Hungary reassembles famous Renaissance library

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Matthias Corvinus was the King of Hungary and Croatia between 1458 and 1490. Born in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca, now in Romania) in 1443, he is best remembered for his professional army, military conquests and sweeping tax and administrative reforms.

But he was also a great patron of the arts, the first to promote Renaissance art outside Italy. This was partly due to his upbringing but also to his third wife, Beatrice of Naples who brought a large retinue of scientists and artists to the royal court in Buda.

Renaissance library

One of the most famous cultural achievements of Matthias was his library, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, which at his death in 1490 consisted of 3,000 codices, some of them containing the only surviving copies of works from Greek and Latin antiquity. At the time it was the largest library north of the Alps and second only to the Vatican library in Europe.

During the Turkish invasion of Hungary in the early 16th century most of the library was destroyed and the surviving 216 codices (or Corvinas) have been scattered across various European libraries.

Now, as part of “The Buda workshop of the Corvina Library” the Széchényi library has loaned a majority of the books that are known to have been printed in Buda – from Paris, New York, Leipzig and various other libraries.

The exhibition will be open until February 9th, 2019.

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