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The Bibliotheca Corviniana Collection

Documentary heritage submitted by Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary and Italy and recommended for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2005.

The Bibliotheca Corviniana was the second greatest collection of books in Europe in the Renaissance period, after that of the Vatican. It contained works written for King Mathias (1458-1490) and copies of the most important documents known at this time. It represented the literary production and reflected the state of knowledge and arts of the Renaissance. The collection covered philosophy, theology, history, law, literature, geography, natural sciences, medicine, architecture, etc..

Mr. Pal Engel, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences described the importance of the Corvina library as follows: "One of the deepest concerns of King Mathias was the development of a library: he strove for a collection, where the whole body of knowledge of the ancient and modern world would be available. He systematically searched for curios, exchanged books with the great Lorenzo Medici, was a regular customer of Bisticci's bookshop in Florence and maintained relations with other collectors. For some time a workshop, allegedly consisting of 30 artisans, produced books for him at Buda. Scholars think that at the time of the King's death his library may have comprised as many as 2000 volumes. According to a visitor, the Bibliotheca Corvina filled two halls of the palace at Buda, one containing the works of Greek authors, the other those of the Latin writers. Regiomontanus, the leading astronomer of his time was in charge of the Greek codices, Ficino and Pomponio Leto dedicated their works to King Mathias, while Poliziano helped him to acquire new
books." (The Realm of St. Stephen, I.B.Tauris Publishers, London, 2002, p154.)

The material of the Corvinas reflected the most modern scientific standards of the time and corresponded to the needs of the humanist educational idea. They contained antique Greek and Latin authors discovered by humanists; the Bible and works by ecclesiastics; medieval theologians and scholars; and also writings of contemporary humanists. The humanists' favourite subjects included literature, history, philosophy, theology, rhetoric, military science, medicine, architecture and astronomy, which were kept in volumes written in Latin, Greek, perhaps Arabic and even Hungarian.

Today 216 Corvinas are known to exist all over the world. Only 53 items are kept in Hungary. The Austrian National Library possesses 39 volumes, different Italian libraries own 49 items and the rest is in French (7), German (8), English, Turk and USA collections.

Their reunification in a digital version of the Bibliotheca Corviniana and its inscription on the Memory of World Register would mean the recreation of a unique representation and overview of what was the common cultural heritage of the Renaissance in the 15th century Europe.

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