The theme of the 11th edition of Artelibro: ITALY: LAND OF TREASURES clearly reveals the objective of “rediscovering” the artistic and cultural wonders of our country, with the intention of preserving and fostering all the beautiful things it possesses.

 In this regard, in the context of the Art History and Book Festival on September the 18 at 12 noon an exhibition of extraordinary masterpieces will be opened to the public. This exhibition is entitled The Shining Writing - Manuscript Treasures from Italian Libraries and is organized by Artelibro and the Archiginnasio Municipal Library of Bologna, in collaboration with the Estense Library of Modena and the Laurentian Library of Florence.

 The exhibition will be held from 19 till 25 September 2014 at the Hall of the Stabat Mater of the Archiginnasio Municipal Library and it will consist of a selection of manuscripts of extraordinary antiquity, rarity and value as precious artworks and historical documents in the world of calligraphy and manuscript illumination. This is a remarkably important event that gives the public the chance to see four valuable books, which are not normally exhibited since their excellent state of preservation has to be maintained.

 It will thus be possible to admire the Bible of Borso d'Este, which has been called “the most beautiful book in the world”. Among the precious codices of the Estense Library in Modena this book, created between 1455 and 1461 for the Duke of Ferrara Borso d'Este, shines out with a light of its own. It is particularly remarkable for the stunning beauty of its “carte ridenti” (laughing pages), a collection of masterpieces of Italian Renaissance miniature painting realized ​​by artists such as Taddeo Crivelli and Franco dei Russi, who painted each page of the manuscript on both sides (on the recto and the verso), employing the new rules of mathematical perspective to produce a genuine gallery of Renaissance art that has no rivals in any surviving contemporary artistic creations.

 The so-called Bible of Marco Polo, on loan from the Laurentian Library of Florence, was made in France in the first half of the thirteenth century (1230-1240) and was used by Franciscan missionaries who travelled to China in the second half of the thirteenth century to preach the Christian word. It entered the possession of an eminent personage of Changshu (then known as Cham Xo) living in the province of Nanking during the Yuan dynasty at around the time of Marco Polo’s visit, and his descendants eventually donated it to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III de' Medici during the seventeenth century.

 The Vita Christi (Life of Christ), written by Ludolph of Saxony, is the most beautiful of all the works preserved in the Archiginnasio Municipal Library thanks to its embellishment with many exquisitely delicate miniatures dating to the mid-fifteenth century. They frequently depict various kinds of animals (such as herons, peacocks, rabbits, guinea fowl, etc.), which can almost be considered as the signature of the manuscript illuminator who decorated this codex copied by the scribe Michele Salvatico for the library of the noble Gonzaga family of Mantua.

 It will also be possible to virtually leaf through the digital version of the Codex Purpureus Rossanensis. Written in Greek with gold and silver ink on purple-dyed parchment it was probably made in Syria and is commonly dated to the mid sixth century. The original is preserved in the Diocesan Museum of Rossano (in the Calabria Region of Italy).

 Considering the extraordinary nature of the event, Artelibro has organized three conferences to be held the Hall of the Stabat Mater of the Archiginnasio Municipal Library, in order to encourage the public to find out more about the history of these priceless manuscripts. The learned explanations and commentaries regarding these codices have been entrusted to the following distinguished scholars: Alberto Melloni, the director of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna, Professor Fabrizio Lollini of the University of Bologna and Ernesto Milano, the former director of the Estense Library in Modena.


Conference programme:


Saturday 20th September, 10am-11am

In the dusk of the Late Gothic: The “Vita Christi” of Ludolphus de Saxonia at the Archiginnasio Library

Speaker: Fabrizio Lollini, University of Bologna

Saturday 20th September, 3pm-4pm

The Legend of the Bible of Marco Polo

Speaker: Alberto Melloni, Director of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies

Sunday 21st September, 5pm-6pm

The “Bibbia bela” of Borso d'Este, a masterpiece of the Renaissance miniature. Historical events and critical artistic analysis

Speaker: Ernesto Milano, former director of the Biblioteca Estense of Modena, with a short introduction by Paola Di Pietro, who will speak about the emblems of the Bible of Borso d'Este.


The Shining Writing

Manuscript Treasures from Italian Libraries

Hall of the Stabat Mater

Archiginnasio Municipal Library

Piazza Galvani, 1 Bologna (Italy)

From 19th to 25th September, 2014

Inauguration: 18 Septembre at 12am


Organized by:

Artelibro, Art History and Book Festival

Archiginnasio Municipal Library, Bologna

In collaboration with: Estense Library in Modena, Laurentian Library of Florence, Hours: Monday-Sunday, 10.00am-7pm - Entrance with ticket

For further information: