Codex Ambrosianus (Petrarch)

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Cover picture by Simone Martini in Codex Ambrosianus, Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Ms. 79 inf., Fol. 1v

The famous Codex Ambrosianus, owned by the early humanist Petrarca (1304–1374), contains the most important works by Virgil , accompanied by the commentary by Servius , which was popular in late antiquity . In addition to Virgil, the codex also contains works by Publius Papinius Statius , Horace and various grammatical works.

The Codex used to be considered a Florentine work from the end of the thirteenth century. Today it is believed that it was made in Avignon between 1320 and 1325 . Petrarch probably had this codex made for himself. The book was stolen after 1325 and did not return to Petrarch's possession until 1338.

After receiving the book back, Petrarch had his friend Simone Martini (approx. 1280-1344) make a cover picture around 1340. Simone Martini was around 1339 at the behest of Benedict XII. came to the papal court in Avignon. The picture shows Virgil in the shade, pointing with his right hand at the commentator Servius; the other figures are symbols for Virgil's main works ( Georgica , Aeneid , Bucolica ) as well as for his audience. Another special feature of the codex is the fact that Petrarch noted personal events that were important to him on the front page (e.g. the death of his son Giovanni and his beloved Laura).

Almost every page of the Codex has a wide inner column and a narrow outer column. The broad one consists of the Virgil text, the narrow one of the commentary by Servius. Since the twelfth century, the main text and commentary have differed in font size, and this is also the case here. The font is a round variant of the Gothic minuscule, also called rotunda . At the bottom of a page are, to an even lesser extent, Petrarch's personal notes in his handwriting.

The codex is today under the signature Ms. 79 inf. (formerly SP 10/27) in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan .


  • Walter Berschin : Glossed Virgil manuscripts of three aetates Virglianae. The Role of the Book in Medieval Culture: Proceedings of the Oxford International Symposium, September 26-1 October 1982 ; Bibliologia 3-4; Turnhout: Brepols, 1986; Volume 1, pp. 116-121