Free Library of Philadelphia


Opening page with the coat of arms of the Tirelta family of Treviso

This page begins the first book of the Epistles of the ancient Roman poet Quintius Horatius Flaccus (65-68 B.C.), known today simply as Horace. Although Horace was known throughout the Middle Ages, his writings became especially popular in the Renaissance among Italian humanists who sought to revive Classical learning and literature.

The ideals of the humanists were also reflected in the design of their manuscripts. Seated within the faceted initial is a figure dressed in ancient Roman costume. The elegant design of the initial recalls the letter forms used in Roman epigraphy. The relatively clear script that resembles modern handwriting (as compared to examples of Gothic bookhand) was favored by Renaissance patrons because it was believed to emulate Classical script. In truth, scribes and illuminators were copying from manuscripts produced in the ninth and tenth centuries during the Carolingian period.

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