The British Library’s collection of Italian illuminated cuttings consists of around 675 initials, miniatures, and single leaves. These were predominantly cut from liturgical manuscripts of northern and central Italian monasteries and churches that were suppressed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Cuttings from non-religious manuscripts, such as miniatures from law text-books, and frontispieces from doge’s commissions of the Venetian Republic, are also represented in the collection.
Abbé Luigi Celotti’s auction at Christie’s in London in 1825 of miniatures, including many taken from service books of the Sistine Chapel, fostered the taste for Italian illumination amongst English art collectors. The British Library has the largest single holding of miniatures originating from that landmark sale.
How to search for illuminations:
The illuminations are preserved in 41 Additional and 2 Egerton manuscripts (see full list of manuscripts included). Each illumination has a separate catalogue record, unless more than one originally formed part of the same manuscript, in which case they have a joint catalogue record. The relevant folio letter(s) or number(s) are included as part of the manuscript number.
Add. 18196, ff. 71-77 or Add. 18197, ff. D, G and I
To find a specific illumination, search for its manuscript number only (without the folio references).
All of the catalogue records for this manuscript number will be displayed. Scroll down the display until you find the illumination you want.
To find Add. 17864B, search for Add. 17864
Add. 17864A, Add. 17864B, and Add. 17864C will be displayed.
If you search for Additional manuscripts and Origin: Italy, this will find all the cuttings from the 41 Additionals – i.e., all Italian cuttings except the two Egertons.
To find all of the illuminations included in the project, search for ‘Italian cutting*’ in the Keyword field of the Simple search.
Non-Italian illuminations have not been catalogued as part of this project.
The cataloguing project
The project to catalogue the Library’s Italian cuttings was funded as part of a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to the British Library and Courtauld Institute of Art. AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Student Anne-Marie Eze who catalogued the cuttings submitted, in 2010, her thesis entitled Abbé Luigi Celotti (1759-1843): Connoisseur, Dealer, and Collector of Illuminated Miniatures. The images for the project were funded, in part, by a grant from "Il Circolo" Italian Cultural Association.