The Raven King

Matthias Corvinus and the Fate of His Lost Library

Marcus Tanner

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July 1, 2008
288 pages, 234 x 156
16 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300120349
Cloth

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Seizing the Hungarian throne at the age of fifteen, Matthias Corvinus, the "Raven King,” was an effervescent presence on the fifteenth-century stage. A successful warrior and munificent art patron, he sought to leave as symbols of his strategic and humanist ambitions a strong, unified country, splendid palaces, and the most magnificent library in Christendom. But Hungary, invaded by Turkey after Matthias's death in 1490, yielded its treasures, and the Raven King’s exquisite library of two thousand volumes, witness to a golden cultural age, was dispersed first across Europe and then the world.

The quest to recover this collection of sumptuously illuminated scripts provoked and tantalized generations of princes, cardinals, collectors, and scholars and imbued Hungarians with the mythical conviction that the restoration of the lost library would seal their country's rebirth. In this thrilling and absorbing account, drawing on a wealth of original sources in several languages, Marcus Tanner tracks the destiny of the Raven King and his magnificent bequest, uncovering the remarkable story of a life and library almost lost to history.

Marcus Tanner is a journalist and writer, editor of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, and a leader-writer for the Independent. His previous books include Croatia, Ireland's Holy Wars, and The Last of the Celts, all published by Yale University Press.

"Marcus Tanner has written a fascinating book, which tells not only the life-story of Matthias Corvinus but also the later history of his library. . . . Tanner has a shrewd sense of character and a vivid eye for detail, and he succeeds in bringing to life the politics of Matthias's reign, with all its dynastic in-fighting and geopolitical jockeying for position."—Noel Malcolm, The Telegraph

"Tanner traces the creation and dissolution of the fabled library of the 15th-century Hungarian King Matthias Corvinius. . . . This book belongs in public libraries and will be of great interest to students of eastern European history."—Library Journal

“This story of Italians in fifteenth-century Hungary, from the queen and bishops down to librarians and copyists, will sure fascinate the reader.”—John Stoye, University of Oxford     

"The Raven King: Matthias Corvinus and the Fate of His Lost Library is a fascinating story of an early example of library collection development." —Judit Hajnal Ward, Slavic and East European Journal
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