Italian Paleography


Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT Case MS 95 .1
Italian Proverbs
Central Italy, between 1425 and 1475

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Between circa 1425 and 1475, a small handwritten collection of ninety-six proverbs was gathered on a quire of four paper leaves, probably detached from a larger codex.  The compiler wrote the manuscript in a polished textualis hand, which nevertheless displays many humanistic elements.  The proverbs are organized in three octaves of four couplets per page totaling twenty-four stanzas and 192 lines.  In the first three pages, a red cross with different ink than that which is used for the proverbs marks each stanza.  In all of the pages, the initials of the stanzas present a red oblique strikethrough; a double red strikethrough appears at the beginning of the eighteenth stanza only.  The alternating rhyme scheme, AFBFCFDFEF, links the lines within each stanza.  Occasionally, the rhymes between the second hemistich of each couplet are imperfect, though they are never repeated.  The verses are not regular and, along with hendecasyllables, lines of six, seven, eight, nine, and ten syllables characterize the listed proverbs.

No account on the manuscript’s provenance or compiler is extant.  However, morphological aspects in the proverbs and a mention of the town of “Senigaglia” (Senigallia), in what is now the Marche region of Central Italy, suggest that the collection was written in an area corresponding to the Po valley.  As was common at the time, the collection includes not only proverbs but also maxims, gnomic sentences, and sayings selected for their moral and didactic content.  Among the topics discussed are stories about practical life, suggestions on virtues and vices, customs, and love, along with a few notes on women and members of the clergy.  If many of these proverbs and sayings are widely circulated, others are not referenced in later collections or works.  We may then assume that the compiler invented proverbs exclusively for this collection.


Umanistica posata, ma leggermente inclinata a destra, di esecuzione usuale.
Da notare: l’uso di d tonda anziché diritta (4r, r. 3: credere); la r con tratto di appoggio sul rigo (4r, r. 2: sempre); il falso legamento ct (4r, r. 24: lecto); il legamento per et (4v, r. 16).

Selected Bibliography: