Renaissance codices exhibition ends with rare show

The exhibition gathering the largest collection of medieval codices ever assembled in Hungary will close this week and book lovers were treated to a rare sight on the occasion: one of the curators of the exhibition took out two precious manuscripts from their display cases and visitors could actually witness her leafing through them.

editor: REMIX NEWS

Normally such a treatment of the rare and fragile books would be the privilege of a select few researchers and with very good reason – these books are kept in air-conditioned cases and also protected from direct sunlight that could bleach their colors.

The rare show was in the National Széchényi Library – the country’s largest such repository – which currently hosts a unique exhibition of the surviving books of King Matthias, one of the most renowned libraries of the Renaissance world.

Renaissance library

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.

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 closes this Saturday.



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