By Anne Leader
On 5 May 2016 at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, Leo S. Olschki publishers presented their two-volume work Codice Rustici: un viaggio attraverso la Storia, l’Arte, e la Chiesa della Firenze del XV secolo (The Rustici Codex: a trip across history, art and the church of Florence in the 15th century), edited by Elena Gurrieri with a critical edition of the manuscript by Kathleen Olive and Nerida Newbigin and a collection of interpretive essays by various scholars.
The first volume contains a 568-page facsimile of the manuscript written by the Florentine goldsmith Marco di Bartolomeo Rustici (1393–1457), which he entitled “Dimostrazione dell’andata o viaggio al Santo Sepolcro e al monte Sinai” (Account of the journey or voyage to the Holy Sepulchre and to Mount Sinai). Measuring 32 x 47 centimeters, the facsimile allows readers the opportunity to study each page of this precious manuscript, keeping the original safely preserved for future generations. It is housed at the Biblioteca del Seminario Arcivescovile Maggiore di Firenze, whose librarian Elena Gurrieri first thought to create a high quality facsimile eighteen years ago.
The second volume, which can be purchased separately, offers essays by Cristina Acidini, Franco Cardini, Alice Cavinato, Francesco Gurrieri, Simone Martini, Nerida Newbigin, Kathleen Olive, Francesco Salvestrini, and Timothy Verdon. Olive and Newbigin have transcribed and edited Rustici’s text, thus making its tales accessible to those who cannot read fifteenth-century script. Furthermore, the delightful sketches of places real and imagined are reproduced so they can be easily studied and compared to each other.
Thanks to these volumes, we can study and enjoy Rustici’s work not only in Florence at the Seminary Library’s reading room, the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, and the Biblioteca Berenson at Villa I Tatti, but also from Italy to the United States to Australia at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas, Dartmouth College, the Morgan Library, and Monash University. Hopefully many more libraries will purchase the volumes, bringing the extraordinary account of Florence, the spiritual journey of Marco Rustici, and his enchanting sketches of the buildings and sites of Florence and the Holy Land to readers across the globe, something Rustici himself surely could never have imagined.
Marco di Bartolomeo Rustici, Elena Gurrieri, Kathleen Olive, and Nerida Newbigin. Codice rustici: dimostrazione dell’andata o viaggio al Santo Sepolcro e al monte Sinai di Marco di Bartolomeo Rustici. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2015.