Encyclopaedia by Brunetto Latini (ca. 1230-1294), a Florentine politician, poet, historian and philosopher, teacher and friend of Dante’s. Written in French during the author’s exile in France (1260-1267). It consists of three books.
The first book begins with the biblical history, the history of Troy, Rome and the Middle Ages, followed by a natural history: a comprehensive compilation of information about astronomy and geography. It also addresses certain animal and bird species in depth.
The second book concerns ethics: it features the thinking of modern and classical moralists, and studies the vices and virtues that characterise humanity.
The third book, the most original part of this work, deals with matters related to politics and the art of government which is, according to the author, the most important and noblest of all sciences.
The miniatures in this codex are extremely rich and varied. The artist’s boundless imagination fills the margins of the 18 folios with countless arabesques and drolleries which constitute one of the most highly developed, most interesting and earliest series of this genre in the history of the European miniature.
There are also countless beasts, grotesque and peculiar figures, dwarves up to all sorts of tricks, acrobats doing balancing acts and juggling, musicians playing trumpets, flutes, violas, tambourines, organs and bagpipes. Birds, hares, fawns, lions and hounds hunting boars, and even the creation of Eve are depicted too. The penstrokes are truly masterful. The postures and movements are often attractive and noble. The illustrations of natural history employ traditional layouts dating back to Romanesque bestiaries.