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Das Puch Exulis; Bellifortis

Collection History

The New York Public Library possesses one of the largest and finest collections of medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts in North America, yet its manuscript holdings are scarcely known to scholars, much less to a wide public audience. Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts are vehicles of the collective memory of western European culture, and provide a material connection between the scribes, illuminators, and patrons who produced these works and the audiences who view them today.

The works represent diverse genres, from Bibles and missals to romance literature and science texts. Dating from the turn of the 10th century until well into the period of the Renaissance, these works give vivid testimony to the creative impulses of the often nameless craftsmen who continually discovered new ways of animating the contents of hand-produced books through inventive and sometimes exuberant manipulations of all the elements of the book: form and format, layout, script, decoration, illustration, and binding.

Drawn from the Library's Spencer Collection and the Manuscripts and Archives Division, these works focus on the 9th through the 16th centuries -- seven hundred years of profound political, ecclesiastical, social, and intellectual change in Western Europe and the world. Among these rare items are a 10th-century Ottonian manuscript, with its imitation of Byzantine textile with gold decoration; the Towneley Lectionary, illuminated by Giulio Clovio (once praised as the "Michelangelo of small works"), which originated in Rome and probably belonged to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese; and a late 15th-century Book of Hours, which represents the leading style of illumination from Besançon, one of the French Regional Schools.


"The Digital Scriptorium" originated in the mid-1990s as an image database, intended to unite scattered resources from many institutions into an international tool for teaching and scholarly research. NYPL curators have augmented the Digital Scriptorium's primary documentation of NYPL's contribution of 259 manuscript parts with images of the works' most significant illuminations. Some works in this digital presentation also appeared in the exhibition, "The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at The New York Public Library," held October 21, 2005 - February 12, 2006 in the Library's D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall.

- Collection History and Background text excerpted from the press release and exhibition catalog descriptions for "The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at The New York Public Library."

Related Resources

Alexander, Jonathan J. G., James H. Marrow, and Lucy Freeman Sandler. The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at The New York Public Library. (2005)

NYPL. "The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at The New York Public Library." (2005-2006) <>

University of California, Berkeley. "The Digital Scriptorium." (c1996-2004) <>

Collection Data

Earliest surviving treatise on war produced in Germany. This ms. has the original Latin (dactylic hexameter) and translation into German prose. Author called it Bellifortis but wrote it in exile, which explains the alternate title.
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1440 - 1460
Place: Germany
Library locations
Spencer Collection
Shelf locator: Spencer Collection Ms. 058
Ownership: Bookplate ("Ex Libris Liechtensteinianis") of Franz Josef II, Prince of Liechtenstein (b. 1906). Purchased for Spencer Collection from H.P. Kraus and accessioned 1950.
Citation/reference: Dictionary Catalog. Library dossier. Listed in Digital Scriptorium, University of California, Berkeley.
Content: This manuscript was interleaved in the 16th century. Original ms. of this text survives in Gottingen, in a codex which Kyeser dedicated to King Rupert in 1405 (see notes in dossier).
Content: Up to 26 lines of writing (most pages have miniatures); no visible ruling. Gatherings of twelve.
Content: 132 pen and ink drawings, colored and heighted with silver foil (now oxidized), some of which include human and animal figure
Content: Above drawings of weapons etc. 2- and 3-line red initials, rubrics, red slashes as placemarkers.
Content: Trans. is in early form of modern high German, from S. of river Main. Watermark similar to Briquet 6383, which is ca. 1410-15 and found in Italy/ Netherlands. Interleaves' watermarks date to the 16th or very early 17th c., from Prague & SE Austria.
Content: Number of scribes: 1
Physical Description
Extent: Ff. 1-76v 196 x 138
Type of Resource
Still image
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 8f8cc400-c619-012f-892a-58d385a7bc34
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