lively and expressive illustrations start with the creation of the world and conclude with a naturalistic repertory of animals and plants. These images offer us the vision of a Florence that is ancient and modern at the same time. It is a work that is fundamental to knowledge of the mediaeval city and to love for its Renaissance evolution.
The Codex is arranged in three sections or Books. The first book contains 169 chapters portraying many of the religious and civil buildings that were standing in Florence in the first half of the fifteenth century.
The splendid illustrations in ink and watercolour brought the book great fame, and it has been constantly researched and studied by historians of architecture and art all over the world.
The second book consists of 63 chapters dealing with the section of the journey within Christendom: from Florence to Cyprus. Book three contains 73 chapters narrating the main stages on the onward journey from the last Christian outpost of Famagusta to Beirut and Damascus.
The Ente CRF has made possible the creation of the complete facsimile consisting of 287 folio pages, accompanied by a second volume containing an exhaustive critical apparatus edited by two Italian scholars from the University of Sydney in Australia, Kathleen Olive and Nerida Newbigin, and coordinated by the manager of the Seminary library, Elena Gurrieri. It also contains essays by Cristina Acidini, Francesco Gurrieri, Franco Cardini, Timothy Verdon and Francesco Salvestrini. In view of its great importance, during the visit of Pope Francesco to Florence he was presented with the princeps edition of the Codex, bound in white leather with the papal arms on the front of each volume, produced in atlas format: 47 cm high by 32 cm wide, with a total weight including the box of 14 kg.
The Library of the Archbishop’s Seminary – Info
The Library of the Seminario Arcivescovile Maggiore of Florence was established on 21 December 1783 following the donation to the seminary of the book collections of the suppressed Cistercian monastery of Cestello, made by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Peter Leopold. The oldest part consists of 89 incunabula, 2,420 catalogued sixteenth-century books present in EDIT16 (ICCU-Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico, MIBAC, Rome), as well as several thousand rare and precious seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth-century editions. The Historic Archive contains 34 mediaeval and humanist codices, of which the Codex Rustici is the most famous and the most precious.