Abecedario Pittorico, or the Virtuoso's Companion

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 56
  • Dates of Creation
      18th Century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      Extent of unit of description: 325 x 205 mm. 2 volumes interleaved (281 folios, 242 folios);
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

Manuscript translation into English by W. Hatchett of Pellegrino Antonio Orlandi's Abecedario pittorico. Entitled: 'Abcedario [sic] Pittorico: or The Virtuoso's Companion, being a brief historical & chronological account of the lives of upwards of 4 thousand painters, sculptors, architects and engravers, ancient and modern, down to the year 1719, with their surnames, nicknames, proper names, countries, schools, and the times in which they flourished, with the authors ancient & modern, who have treated on these matters.' There is a dedicatory preface from Hatchett to Lord Spencer.

Administrative / Biographical History

Pellegrino Antonio Orlandi was an Italian writer and an early historian of Italian painting, becoming a member of the Bolognese Accademia Clementina due to his art research. He was by vocation a Carmelite friar and lived at the Bolognese convent of San Martino, where he collected paintings and prints. In 1704 he published the Abecedario pittorico, the first collection of artists' biographies organized alphabetically in Italian. The book's second edition was published in 1719. Orlandi corresponded with artists and collectors in Rome and Florence to obtain updated information for the new edition, which elevated the Abecedario's status from a collection of biographies to a handbook about art and artistic practices. The book included bibliographies on books about artists as well as information about history, mythology, and poetry. In this sense, it constitutes one of the earliest art bibliographies ever written. However during the 19th century, the Abecedario was criticized by the art critic Giuseppe Campori for its inaccuracies.

Access Information

The manuscripts are available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by Mrs Enriqueta Augustina Rylands, on behalf of the John Rylands Library, from John Poyntz Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer (1835-1910), in July 1892.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, with reference to an article on Pellegrino Antonio Orlandi found on Duke University Library's Online Dictionary of Art Historians at http://www.lib.duke.edu/lilly/artlibry/dah/orlandip.htm.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MS 56).

Custodial History

The manuscript was formerly part of the Spencer Library at Althorp, Northamptonshire, which was largely assembled by George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834); then by descent to John Poyntz Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer (1835-1910).

Geographical Names