Illuminated degree certificate from the university of Padova.

DIPLOMA  (1669)



Manuscript on vellum. Bifolium. 4to. Brown ink with opening initial and majuscules in gold, first page with lavish border of fruit, foliage, insects and a frog, portrait of the Virgin Mary praying at the head, remainder of text pages with full borders of foliage and flowers in gold, blue, green, red and pink (disbound, lacking seal). 


A handsomely written and illustrated degree certificate from the University of Padova, awarding Jacopo Ventureno (Iacobus Venturenus) from Bergamo a doctorate in canon and civil law - 'in utriusque iure' - in February, 1669. 

The text of such degree certificates - issued predominantly in universities in Northern Italy until the late eighteenth century - was relatively formulaic and changed little between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It begins by naming those with the power to grant the degree - usually an official and/or prelate with a connection, or position of governance at the university, in this case, the Bishop of Padova, Gregorio Barbarigio - and going on to provide the name of the candidate, the subject in which he was being examined, the quality of his work and abilities, and the names of his examiners. After this, and to signify his doctoral status Jacopo was given three traditional and symbolic gifts; first, books – ‘closed to symbolise the knowledge held within the books, then opened to signify that [he] would teach from them’ (Grendler, 177). Second, the three-cornered doctoral cap, or biretum; and finally, a gold ring, representing ‘the marriage between the doctor and his subject’ (Grendler, 177). As a graduate of the university at Padova, Ventureno was in illustrious company. Those who had studied there included Nicolas Copernicus and Galileo; Pietro Bembo, Aldo Manuzio the Younger and Torquato Tasso; Ulisse Aldrovandi and Andreas Vesalius; Frances Walsingham, Reginald Pole and William Harvey.

The text is dated 2 February, 1668, and signed '? Epus. Famangustanus', and by the notary, Joannes (Giovanni) Bertazzi. 

Border foliage and floral decoration are frequently and conventionally to be found adorning degree certificates from this period, though the addition of fruit, insects, and even a frog on the first leaf are enjoyable and unusual additions, and more playful than might be expected on such a document. As J. F Payne comments in his Notes (London, 1908) on the Padovan degree certificate of William Harvey, which was awarded in 1602, the quality of such illustration was directly proportional to the amount of money the graduate was willing to spend; 'while a design template was followed, the quality of the work varied from graduate to graduate, and "the diploma being an individual possession, no two specimens are precisely alike"' (Payne, cited in Braaksma, p.5).

Portion of lower corner lacking, not affecting border, some wear at foot of central fold from cord and seal (now lacking); impression of cord visible around central fold on recto. 

B. Braaksma, 'Padua on the Prairies: How a C17th diploma di laurea brought Enlightenment to Winnipeg', (University of Manitoba Libraries, Canada) [accessed online 12/08/21]. P. F. Grendler, The Universities of the Italian Renaissance (2002). J. F. Payne, Notes to Accompany a Facsimile Reproduction of the Diploma of Doctor of Medicine Granted by the University of Padua to William Harvey 1602 with a Translation (London, 1908). 

Stock Code: 243894

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