Continuing our ‘Treasures’ series, I’ve chosen to highlight this illuminated manuscript, produced in Milan over 500 years ago. The text is a classical work by the Roman writer Livy, describing the period known as the Second Punic War (218-201BC). As Livy describes it, “…the story of the most memorable war in history… fought by Carthage under the leadership of Hannibal against Rome.” It includes the journey of Hannibal’s army across the Alps with war elephants, the siege and fall of cities and battles in Italy, Spain and Africa.
This is one of my favourite items in Special Collections as the illustrations are simply stunning. Despite the small scale of the figures, the artist has taken a great deal of care with them. The people’s facial expressions, especially, convey the drama of the subject matter and the battle scenes show the consequent turmoil, destruction and cost to life. It makes an interesting comparison with our illuminated manuscripts on religious subjects.
Like so much of the material in our care, the manuscript’s own history as an object adds to the fascination – where has it travelled to over the centuries and with whom? Read more in a Book of the Month article.