The Raven King, By Marcus Tanner

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The Independent Culture

Bound with his symbol of a raven, the 2,000 volumes in the library of Matthias Corvinus (1443-1490) have long dispersed, yet they continue to be a powerful nationalist symbol in Hungary, which he ruled from 1458.

Tanner, a long-time Independent contributor, draws a fascinating portrait of this regal bibliophile. Matthias maintained genial relations with Dracula, who appealed to his "morbid sense of humour".

Unhappy at home, Matthias sought solace in accumulating a store of knowledge second only to the papal library, but his interest in astrology proved misplaced. A volume predicting "a life...fairly long" appeared just before he succumbed from eating a mouldy fig.