Suetonius: Vitae caesarum

The codex contains Suetonius’ famous work, the “Lives of the Caesars” (ff. 2r–179r).

From among the initials, only the one of five lines’ extent indicating the letter G has been preserved at the beginning of the “Life of Augustus” (f. 26r), the others have been cut off together with the title pages.

Although the title page together with the possible coat of arms of Matthias Corvinus is missing, the volume must have belonged to the royal library. This is demonstrated both by the guilded and chased edges, characteristic of the leather Corvina bindings, and a note on the fall of Bécsújhely (Wiener Neustadt) on 17 August 1487 (f. 181r): 1487 17 Augusti in dicionem Regis Mathie per longam || obsidionem […] venit uiihel imperialis civitas Austrie. (the square brackets enclose a word that is unreadable).

János Csontosi records this volume among the “the probable Corvinas” (Csontosi 1877, 185–186). Edith Hoffmann and Ilona Berkovits do not consider it as a Corvina. Csaba Csapodi, however, maintains that the codex is an authentic Corvina (CSAPODI 1973, Nr. 615 and 1990, Nr. 18) as does most recently Edit Madas as well (MADAS 2009, Nr. 123).

The text of the manuscript was analysed with philological perspectives by Jenő Ábel (ÁBEL 1879, 24–27; see also BEREGSZÁSZI 2005).

The margins are furnished mostly with highlighted word in red ink by the scribe Petrus Cenninius’ hand but in addition there are the notes of at least three other coeval hands two of which have left notes in Greek as well. The weakly readable distichon on the upper part of f. IIr – an inscription from the ancient Roma (cf. BEREGSZÁSZI 2005) – originates in the hand of one of them: Iratus recole quod nobilis ira leonis || In sibi prostratos se negat esse feram (published by Csontosi 187). Beyond the marginal notes by the scribe, the codex might contain glosses by archbishop Johannes Vitéz de Zredna (c. 1408–1472), (cf. also CSAPODI-GÁRDONYI 1984, 137, Nr. 102; BEREGSZÁSZI 2005). Another codex with the same content from Johannes Vité’s library: Vienna, ÖNB, Cod. 132.

The guilded chased edges of the codex imply that the volume received a leather Corvina binding. This is supported by the brown traces in the rims of the former pastedowns. Dethier does not mention the binding of the manuscript (DETHIER, Inventory 1, Nr. 14.).

One of the flyleaves (f. IIv) contains a nineteenth-century identification mark: No 4.

The codex was taken from Buda to Istanbul probably in 1526 and donated to the Youth of the University of Budapest in 1877 by the Ottoman emperor, Abdul Hamid II. The present leather binding was prepared for this occasion in Istanbul. The dedication is copied in Turkish and in golden ink on ff. 2v–3r, which says – based on Béla Erődi’s Hungarian translation – as follows: This codex is from among the books that were kept in the imperial library since the time his Majesty, the legislator Chan Suleiman the Magnificent – Donated by the Padishah of the Ottoman Empire, his Majesty II. Abdul Hamid to the University of Hungary. 1294 (1877) 25th Rebbi ül evvel.

The codex was restored by Mária Czigler in the Conservation Laboratory of the National Széchényi Library in 1984.

Abbereviated Bibliography:

DETHIER, Nr. 1/14; CSONTOSI 1877; ÁBEL 1879, 24–27; MEZEY 1961, Nr. 13; CSAPODI 1973, Nr. 615; CSAPODI-GÁRDONYI 1984, Nr. 102; DE LA MARE 1985, 526, Nr. 60/2; CSAPODI 1990, Nr. 18; BEREGSZÁSZI 2005; TÓTH 2008, Nr. 13; BIBOR 2008, Nr. 26 (Wehli Tünde); MADAS 2009, Nr. 123.

(Edina Zsupán)


Shelfmark: Cod. Lat. 13.
Country: Hungary
City: Budapest
Keeper location: University Library, Eötvös Loránd University
Author: Caisu Suetonius Tranquillus
Content: Vitae Caesarum (ff. 2r–179r)
Writing medium: parchment
Number of sheets: II + 178 + II* fol.; the title page is cut out
Sheet size: 278 × 182 mm
Place of writing: Florence
Date of writing: 1460–1470
Scriptor: Petrus Cenninius, unsigned (cf. DE LA MARE 1985, 526, Nr. 60/2)
Illuminator: unidentifid; Initial with white stem motive (bianchi girari) on f. 26r; Cut initials: 60r, 82r, 102r, 119r, 139v, 146v, 151r, 157v, 166r, 169v
Place of illumination: Florence
Date of illumination: 1460–1470
Crest: the title page is cut that supposedly contained a coat of arms
Possessor, provenience: unidentified Italian (cf. the Italian gloss on f. 52r) and Hungarian (?) owners; King Matthias Hunyadi (1458–1490); Ottoman sultans; it was returned to Hungary as a present of Abdul Hamid, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in 1877.
Entries: 1487. 17 Augusti in dicionem Regis Mathie per longam || obsidionem […] venit uiihel imperialis civitas Austrie. (f. 181r) - (f. IIr.) Iratus recole quod nobilis ira leonis // In sibi prostratos se negat esse feram (see below).
Binding: 19th-century, paper board, red Turkish leather binding
Language of corvina: Latin
Condition: Restored (NSZL, Mária Czigler, 1984)