The great books of Greece and Rome were written down between 800 B.C. and A.D. 450. They were first printed and disseminated only after A.D. 1450. Once printed, they were likely to survive only because they were so good or because there were now so many copies of them. But between the distant centuries when the classics were composed and the comparatively recent centuries when they were reproduced by the man with the machine, grave obstacles and recurrent perils often threatened to obliterate them.
First came the danger of war. It always seemed to be more violent than people expected. It is capricious. In the conflict of human wills, deliberation, and choice and purposive action are often sacrificed to sheer destructive energy. When the Crusades were sacking Constantinople in 1204, a drunken soldier was seen tearing up the sacred books of the Hagia Sophia.
King Matthias of Hungary ( 1440-1490) had collected a magnificent library of manuscripts, some written for him by Italian calligraphers and some bought by his agents in Greece and Asia Minor. Part of it was captured by the Turks in 1541 during their advance into Central Europe and some specimens were sent back to Istanbul. The others were left in storage, damaged by fire and carelessness, recaptured in 1688, and divided up among the conquerors. And yet a few manuscripts of the original library still remained together, at least until the end of the nineteenth-century, in the Grand Seraglio at Istanbul, after the drums and tramplings of four centuries.
( see link at end) …The collecting of the books – and mostly of the ones that contained not only interesting and important facts but luxurious illuminations – became the main characteristic feature of humanists.
Hunyadi Mátyás – who is called Matthias Corvinus because of the raven on the coat-of-arms – was born in a family that was traditionally art patron, and had Italian relationships. His father, Hunyadi János, who supported Wladislaw to come to the throne after the death of Sigismund, and lead many, mostly successful campaign against the Turks, helped the construction of the Dominican monastery in Kolozsvár – where Mátyás learnt later for several years – and the renewal of the cathedral in Székesfehérvár. He was in contact with Alphons of Aragon Neapolitan king, Francesco Sforza, prince of Milano, and the Signoria in Florence. He knew personally Poggio Bracciolini as well, and through him the family got in contact with the Italian Humanism….
The tutor of Matthias was János Vitéz, bishop of Várad, who was the student of Pier Paolo Vergerio, the humanist called to Hungary by Sigismund. Later, after his coming to the throne, Matthias was surrounded by pontiffs who had studied at Italian universities. One of them was Janus Pannonius, bishop of Pécs (Sopianae), who was the nephew of János Vitéz. So, because of his personal environment and education, and because of the fact that Hungary traditionally -since István- had vivid Italian relationships, Matthias took strong interest in the freshest scientific and artistic results, and – successfully – intended to plant them in his own court and country. He probably ordered codices from Florence since 1460, but the first data of regular book collecting and copying is from 1471.
The direct precedence of Bibliotheca Corviniana is the library of János Vitéz and Janus Pannonius. Vitéz was bishop of Várad since 1445, he founded here the first Hungarian humanist library, which he later enlarged as the archbishop of Esztergom. Janus Pannonius established his library during his bishopric in Pécs, in which he had Latin codices as well as books in Greek language. In 1472 both collection became the property of Matthias.
The Bibliotheca Corviniana contained about 2000 – 2500 volumes in its golden age, at the moment we know more than 200 authentic corvina from which only 52 are in Hungary.Read More:http://www.fondazione-delbianco.org/inglese/relaz/buA4.htm