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Walters Ms. W.354, Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

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Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Text title
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War


Authority name: Thucydides

As-written name: Thucidides


This late fifteenth-century Italian manuscript, written in Greek, contains Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE). Thucydides (ca. 460-400 BCE) was an Athenian general and historian who, while in exile, wrote about the war between Athens and Sparta. The war stemmed from Athens' growing power among the Greek city states and, by the end, Athens was in ruins and Sparta had established itself as the most powerful city in Greece. Thucydides' "History" covers the first twenty-one years of the war (through 411/410 BCE) before the text abruptly ends. We know very little about the author except for what he tells us in the "History," including his father's name (Olorus) and that he lived through the entire Peloponnesian War, writing as an eyewitness. The Walters manuscript is evidence of the humanist interest in ancient Greek texts and authors like Thucydides, especially in Florence and Venice, where the scribe of W.354 originated. David Murphy (see bibliography) attributes W.354 to Damiano Guidotto (active ca. 1500), an Italian scholar and scribe who was fluent in Greek and is responsible for at least ten different manuscripts now housed in various collections in Europe and the USA. Eight of the ten known manuscripts copied by Guidotto were housed in the library of San Francesco della Vigna outside of Venice and were purchased by English collectors in the twentieth century. Thanks to a note in MS Additional 39614 (BL) we know that three of these eight belonged to Lord Robert Curzon (all now in the BL) as of 1834. The five others (W.354, Walters Art Museum; Plimpton 3 and 16, Columbia University; MS Gr. 30, Perkins Library at Duke University; the fifth now missing) were purchased by Rev. Walters Sneyd (1809-1888) and later sold at auction in 1903. Murphy has shown that W.354 is written on the same paper as Plimpton 3 and 16 (Columbia University), which solidifies his attribution of the manuscript to Guidotto, whose name appears in both of the Columbia University texts. The Walters' copy of Thucydides, therefore, belonged to a group of Greek humanist texts (including works by Homer, Aristotle, Xenophon and Plutarch among others) copied by Guidotto for the monastery of San Francesco della Vigna that then made their way to England and finally to the USA in a remarkable journey over its five hundred year life.


Late 15th century CE


San Francesco della Vigna, Venice, Italy


Supplied name: Damiano Guidotto






The primary language in this manuscript is Greek, Ancient (to 1453). The secondary language of this manuscript is Latin.

fols. 338r to 338r:
  1. Transliteration: Τελοs συν θεω
  2. Translation: The End (of the text), With (the help of) God

Support material


Italian fifteenth-century stone-polished paper, perhaps from Venice


Foliation: ii + 341 + ii

Modern pencil foliation, upper right corners rectos; modern paper flyleaves designated A-D


Formula: Binding too tight to do collation, but most likely quires of eight

Signatures: Lower left margin, rectos; signature in the form of progressive Greek letters of the alphabet for each quire of eight



19.5 cm wide by 28.5 cm high

Written surface

9.8 cm wide by 20.6 cm high

  1. Columns: 1
  2. Ruled lines: 31

fols. 1 - 341:
  1. Title: Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
  2. Author: Thucydides
  3. Scribe: Damiano Guidotto
  4. Text note: Written in black ink with marginalia in the same hand
  5. Hand note: Italo-Greek cursive script attributed to Damiano Guidotto
fols. 1r - 338v:
  1. Title: History of the Peloponnesian War
  2. Author: Thucydides
  3. Scribe: Damiano Guidotto
  4. Rubric: θουκυδιδου των ελληνινων προτων
  5. Incipit: θουκυδιδηs αθηναιοs ξυνεγραψε τον πολεμον
  6. Contents: Main text of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War
  7. Text note: Marginalia in the same hand as the rest of the text appear throughout manuscript; at top of first folio in upper margin, in a different hand, is written "Thucidides" in Latin
fols. 339r - 341v:
  1. Title: Table of Contents for the Speeches
  2. Scribe: Damiano Guidotto
  3. Contents: Table of contents for speeches in the text, with first line of each listed in left margin, and corresponding quire letter in Greek to the right
  4. Text note: At end of table of contents in lower margin (fol. 339v), in different hand than rest of text, is written in Latin: "Pertinet ad locum S. Francisci a Vinea."; perhaps added at same time (by same person) as Latin inscription "Thucidides" that appears at beginning of text in upper margin of fol. 2r


fol. 2r:

  1. W.354, fol. 2r
  2. Title: Rubric and incipit for Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War
  3. Form: Text page
  4. Text: Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War


The binding is not original.

Bound in England, ca. second half of nineteenth century in reddish-brown Russia leather by C. Lewis (bookbinder, London, 1786-1836); title tooled in gold on binding; written on fifteenth century Italian paper (Venice); modern woven paper at either end (forming the two pastedowns and four flyleaves); edges in nineteenth-century full gilt


Created in Italy, late-fifteenth century, by the scribe Damiano Guidotto for the Monastery of San Francesco della Vigna (outside Venice)

Purchased by Rev. Walter Sneyd (England, 1809-1888) from Padre Bravia at the Monastery of San Francesco della Vigna, Venice, before 1832; Pencil inscription on front flyleaf reads, "This MSS was formerly in the library of the wealthy Monastery of San Francesco delle Vigna at Venice. I bought it from an old priest named Padre Bravia, a canon of that church, into whose hands it appeared to have passed on the dissolution of the above mentioned monastery at the close of the last century. I obtained from him 3 or 4 other Greek manuscripts, all of which are marked as belonging to that Monastic library. / Bought at Venice, November 1, 1832 / Professor Sardi, Sub-librarian at the Vatican, to whom I showed one of these MSS pronounced it to be the writing of a Greek scribe, probably in the early part of the 15th century."

Sold in Sneyd's manuscript auction, December 16, 1903, at Sotheby's London (then Sotheby's, Wilkinson and Hodge), lot 780, likely to Maggs. Bros.

Maggs Bros., London, (their no. 211, written in pencil on the rear pastedown), likely purchased in 1903 from Sneyd's sale

Leo S. Olschki, Florence, (his no. 29118 written in pencil on front flyleaf) before 1912, likely from Maggs Bros., London

Henry Walters, Baltimore, purchased from Leo S. Olschki (bookseller, Florence) circa 1912


Walters Art Museum, 1931, by Henry Walters' bequest


De Ricci, Seymour. Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. Vol. 1. New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1935, p. 760, no. 17.

Murphy, David J. "Greek epigrams and manuscripts of Damiano Guidotto of Venice." Vol. 12, no. 4. Renaissance Studies (1998), p. 488, fig. 2.

Parpulov, Georgi R. "A Catalogue of the Greek Manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum." Journal of the Walters Art Museum 62 (2004): 75-76.


Principal cataloger: Berlin, Nicole

Cataloger: Walters Art Museum curatorial staff and researchers since 1934

Editor: Herbert, Lynley

Copy editor: Dibble, Charles

Conservator: Quandt, Abigail

Contributors: Emery, Doug; Herbold, Rebekah; Tabritha, Ariel; Wiegand, Kimber


The Walters Art Museum


Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Access Rights, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to the curator of manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.