Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

MSS. Canon.:
manuscripts from the collection of Matteo Luigi Canonici (1727-1805)



Most of the Canonici manuscripts are described in various volumes of the 'Quarto' series of catalogues, except for the liturgical ones, which are described in the Summary Catalogue. The divisions of the collection, which must not be regarded as very accurately carried out, and the catalogues in which descriptions may be found, are as follows:

All are listed very briefly in the Summary Catalogue, vol. IV, pp. 313-421, giving references to the 'Quarto' catalogues. The Summary Catalogue also includes a few corrigenda, and descriptions of a few manuscripts ommited from the 'Quarto' catalogues.

History of the collection

[The following three paragraphs are taken from the Summary Catalogue, vol. IV, pp. 313-4, incorporating a few minor alterations and corrections.]

Matteo Luigi Canonici was born at Venice on August 5, 1727, and became a Jesuit in 1743. His natural bent was towards history and antiquities, and when Accademico of the college of St. Catherine at Parma he formed a first collection of medals and books, but in 1768, when the Jesuit order was suppressed in the kingdom of Naples and duchy of Parma, it was confiscated, Canonici, who had retired to Bologna, only receiving a small sum of money in return. Next he collected pictures, but this scandalized his superiors, and he was forced to get rid of them, obtaining in exchange a museum of medals. In 1773 a further supression of the Order took place, and Canonici retired to Venice, where he set himself to study history, and collected coins, statuary, printed books and MSS., chiefly during autumn journeys to Rome, Naples, Florence or elsewhere. He acquired for instance en bloc the collections of the duke of Modena, and the library of Giacomo Soranzo of Venice, which was itself partly derived from the Biblioteca Recanati. He always hoped that the Jesuits would be restored, and intended in that case to make them his heir, but eventually he died at Treviso (in October 1805) without making a will.

Canonici's collections passed to his brother Giuseppe, and on his death in 1807 to Giovanni Perissinotti and Girolamo Cardina, who divided them. To the former fell the MSS., then about 3550 in number, and, after many attempts to sell them, the Bodleian became the purchaser of the greater part in 1817, for £5444 5s. 1d., or including incidental expenses about £6030, the largest single purchase ever made by the Library. The formal list of volumes handed over was signed on May 18, 1817, and the books probably arrived later that year.

In 1821 a few additional Canonici MSS. were sold in London by public auction: and in 1835 the Rev. Walter Sneyd, of Denton House, Cuddleston, purchased all that remained in Italy, 915 in number: including a valuable geographical work by Marino Sanuto (now British Library, Add. MS. 27376).

Further reading

An important study of the provenance of many of the Canonici manuscripts is

A catalogue of a large group of Canonici manuscripts not at the Bodleian, with notes on his library, may be found in the introduction of

Western manuscripts to c. 1500
Western manuscripts
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