Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New research on the Bibliotheca Corviniana (updated)

The Bibliotheca Corviniana, the library put together by King Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490) was one of the largest libraries of medieval Europe. A humanist library, comprised largely of the works of classical authors, as well as modern historical and scientific works, the collection included a vast number of beautifully illuminated manuscripts. The library was dispersed soon after the death of the king, and today just over 200 volumes of it have been identified.

Frontispiece of the Didymus Corvina
 (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library)

In 2005, the Bibliotheca Corviniana was added to the list of the UNESCO Memory of the World heritage. Perhaps not coincidentally, there has been a renewed interest in the library during the last decade, resulting in a number of exhibitions as well as popular and scholarly publications. These include among other the following:


An ambitious project aimed at the virtual reconstruction of the library has been started by the Széchényi National Library (Budapest). The Digital Corvina Library aims to gather all information and digital facsimiles of all of the surviving volumes from the library of King Matthias. So far the site is only in Hungarian, with some content in Italian, but clicking on "Corvinák" on the menu on the main page will take you to digital facsimiles of a number of manuscripts. The site also includes a number of full-text publications, in PDF format (click on "Tanulmányok" - several of them are in Italian, English or German). Unfortunately, the site apparently has not been updated in several years. It now includes the digital facsimiles of all 36 Corvinian manuscripts held at the National Library, and also includes a link to the digital edition of Ludovicus Carbo's dialogue on the deeds of King Matthias (Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) - a wonderful and multi-lingual edition.

However, the database does not refer to a number of freely available digital facsimiles of Corvinian manuscripts. Of these, first the volumes held in German libraries must be mentioned. All 9 Corvinian manuscripts held at the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel have been digitised. Similarly, 8 volumes at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich are available online. There are also two volumes in Dresden, both in need of restoration, and therefore not fully digitized (see this PDF brochure). Some volumes in American collections are also available online, such as the Yale Tacitus (Tacitus: Annalium libri XI-XVII; New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Ms 145). Another beautiful manuscript which can be studied online is the beautiful Missal of King Matthias at the Royal Library Albert I in Brussels. The library also provides some literature on the manuscript.
Hopefully, the BCD project will continue in the near future.


  1. Though not whole facsimiles, some folios are available elsewhere:

    In the online catalogue of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, some folios (ff 1, 4, 22v, 35v, 95, 98v, 100v) of the Latin 6390 are digitized

    The British Library has also digitized a folio (f 28) of the Harley MS 4868, and two folios (ff 2v and 3) of the Landsdowne MS 836.

  2. Thanks for the comment. No doubt, good reproductions of many more pages of Corvinian manuscripts are available on the internet. (An example is the Tacitus-codex at the New York Public Library, see here: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchresult.cfm?parent_id=185741&word=
    If anyone is aware of any other fully digitised manuscripts, please let me know.

  3. I updated the post with a link to the digitized version of the Brussels Missal of King Matthias.

  4. I am now providing links to over 100 fully digitized Corvinian manuscripts
    on my website