In Latin, Translation and commentary by Calcidius, Italy, First half of the tenth century
Copies of works on natural philosophy by standard authorities of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance reached the papal library from many sources. Calcidius's version of Plato's cosmology, produced in the fifth century A.D., was an influential source for medieval ideas about the natural world. In the late sixteenth century, this manuscript belonged to Leiden University professor Daniel Heinsius who gave it to his son Nicholas. Nicholas, whose signature appears on the manuscript, was the librarian of Queen Christina of Sweden, whose collection came to the Vatican Library after her death.
Reg. lat. 1308 fols. 21 verso - 22 recto medbio01 NAN.10
In Latin, with Greek marginalia, Translated by William of Moerbeke and others, Northern Italy, Later thirteenth or early fourteenth century
This copy of Aristotelian philosophical and scientific texts, regularly studied in Latin translation in medieval and Renaissance universities, once belonged to the Florentine humanist Giannozzo Manetti (1396-1459), friend and biographer of Pope Nicholas V. Manetti applied humanist Greek scholarship to the study of Aristotle. He copied part of the Greek text of the "Physics" in the margins of the Latin translation. After his death, Manetti's numerous books became part of the Palatine Library at Heidelberg. They entered into the papal collections when the Heidelberg library was carried off to Rome in the course of the Thirty Years War.
Pal. lat. 1033 fol. 1 recto medbio02 NAN.11
In Greek, Fourteenth century
The early Greek commentators on Aristotle's accounts of the natural world, of whom Simplicius (sixth century A.D.) was one of the most influential, offered challenging accounts of and objections to his theories. Their study expanded in fifteenth- century Italy. This manuscript is signed by a former owner, Cardinal Bessarion, whose household in Rome was an important center of Greek studies.
Vat. gr. 254 fol. 9 recto medbio03 NAN.12
In Latin, Copied by Girolamo di Matteo de Tauris for Sixtus IV, Italy, 1483
This elegant manuscript of Lucretius's philosophical poem, copied by an Augustinian friar for a pope, is an example of the interest in ancient accounts of nature taken by the Renaissance curia. The work, written in the first century B.C., contains one of the principal accounts of ancient atomism. The poem was little known in the Middle Ages and its author dismissed as an atheist and lunatic, but after the discovery of an early manuscript in 1417 by the humanist and papal secretary Poggio Bracciolini, it circulated widely in Italy. This is one of numerous copies made at that time. The coat of arms of Sixtus IV appears on this page.
Vat. lat. 1569 fol. 1 recto medbio04 NAN.13
Translated into Latin by Theodore of Gaza, Fifteenth century
Pope Nicholas V became dissatisfied with Trebizond's work and commissioned a second translation by a rival Greek scholar, Theodore of Gaza. This manuscript is a revised version of Theodore's translation dedicated to Sixtus IV. The richly decorated title page centers on an imaginative depiction of Aristotle at work surrounded by animals and a naked human couple- -perhaps Adam and Eve. The medallion below portrays Sixtus IV and is inscribed "sacricultor" (keeper of sacred things); the medal above shows the Ponte Sisto and alludes to Sixtus's building program and role as ruler of the city of Rome. The writing is ascribed to Bartolomeo San Vito.
Vat. lat. 2094 fol. 8 recto medbio06 NAN.16