Virtuosa Benfeitoria




Livro da Virtuosa Bemfeitoria

Virtuosa Bemfeitoria

Livro da Vertuosa Benfeytoria

Tratado da Virtuosa Benfeitoria

Dos Benefícios

Original Latin source

De Beneficiis (lt.002)

Textual localization 

Work with the same name.


Old Portuguese.



D. Pedro, Duke of Coimbra (Lisbon, 01/09/1392 - Alfarrobeira, 20/5/1449), fourth son of King John I and Philippa of Lancaster, belonged to the Ínclita Geração, which marked the history and Portugal's policy. It became known as the ‘Infante das Sete Partidas’ for the many trips we made and that allowed him to extend its political and cultural vision. Back in Portugal, he was regent during the minority of the future king Afonso V and responsible for several political and cultural changes.

It is assisted, in the translation of this work, by Friar João Verba, Dominican priest with a degree in theology and papal chaplain. According to a bull of Pope Martin V (Rome, February 18, 1423), at the express request of D. Pedro, Friar John Verba was appointed as prior of the monastery of S. Jorge de Coimbra. Previously, according with Dominicans documents now in the Torre do Tombo, was a preacher at the convent of S. Domingos de Lisboa (1412). He died between April 10 and November 22, 1435 (Dinis, 1956 and 1957).

Translation’s contextualization 

Translation of a treaty from Seneca (De Beneficiis), leading thus to what is considered the first treatise of philosophy, moral and ethical policy written in Portuguese. The text has a didactic intention, trying to give directions on what is the best conduct of a prince. The text began to be developed in a time of war with Castile, so D. Pedro interrupted the work to devote to warlike tasks. However, and at the insistence of his brother, D. Duarte, he instructed his confessor, Friar John Verba, to continue the work, reviewing, correcting and adding what it was deemed necessary. Then, what would probably be a simple translation of De Beneficiis, became an enlarged and commented text of the same treaty, with passages whose dense scholarship is attributed to the priest (Gomes, 1993: 681, 683; Afonso, 2007: 106).


The translation was carried out between 1418 and 1433 at the latest. According to Pereira (1981: 318), the end date of the translation can go back to 1425, although this limit is not consensual (Arnaut, 1993: 183-184; Smith 1994: 246, n 5; Gomes, 1993, p. 681).



Changes to the original work


The translation presents several differences with the Seneca’s treaty, not only in content but also structure. In terms of content, it preserves various passages of the latin text, but also includes material taken from other individualities, both of classical antiquity as christian time.

In terms of structure, the work is divided into six books. Each of them has a prologue and conclusion. The organization is as follows:

- Book I - distinguish the various types of benefits;

- Book II - how they should be allocated;

- Book III - how they should be required;

- Book IV - how they must be received;

- Book V - forms of thanksgiving;

- Book VI - indication of what can destroy the relationship established between author and the addressee of the benefits.

There are numerous textual interferences present in the work. In fact, and although the latin work is the main source of translation, there are various passages that refer to classical authors, like Cicero, Boethius and Aristotle. Furthermore, we also find references to Christian authors, like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, and even biblical excerpts (Martins, 1980: 239; Pereira, 1988: 375-376).

This set of interferences is possibly due to the assistance given to D. Pedro by Friar João da Verba. In fact, it is possible that the priest decided to include in the translation passages from other authors that seemed interesting to complement the thought of Seneca, especially in the case of Christian authors.

List of manuscript testimonies


There are several remaining witnesses:

a) manuscript from the XV century, Biblioteca Municipal Dom Miguel da Silva, Viseu, number ‘Cofre: R.o 12’ (manid  1172, cnum 1124).

b) manuscript 9/5487,  XV century, Real Academia de la Historia de Madrid (Códice nº C/66). See page 235 of the Catálogo Geral de Manuscritos of this Academy. There is a microfilm copy in the  Biblioteca dos Serviços de Documentação of the Universidade de Aveiro (manid  1070, cnum 1125).

c) Manuscript from the XV century, Oxford, Bodleian Library, number ‘Lyell MS 86’. (manid  1179, cnum 1135).

d) Late copies:

1. 1701-1740, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, number ‘COD 910’ (previous number: ‘B. 17-29’) (manid  5521, cnum 29111).

2. 1813, Academia de Ciências de Lisboa, number ‘MS. Az. 170’ (manid  1178, cnum 1134).

3. Ca. 1757, Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto, number ‘Geral 1683’ (manid  2053, cnum 11460).

4. 1813, Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto, number ‘Geral 1682-c’ (manid  2054, cnum 11461).

5. 1813, Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto, number ‘Geral 1682-a’ (manid  1080, cnum 1126).

6. Manuscript whose whereabouts are unknown: it is a copy of 1627, on parchment, which existed in the library of D. Rodrigo da Cunha, Bishop of Oporto (manid  4191, cnum 23456).

List of old editions

There are no old printed editions.

Testimonies’ contextualization 

a) Biblioteca Municipal Dom Miguel da Silva: this manuscript comes from convento da Cartuxa, Évora, and originated some copies:

1. 1701-1740, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal (number: COD 910. Cota anterior: B. 17-29);

2. 1813, Academia de Ciências de Lisboa (MS. Az. 170).


b) It is not determined whether the manuscript 9/5487 of the Real Academia de la Historia de Madrid (Códice nº C/66) se trata da versão original da tradução de D. Pedro ou de uma cópia. it is the original version of the translation or a copy. This manuscript also includes a drafted version of the Livro dos Oficios.


c) The Oxford manuscript is incomplete, ending in chapter 8 of the book 6.


d) There are three mre late copies in the Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto:

3. probably from 1757;

4. 1813;

5. 1813.


6. The location of a later copy (1627) is uncertain. We only know that existed in the library of D. Rodrigo da Cunha, Bishop of Oporto.

Other data

a)     Biblioteca Municipal Dom Miguel da Silva, Viseu: parchment, 134 folios of size 284 x 200 mm, written in Gothic lettering. It is illuminated. The copies have the following characteristics:

1. copy of 1701-1740: the text is among the folios 276r and 278v. It is written on paper with the dimensions of 310 x 210 mm.

2. copy of 1813: paper, 550 sheets, size 240 x 190 mm. The letter is cursive.


b)     Real Academia de la Historia de Madrid: illuminated codex with 228 folios (28.5 x 20 cm) of parchment, numbered in pencil. It is bound in parchment. The letter is gothic. The Virtuosa Benfeitoria text arises between folios 1r and 141r.


c)      Oxford: it is on paper (288 x 220 mm). It has 168 folios written in cursive.


d)  Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto:

3. probably from 1757: paper, 197 folios (308 x 206 mm). The letter is cursive.

4. 1813: paper, 22 folios (245 x 196 mm). The letter is cursive.

5. 1813: paper, 303 folios (242 x 190 mm). The letter is cursive.


6. From the testimony of 1627, we know only that it is a copy on parchment.



ALMEIDA, M. Lopes (dir.). (1981). O Livro da Virtuosa Bemfeitoria – Obras dos Príncipes de Avis. Porto: Lello & Irmão, 525-763.

CALADO, Adelino de Almeida (ed.) (1994). Livro da Vertuosa Benfeytoria. Coimbra: Universidade de Coimbra.

FERREIRA, Luís Afonso (1948), 'O Livro de Virtuosa Bemfeyturia' do infante Dom Pedro com a colaboração do licenciado Fr. João Verba. Esboço de edição crítica do Primeiro Livro com introdução Histórico-Literária, restituição de texto, comentário paleográfico e ortográfico e pequeno glossário. Tese de licenciatura. Coimbra: Universidade de Coimbra - Faculdade de Letras.

SILVA, Gerson Gonçalves (1999). O Livro da Virtuosa Benfeitoria, do Infante Do Pedro. São Paulo: Universidade de São Paulo.


Online database:

Philobiblon - BITAGAP:

- texid 1101;

- manid 1172, manid 1070, manid 1179, manid 5521, manid 1178, manid 2053, manid 2054, manid 1080, manid 4191;

- cnum 1124, cnum 1125, cnum 1135, cnum 29111, cnum 1134, cnum 11460, cnum 11461, cnum 1126, cnum 23456.



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