A Decorated Letter, in Cicero's Treatise on Stoic Philosophy
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Famed for his skills as an orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE) was a Roman lawyer and politician whose essays on friendship and old age are still considered models of writing style. His writings were among those highly admired by statesmen and intellectuals in the early Italian Renaissance of the 15th century. This manuscript, which contains three of Cicero's essays, was copied by an Italian scribe in Florence--thought to be Franciscus Benini Niccolai de Radolfinis--and decorated with ornament based on classical designs. The clear, rounded letter forms are hallmarks of the Italian Renaissance style of handwriting that is called 'humanistic' or 'antique'. This manuscript belonged to Lincoln College, Oxford, possibly given to the college by the founder's nephew, Robert Flemmyng (died 1483), who annotated it.
This page has the beginning of Cicero's essay on Stoic philosophy, which he seems to have written as a preparation for further writing about ancient Greek philosophy. At the time, writing about philosophy had become his retreat from the world of Julius Caesar's dictatorship. The first letter of the essay is decorated in a style that is based on ancient Roman ornament.