The Shape of the Book
From Roll to Codex (3rd century BC-19th century AD)


edited by F. Arduini

exhibition catalogue: Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, 15 February-31 July 2008

Following the success of Imaginary Creatures, the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana inaugurates “The Shape of the Book: From Roll to Codex” (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, 15 February–31 July 2008), the second event of the Library on Display project, a series of theme-based exhibitions of Laurentian manuscripts.

Both the exhibition and the catalogue are divided into two sections, the Papyrus Collection and the Manuscript Collection. The first section opens with the famous Sappho ostrakon first published by Medea Norsa (PSI XIII 1300), a potsherd on which a pupil from the 2nd century BC wrote some strophes of an ode possibly dedicated to Aphrodite, and includes waxed wooden tablets, a lead tablet, carbonized papyri, papyrus fragments (of particular interest are several documents from the Zenon Archive, 3rd century BC), and papyrus and parchment rolls and codices.

Differing markedly in terms of format, production, script and decoration, the rolls and codices included in the second section illustrate significant stages in the evolution of the book form through the ages. Several manuscripts document the activity of notable centres of book production during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, from the imperial scriptorium at Constantinople to monasteries and high-quality workshops in Europe and particularly in 15th-century Florence. The section features a codex in Giovanni Boccaccio’s own hand, one of the models of the so-called “Danti del Cento” (a group of 100 manuscripts of Dante’s Divine Comedy produced in the 14th century) and examples of pocket and giant Bibles, ending with a superbly illuminated Persian manuscript and two Oriental scrolls from China and Japan respectively, unusual sights in Italian conservation libraries.

The masterful introductory essay by Guglielmo Cavallo offers an overview of the history of the book from the papyrus roll to the invention of the printing press, a field in which his expertise is virtually unparalleled.

Franca Arduini is Director of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Laurentian Library), Florence.


Digital version available on

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Eur 14,00

Weight 0,2 kg
Dimensions 14 × 20 cm





64 a colori


English, Italian


978-88-7461-115-7 (ita), 978-88-7461-116-4 (ing)

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