Strada’s Magnum ac Novum Opus

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DFG-Projekt Jacopo Strada’s Magnum ac Novum Opus: A Sixte­enth-Century Numis­matic Corpus

Dura­tion: 2015–2022 

When the Swedes plun­dered the art collec­tion of the Duke of Bavaria in Munich during the Thirty Years’ War, the most famous object they acquired was the corpus of numis­matic drawings by Jacopo Strada, Magnum ac Novum Opus conti­nens descrip­tionem vitae, imaginum, numis­matum omnium tam Orien­ta­lium quam Occi­den­ta­lium Impe­ra­torum ac Tyran­norum, cum collegis ac coniugibus libe­risque suis, usque ad Carolum V. Impe­ra­torem. The 30 volumes of largely impe­rial coins even­tually ended up in the library of Duke Ernst the Pious of Saxe-Gotha-Alten­burg, today’s Gotha Rese­arch Library (Chart. A 2175, 1–14, 16–30). Strada probably received a ducat for each of the appro­xi­mately 8,500 drawings, executed in pen and ink on folio. They had been commis­sioned from him by his first patron, Hans Jakob Fugger. Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria later acquired the loose sheets, toge­ther with Fugger’s library and collec­tion. He had them magni­ficently bound in red leather and had the covers deco­rated with his portrait and coat of arms.

Although this coin corpus was highly valued in its own day, it has not yet been studied in great detail. The reasons for this lie in the growth of scien­tific numis­matic rese­arch at the end of the 18th century. Since the corpus did not meet the stan­dards of this type of rese­arch, its perceived value declined.

Duke Albrecht did not acquire Strada’s coin descrip­tions, which, according to Strada, were meant to go toge­ther with the coin drawings. They are a sepa­rate work, which has survived in two copies in Vienna and Prague, enti­tled A[ureorum] A[rgenteorum] A[ereorum] Numis­matΩn Anti­quorum ΔΙΑΣΚΕΥΕ. There­fore, the descrip­tions were never compared with the volumes of drawings. These eleven volumes contain struc­tured and metho­dical descrip­tions, anno­ta­tions and indi­ca­tions of the loca­tions where Strada claims to have seen the coins. This allows for a close exami­na­tion of Strada’s inter­pre­ta­tions of the coins, which in turn opens up the possi­bi­lity of studying the approach of anti­qua­rians of the time in detail.

The most important prere­qui­site for these compa­ra­tive studies was the digi­ti­sa­tion of drawings and texts in order to be able to compare them. The coins and descrip­tions, if an antique original can be iden­ti­fied as a model, are being entered into the data­base of the Census of Antique Works of Art and Archi­tec­ture known in the Renais­sance. The coin descrip­tions will also be entered into the data­base ‘Trans­latio Nummorum’ (KHI Florence) in order to make the text and the coin drawings not asso­ciated with an antique original accessible.

As a result of the project, a digital edition of the drawings of Strada’s Magnum ac novum opus and the accom­panying descrip­tions of the  A[ureorum] A[rgenteorum] A[ereorum] Numis­matΩn Anti­quorum ΔΙΑΣΚΕΥΕ will be produced, which will be acces­sible via the data­bases of the Census and the KHI in Florence.

In a mono­graph, selected drawings by Strada will be published and anno­tated toge­ther with the descrip­tions of the coins. It will also contain a descrip­tion of the condi­tion of the mate­rial, infor­ma­tion on its origin and a recon­struc­tion of the sequence of the coin drawings as Strada had origi­nally planned it. Further­more, the Magnum ac novum opus will be placed in the scien­tific history of numis­ma­tics and in the context of anti­qua­rian studies in the 16th century. In addi­tion, a selec­tion of tran­scrip­tions and trans­la­tions of the most important passages will be published in the appendix.

Fron­ti­spiece of the Magnum ac Novum Opus


Project head

Prof. Dr. Martin Mulsow
+49 361 737‑1700

Senior rese­ar­chers

Dr. Volker Heenes
+49 361 737‑1732

Dr. Dirk Jacob Jansen
+49 361 737‑1731

Project Part­ners

Forschungs­bi­blio­thek Gotha
, Census of Antique Works of Art and Archi­tec­ture Known in the Renaissance