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New Database of Celebrity Gossip & PR launched (for the 15th century…)

Researchers from the University of Warwick have created a fully searchable database of more than 250 rare Renaissance festival books (designed to document festivals mounted to mark and promote key events in the lives of Renaissance celebrities) which is now available for the first time on the British Library's website at

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and directed by the University of Warwick, The Festival Books Digitisation Project features 253 books from the late 15th to 18th centuries, photographed and presented in full with preliminary material, title pages, illustrations and dedications. Drawing from the British Library's existing collection of over 2,000 volumes of festival books, users can access and read over 14,000 pages which describe 300 years of festival entertainments in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe.

Important events in the life of a princely dynasty, such as marriage, the birth of an heir, christenings, coronation or a funeral, were celebrated by mounting a public festival. Festival books were official accounts of these occasions, issued by or with the approval of court, city or religious authorities and often contained eye-witness accounts and moral and philosophical reflections. Religious festivals took place on saints' days and significant dates in the Church calendars and festivals were often mounted to mark the formal entry of a prince into a city, either at home or abroad. A range of artistic elements such as theatrical, operatic or ballet performances would often accompany a festival.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • the earliest festival book in the collection, a description of the eight-hour banquet for the marriage of Costanzo Sforza and Camilla of Aragon in 1475

  • a presentation copy, most likely belonging to Catherine de Medici, of Charles IX's 1571 entry into Paris

  • a fine copy of the book known as the Rubens Triumph, describing the entry of the Infante Cardinal Ferdinand into Antwerp in 1641 and illustrated with Rubens plates
  • the first and second printings of Wynkyn de Worde's 1520 edition of the festivities held at the Field of Cloth of Gold

Note for Editors: The Festival of Books Digitisation Project, funded by the AHRC is a result of the collaboration between the AHRC Centre for the Study of Renaissance Elites and Court Cultures at the University of Warwick and the British Library. The University of Warwick - British Library Festival Books digitisation project was directed by Professor Ronnie Mulryne and Dr Margaret Shewring of the University of Warwick, with input from Dr Kristian Jensen and other expert staff at the British Library.

For further information please contact:

Professor Ronnie Mulryne, University of Warwick tel: 01789 205774

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager, Communications Office, University House
University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 8UW Tel: 024 76 523708 or 07767 655860 email:

PR58 PJD 9th August 2005