Imagery and text – 15thC Florence

The first critical edition of the Rustici Codex was prepared by two members of the University of Sydney: Kathleen Olive and Nerida Nebigin Newbigin (sorry, Nerida – that one I misssed), to accompany a facsimile edition, the first copy of which was given to a guest in November last year.

So now I can tell you about it.

The author, Bartolomeo Rustici, was a well-read goldsmith whose three-part Codex relates events of a journey from Florence to Alexandria and Jerusalem, and return, but the research has shown it was a journey of the imagination, and that his  ‘New Jerusalem’ was –  to quote them- Florence itself.

The codex is known for its meticulous drawings, beautifully coloured, in which Florence, its churches, public buildings, hospitals and countryside are recorded as they looked in the 1440s.

I’ll show here the same images published in the Faculty Journal; I see others are already available online, but the manuscript is kept in Italy, in the great seminary in Florence, so you’re not very likely to see it in the flesh.

This is a home-made book, written in fifteenth century Italy, and may provide a measure for readers who have been led to believe that MS Beinecke 408 is a “characteristically European” production of that time.  The man was not a cleric, and not a professional scribe. But this is how he wrote, and his writing is well compared with Datini’s from a century earlier. Both were members of the mercantile class, according to thinking of those times.





  1. Well, I will try one more time; usually my comments just disappear into the ether (even though I use the google option. You may like to take a look at a couple of comments from gentlemen (one a PhD) in Nick’s latest comments page.
    This is a short test to see if I can post to your present commentary. You know how to reach me regardless.


    • Thank you Gregor.

      I think that perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Codex Rustici from our point of view is the colour range and combined use of washes and solid colour, practice in accord with that seen before the ‘heavy painter’ got to work on MS Beinecke 408. The dimensions of the codex are also interesting, but not having a note of them to hand, I won’t trust to my memory.

      Of course, it goes without saying that I’m not arguing MS Beinecke 408 related to ay ‘imaginary journey’. Quite the opposite.


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