Skip to main content Skip to navigation

An overview of the festival books featured on the British Library's 'Treasures in Full' site

To view an image in more detail, click onto the 'thumbnail' version. To hide the larger version of the image, click on the 'close' link at the bottom right of the enlarged image.

In date, they span more than two centuries from one of the first printed texts recording the spectacular banquet arranged for a princely marriage in Pesaro in 1475, a banquet which lasted seven and a half hours during which gods sent the food to the table, to the entry in 1697 of the Elector of Saxony into Cracow.   The festivals span many countries and display many national differences and, although the greater number concern festival events in Italy, the collection includes a range of Festivals throughout Europe.  Indeed, every kind of entertainment is represented – royal entries, processions, coronations, weddings, baptisms, funerals, princely journeys across Europe, all described in illustrated books that dwell on jousts, simulated naval battles, castle-stormings, orations, opera, ballets, masks, performances on ice, and fireworks.   There are, for example, diverse accounts of the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520, that  magnificent encounter between Henry VIII and François Ier – a diplomatic extravanganza that was, in fact, empty of real political content. There are several  pictorial rolls of engravings recording the coronation of Emperor Charles V by the Pope in Bologna in 1530, an occasion on which the Church had to be guarded by four cannons and 2,000 Spanish troops.   If you are interested in princely entries, you will find among these texts Philip of Spain’s magnificent entry into Antwerp in 1549 and William III’s reception in The Hague in 1691;  baptisms are recorded in splendour like that of Philip III’s firstborn in Valladolid in 1602; and funerals are encountered in profusion including that of the wife of Philip IV, Senora Dona Isabel de Borbon, celebrated in Madrid in 1645.

The first illustration shows the funeral pomp laid on for the interment of the wife of Philip IV of Spain; the main altar and the lying in state of the queen’s body are clearly visible.

1. Press mark 605 e 30 (1).   Funeral pomp for the wife of Philip IV of Spain, main altar and lying in state – page 53 of 365.
Illustration 1

To give an idea of the range of material, consider this rather stark title vignette prefacing a letter that describes the wedding of Philip II and Mary Tudor in 1554.  

In Illustration 2 you will see the imperial eagle at the central point, topped by the imperial crown and flanked by the prince’s columns and his device Plus ultra.  

2. C 33 f 13.   Title vignette of account of wedding of Philip II and Mary Tudor – page 1 of 10.
Illustration 2

Then there is this frontispiece for the royal entry into Lyons in 1548 where the printer’s device is beautifully engraved, and seems, momentarily at least, more important than the occasion being recorded.  

Illustration 3 shows the title page of a text describing the Entry of Henri II into Lyons with the printer’s device given particular prominence.

3. Press mark 811 g 33.   Title page of Entry of Henri II into Lyons, 1548 – page 1 of 88.
Illustration 3
A different approach is the overview of an event provided at the beginning of an account of the entry of Maria Magdalena, Archduchess of Austria, into Florence prior to her wedding to Cosimo II in 1608.

In this Illustration (Illustration 4) the entire entry procession is stretched out, showing also the triumphal arches and monuments erected to greet Maria Magdalena. The meaning of these temporary decorations is briefly indicated in the text below the engraving.

4. Press mark 605 d 27 (d).   Wedding of Cosimo II and Maria Magdalena, an overview of the entry – page 3 of 166.
Illustration 4

Next page >>

Show the page index

Hide the page index

Listen to this text: