LEARNING THROUGH IMAGES IN THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE
Illustrated manuscripts and education in quattrocento Florence
340pp. Cambridge University
Press. 75 [pounds sterling] (US $99.99).
In a fifteenth-century manuscript held in Florence's Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS II.II.83, there is a distinctive trace of early readership. Between the hind legs of a doodled donkey, added in a brazen scribble, are a sizeable penis and testicles. The manuscript is an illustrated copy of the Esopo volgarizzato, a Tuscan version of Aesop's fables. Owned by the Benci family of Florentine traders, the book was probably employed in the education of several generations of Benci sons. As Federico Botana comments, the "innate tendency of male children to draw genitalia is apparently nothing...