Jacopo Strada‘s Magnum ac Novum Opus: A Sixteenth-Century Numismatic Corpus
When the Swedes plundered the art chamber of the Duke of Bavaria in Munich during the Thirty Years' War, the most famous object 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 with the mainly 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 at the time, it has not been studied in greater detail to this day. The reasons for this lie in the upsurge of scientific numismatic research at the end of the 18th century. Since the corpus no longer met their demands, it lost much of its reputation.
Duke Albrecht had not acquired Strada's coin descriptions, which, according to Strada, should be complementary to the coin drawings. They are a separate work, surviving in two copies in Vienna and Prague, entitled A<ureorum> A<rgenteorum> A<ereorum> NumismatΩn Antiquorum ΔΙΑΣΚΕΥΕ. Therefore, its descriptions were never compared with the volumes of drawings. These eleven volumes contain structured and methodical descriptions, annotations and indications of provenance 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 the 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, will be entered into the database of the Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture known in the Renaissance, our project partner. 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 is to be produced, which will be generally 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 coin descriptions. 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 are published in the appendix.
Forschungszentrum Gotha der Universität Erfurt Schloßberg 2 99867 Gotha
Illustration: 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, Forschungsbibliothek Gotha, ms. Chart. A 2175, vol. 1, fol. vi r., title page; obverse and reverse of a coin of Vespasian, ibidem, vol. 11, fols. 16r. and 17r.