Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The emperor Frederick II was, among other things, a very learned man who wrote a highly regarded book on falconry. Presumably, he would have had a sizeable library. Is there some mention of his library in the sources? And, going further, do we have some idea of what happened to it after his death?

share|improve this question
I imagine (only that for now) that parts of the library may have ended up in Cistercian libraries. I read that Frederick II was admitted into the order and that he died wearing the habits of a Cisterian monk. There is evidence (e.g. in this German PhD thesis) that Cisterians were granted many privileges during his reign, also for political reasons. The order has done relatively well until today; its oldest continuously occupied abbey was founded in 1133. –  Drux Jan 28 '13 at 22:21
@Drux Interesting idea. Were there Cistercian monasteries in Sicily in Frederick's time? –  Felix Goldberg Jan 28 '13 at 22:32
Yes, there were. E.g. the said PhD thesis has a graph on p. 313 with specific focus on Cistercians in the Regnum Siciliae. The graph on p. 319 lists the island of Sicily separately. The text mentions several specific abbeys (not in relation to donation of library books, but e.g. wine yards), such as Maria de Novara di Sicilia. –  Drux Jan 28 '13 at 22:50
@astabada's answer is indeed VG. So just another thought here: Frederick II had the University of Naples founded in 1224 (it's the world's oldest state university), and it probably also included a library (and hypothetical receiver of some of his own books) already then. –  Drux Jan 31 '13 at 10:04

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I am sorry this is the only thing I could find.

  • because the royal court was constantly moving, Frederik's library was dispersed in many different places;
  • the part that he carried with him, so presumably the dearest one, was seized by his enemies, and thus likely divided as loot between different factions;
  • parts were left in his different residencies; of these some were gathered by his successors, some were neglected and went lost.

As a result, we can say with confidence that the library has been destroyed as a whole. For instance, the Tabula Rogeriana, written by the Arabic scholar Muhammad al-Idrisi, ended up in Paris and Oxford, while the book about falconry is conserved in the Vatican.

Among the book that it contained I have found:

  • Tabula Rogeriana, a geographic treatise with a map of the world, by al-Idrisi al-Idrisi's world map
  • De animalibus (translation of Aristotle's work by Scot)
  • A shorter work on animals by Avicenna ibn Sina
  • Frederik's book on falconry

None of these survives in original, but we have copies.

Let's see the sources:

Moreover, Frederick's court was an itinerant one, partly because the imperial lands of Germany and northern Italy were traditionally ruled by an itinerant emperor with no single capital or base; partly because the strains of war kept Frederick on the move in Lombardy and central Italy for long periods in the 1230s and 1240s.

After residing in Southern Italy, in the Regnum (and in Apulia in particular):

In 1239-40 Frederick [...] carried with him, it is true, some remarkable animals - an elephant, camels, falcons - as well as his crown jewels and part of his library. Much of this was seized by his Lombard enemies at Parma.

Additional evidence is provided by the fact that:

Art of Hunting with Birds is a thoroughly remarkable piece of science, describing in exact and unadorned detail the nesting habits of falcons and their prey [...] The book survives in two versions [...] but there once existed in Frederick's own possession a very beautiful copy of this or another hunting book. In 1264 or 1265 a citizen of Milan offered Charles of Anjou, count of Anjou and Provence, and soon to be king of Sicily, a copy of the book captured with the emperor's treasures at Parma; [...] This may in fact have been not his falcon book but a second work, on hawks as a whole (of which the falcon is a sub-species). In any case, Manfred searched out Frederick's additional notes deposited in the castles of Apulia before setting to work on his revision of the falcon book, and it seems that Frederick had been accumulating notes and drafts for over thirty years. Sections of the falcon book on the diseases of birds are now lost, and even so the work is a very substantial one; the Vatican manuscript is only 111 folios, but the six-book version reaches 589 folios in a fifteenth-century copy prepared for a later claimant to the throne of Sicily.


Frederik II a medieval emperor, Abulafia D., 1988, Oxford University Press


share|improve this answer
Thanks, this is a very good answer. I'll wait with the bounty till the end of the week, if you don't mind, but will be glad to award it to you then! –  Felix Goldberg Jan 31 '13 at 1:38
You might want to check the Historia Diplomatica Friderici Secundi. Sadly my Latin is too bad to profit from the online versions, and I could not find a translation (for free). –  astabada Feb 6 '13 at 17:04

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.