Rome, Biblioteca dell'Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei e Corsiniana, MS 55.K.16 (Cors. 1232)

Book of Hours of Margaret of Austria and Alessandro de' Medici Facsimile Edition

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The Book of Hours of Margaret of Austria and Alessandro de' Medici is a striking example of sixteenth-century Florentine book illumination. Commissioned before 1536 by Alessandro de' Medici as a wedding gift for his future wife Margaret of Austria, the codex contains 300 pages overflowing with innumerable decorated initials, stunning floral and animal border decorations, as well as seven brightly-colored full-page miniatures. The parchment folios feature countless details in gold, such as initials, vegetal flourishes, gold text, and borders.

Made in Florence, probably by miniature painters Giovanni and Francesco Boccardi, the manuscript contains the text of the Use of Rome written in Latin. It takes its name from its patrons, Alessandro de' Medici and Margaret of Austria, whose portraits are visible on the folios of the Office of the Virgin.

Opulent Gold on Vibrant Backgrounds

The book of hours' painted decoration includes seven full-page miniatures attributed to Giovanni and Francesco Boccardi, decorated and historiated initials, gold-leaf initials on colored backgrounds, and countless border decorations of vegetal and animal motifs.

The opening folios of the Office of the Virgin and of the Penitential Psalms contain double-page miniatures on a purple background—single-page miniatures introduce the remaining texts. The illuminated opening pages stand out for their bright blue, olive green, and dark red background colors, and their elegant golden text. The double-page miniatures include large, golden frames richly decorated with rosebuds, roses, violets, strawberries, caterpillars, butterflies, birds, jewels, heraldic symbols, Emperors' portraits, and representations of important achievements of the De' Medici family.

The beginnings of the Offices are marked by yellow and light-blue decorated initials on purple and golden backgrounds, enriched with jewels, necklaces, strawberries, and flowers. Secondary decorations include gold-leaf initials on purple and green backgrounds, adorned with racemes and golden vegetal flourishes lined with brown ink.

The folios containing large initials also feature gold-leaf vegetal flourishes, bright blue motifs and purple, golden, light-blue or violet borders featuring green, light-blue, pink, yellow, and golden racemes adorned with candelabra and flowers. The style of the text, penned in Italian Humanist Minuscule and displayed in 22-line columns, was typically used for literary works rather than books of hours.

A Wedding Gift for an Emperor's Daughter

The manuscript was presumably commissioned by Alessandro de' Medici (1510-1537) as a wedding gift for his wife Margaret of Austria (1522-1586), daughter of Charles V. The codex was made before the wedding celebrations in 1536, and it contains the spouses' coats of arms and their portraits, both placed on the folios of the Office of the Virgin. The manuscript entered the collection of the Biblioteca Corsiniana in Rome in the eighteenth century.

Binding description


Dark leather binding featuring a gold-tooled rectangular frame.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Book of Hours of Margaret of Austria and Alessandro de' Medici": Libro d'ore di Margherita d'Austria e Alessandro de' Medici facsimile edition, published by Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani, 2007

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Manuscript book description compiled by the publisher.
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Libro d'ore di Margherita d'Austria e Alessandro de' Medici

Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani, 2007

  • Commentary (Italian)
  • Limited Edition: 750 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Book of Hours of Margaret of Austria and Alessandro de' Medici: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

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