This plan of Rome from the fourteenth-century "Satyrica historia" of Paolino of Venice, offers a comprehensive view of the city. It shows dense settlement in the Borgo and Trastevere near Saint Peter's, but isolated buildings elsewhere, especially in the southern part of the city. Though the view is schematic, it is far from arbitrary or inaccurate. One can easily find Saint Peter's, the Capitoline, the Pantheon (in the center), and many other landmarks and also see how deserted much of the ancient city was.
Vat. lat. 1960 fol. 270 verso vlib01 INT.12
from A. Lafrery, Speculum Romanae magnificentiae, 1555
This fine printed plan gives a sense of the growth of the city in the Renaissance, as central districts of Rome filled out again as popes, cardinals, and pilgrims spent lavishly. Streets were straightened. Bridges were laid across the Tiber. Dignitaries built fine palaces in the city center and gardens and villas on the hills.
Stamp. Barb. X I 13 A vlib02 INT.59
In the 1580s, Sixtus V, a cantankerous and determined pope, tried to clear the Roman streets of their thousands of prostitutes. Though he failed at that, he succeeded in reorganizing streets and plazas. The Piazza del Popolo, where long straight streets converge and an obelisk provides a focus for marching pilgrims, is only one of the centers that he created for the public ceremonies so important in Counter-Reformation Rome.
Riserva S. 79 vlib03 INT.57
NOTE: The picture shown above is only one of a 12-part map. You examine all of them by going to the Map Room.
In Latin, 1521
Henry VIII, a monarch with a fine classical education, supposedly wrote--or at least signed--this defense of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church against Martin Luther. He did add, in his own hand, the couplet seen here, in which he presents the book to Pope Leo X. The manuscript was shown to famous visitors to the Vatican Library as early as the sixteenth century.
Vat. lat. 3731 fol. 87 verso vlib05 INT.30
In French, England, before 1533
The Vatican Library also acquired Henry's loving letters, in both English and French, to Anne Boleyn. The letters, though undated, predate their marriage early in 1533 and presumably come from the period, toward the end of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, when he made Anne Boleyn pregnant and tried unsuccessfully to induce the Vatican to grant him a divorce from Catherine. In 1536 Anne herself would be executed, on a dubious charge of adultery.
Vat. lat. 3731A fol. 7 recto vlib06 INT.31
In Latin, 1476-78
This spectacular two-volume Bible was produced for the papal mercenary and duke of Urbino, Federigo da Montefeltro, by the Florentine book dealer Vespasiano da Bisticci. The scribe was Ugo Comminelli of Mezieres; but the illuminations, by David and Dominico Ghirlandaio and others, make this book one of the finest works of art of the fifteenth century. Shown here is a miniature of the Apocalypse.
Urb. lat. 2 fol. 304 verso vlib07 INT.32
3 May 1612
Galileo helped to create a new science partly because of his extraordinary skills as an observer, which enabled him to create and use the first telescope. These drawings represent sunspots-- whose existence proved that the sun was not the perfect, unchanging body that traditional Aristotelian cosmology considered it to be. Galileo's work received strong support for a long time from Maffeo Barberini, the future Pope Urban VIII, though his "Dialogues on Two World Systems" and Copernican views would eventually be condemned by Rome.
Barb. lat. 6479 fol. 18 recto vlib08 INT.33
In Latin and Greek, 1477
Johannes Rossos wrote the Greek text and Bartolomeo San Vito the Latin of this codex of Homer's "Iliad" and a companion version of the "Odyssey." The illustrations, by a north Italian artist, draw on the archaeological scholarship of Paduan antiquaries to represent the Greek and Trojan heroes in convincingly rendered ancient armor and costumes (though the ship and tents in the middle of the Latin page are clearly modern). Here we see the priest Chryses, rendered as an ancient pagan, spurned by Agamemnon and avenged by the god Apollo, who shoots down the Greeks. Sadly, time or funds ran out, and most later images in the series are either merely sketched in or entirely omitted. The illustrations shown summarize Book I of the Iliad.
Vat. gr. 1626 fols. 1 verso-2 recto vlib09 INT.54
The architects of baroque Rome created some of the most dramatic spaces of Western Europe. The piazza before Saint Peter's was one of the most contentious, as well as the most successful, of these. Scholars as well as architects argued over the shape it should take, whether or not it needed formal openings, and many other issues. But the result was perhaps Bernini's most famous creation. These drawings show some of his struggles with the many problems posed by the site.
Chig. P. VII 9 fol. 23 recto vlib10 INT.13
The greatest Roman building project was, of course, the new church of Saint Peter, the great dome of which symbolizes the papacy to this day. This engraving shows the great church still under construction, the dome unfinished, and gives a good sense of the scale and duration of the undertaking.
Cicognara XII 541 fol. iii verso vlib11 INT.53
In Latin, 1357-62
The great Italian poet Petrarch notes here that he wrote this manuscript of his Latin bucolic poem, modeled on that of Virgil, "with his own hand"--manu propria. In an age of manuscripts, intellectuals often served as their own scribes, and many of them took pleasure in writing a fine hand.
Vat. lat. 3358 fol. 49 recto vlib12 INT.29
In Greek, ca. 1500
Printers as well as scribes preserved the classics by combining scholarship and artistry. Aldus Manutius, an erudite scholar as well as an elegant printer who published many first editions of Greek texts, described on this unique printed sheet what was perhaps more a dream than a reality. He calls for those concerned with preparing and correcting editions of the Greek classics in his shop in Venice (many of whom were Greek emigres) to speak only classical Greek. Those who fail to do so must pay fines, and when these have sufficiently accumulated, they are to be used to pay for a "symposium"--a lavish common meal (the rule states that it must be better than the food given printers, which was legendarily meager). The Renaissance ideal of the publishing house as a center of learning emerges vividly.
Stamp. Barb. AAA IV 13 (1) inside front cover vlib13 INT.55