BEINECKE RARE BOOK AND MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY
GENERAL COLLECTION OF RARE BOOKS AND
Beinecke MS 557
Benedetto Cotrugli, De navigatione, in Italian
1. Front flyleaf v: Table of contents s. XVI in three columns, to be read in the following order:
col. 2, col. 1, col. 3. The titles of the chapters are given without indicating their number or the
Book in which they occur.
2. ff. 1r-2v Benedictus de Cotrullis equitis ad inclitum senatum Venetorum de navigatione liber
incipit. Prohemium primum foeliciter. [I]mmortalis est hominum cura, serenissime princeps et vos,
clarissimi patritii cives Veneti, qu@ non solum servire sibi, sed propagare posteris morem habet
... quorum potior est numerus. Sed iam ipsam navigationem seriosius audiamus.
3. ff. 2v-66v Finito prohemio incipit tractatus. Benedicti de Cotrullis tractatus de navigatione
f@liciter incipit. Capitulo primo de acque in genere. [H]avendo mo ad tractare del l'arte del
navigare, la quale e maritima e tanto digna, che meritamente lo vero et bon marinaro se po
chiamare cavaliere, ello e necessario intendere alcuni fundamenti delle acque ... poi havete
Pyrano, poi Aquilleia in Friulo o vero Foro Iulii et sondo //.
Benedetto Cotrugli (Benedictus de Cotrullis, c. 1410-1469, De navigatione liber (Della
After the prologue in Latin addressed to the Doge and the Senate of Venice, the author, quoting
countless Biblical, ancient, medieval and Renaissance authors and drawing largely on his own
experience, deals in Italian successively with the following subjects: Book I (ff. 2v-23r). Water,
the sea and the ocean in general (cc. 1-3), the various oceans and seas of the world (cc. 4-45; the
Adriatic Sea is treated at length), the various kinds of seas (c. 46) and islands (c. 47), the qualities
of a port (c. 48), description of the inhabited world (c. 49; the map is missing). Book II (ff. 23v-
39r). History of navigation (c. 1), ships in Antiquity (c. 2), present-day triremes and biremes (c.
3), the various offices on board ships (cc. 4-9), sails, rig, armament (c. 10), special kinds of ships
(c. 11), dimensions of ships (c. 12), caravels, carracks, barques and other types of ships (c. 13).
Book III (ff. 39r-60v). Winds (cc. 1-4), weather-forecast (c. 5), rainbow, halo, lightning,
whirlwind and celestial fire (cc. 6-10), the signs of the Zodiac, their character and influence (c.
11), astronomical tables (cc. 12-13; the tables themselves are missing), properties and influence of
the planets (cc. 14-15; the tables are missing), chronological terms (cc. 16-19), seasickness (c. 20).
Book IV (ff. 60v-66v). Introduction (c. 1), portolano maps (c. 2), description of the coast of the
Mediterranean and the Black Sea, starting in Gibraltar and longing the African coast eastward,
ending incomplete at Aquileia (Frioul) and containing all data necessary for establishing a
portolano map (c. 3).
Paper, ff. II (paper) + 66 + I (paper), 205 x 145 mm.
I-IV 8 (ff. 1-32), V 10 (ff. 33-42), VI-VIII 8 (ff. 43-66). Signatures "a"-"h" in the lower outer
corner of the recto pages of the first half of the quires, of the type "a1"-"a4", mostly trimmed
No ruling visible. One column of c. 30 lines.
Written by one hand in Humanistica Cursiva close to Humanistica Textualis. Headings and
opening words of chapters in pale red capitals.
Heightening of majuscules and paragraph marks in pale red up to f. 10r. Space for 2- or 3-line
initials at the opening of all chapters, the initials not executed. Illustration largely missing; the
few that have been executed are crudely drawn: f.10v, lower margin, diagram of the climate
zones of the world: only the captions are executed; f. 25v: diagram of the position of the rowers
in Cleopatra's galley; f. 42r: ancient compass-card; f. 43v: modern compass-card.
Binding s. XIX: yellowish parchment over cardboard. Marbled paste-downs.
The author, born in Ragusa (Dubrovnik), was a businessman and humanist, from 1451 onwards in
favour at the Court of Naples. His Della mercatura e del mercante perfetto, written in 1458, was
for a long time considered his only surviving work. Our manuscript, written during his lifetime
and no doubt under his supervision or by his hand, is the only existing manuscript of Della
navigazione and it is unfinished, missing most of its illustrations and the end of the text. In 1914
it was put on sale by the Neapolitan booksellers Lubrano, but in 1954 its whereabouts were
reported unknown. The date of the work, 1464, appears in the text on f. 16v: "dalla hedificationi
de Adria fina allo presente iurno de MCCCCLXIIII sonno anni MMDLXXIII". See M. Luzzati
in Dizionario biografico degli Italiani, v. 30 (1984), pp. 446-450, who still considers the codex
On the front flyleaf r the words "Illustrissimo signore Alvisio Pisano gentilomo Venetiano" (s.
XV/XVI) are repeated 9 times. Below, the name of two owners: "Marii Caetani Aglioti iuris
consulti Messanensis" (s. XVI, partly cancelled; Aglioti is a family in Messina counting several
lawyers among its members) and "Ex museo marchionis de Sterlich" (s. XVIII; the marquesses
de Sterlich of Naples were ennobled in 1775). At the top of the same page: "Formosum pastor
Corydon ardebat Alexin"; "nil mei miserere [mori] me denique cogis?" (s. XVI, Vergil, Ecl. 2.1
and 7); at the top of the verso, above art. 1: "Come la gloriosa vergine Maria appari a una donna
inferma et del sanctissimo sacramento". On the front paste-down a printed description in Italian
of the present manuscript is pasted, no doubt taken from the 1914 Lubrano antiquarian catalogue
(see above) and stressing the manuscript's uniqueness. Collection of Henry C. Taylor. Bequest of
Henry C. Taylor, 1970.
Bibliography: Taylor Collection, no. 2.