Written by: Andrew Lundeen
Primary Source: The Special Collections Provenance Project at MSU
Florentine Chronicle (1537)
Born in the late 13th century in Florence, Giovanni Villani was a notable Italian statesman and diplomat, remembered today for recording the history of Florence in his Nuova Cronica, or New Chronicles.
Our 16th century reprint of Villani’s Florentine chronicle features contemporary marginal annotations on nearly every page, marking important lines and serving as commentary on the text. These marginalia also include a number of drawings, seemingly intended to add scholarly value to the work by illustrating subjects mentioned in the printed text.
Notable illustrations include an image of the Great Comet of 1264, a drawing of carroccio, a wheeled cart used for carrying a city’s standard on the battlefield, and a martinella, a bell mounted on the carroccio and used to signal military maneuvers over the din of war. The work also features a number of highly stylized manicules throughout.
The Chronicle is one of our most heavily annotated works, and its marginal illustrations and comments bear further study. What might we learn from these annotations that we couldn’t learn from the printed text? What was the identify of this anonymous annotator?