Thursday, September 29, 2016


Gabriella Albanese, Claudio Ciociola, Mariarosa Cortesi, Claudia Villa (ed.), Il ritorno dei classici nell'Umanesimo: studi in memoria di Gianvito Resta. Firenze: SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2015. Pp. xxxi, 699. ISBN 9788884504777. €75.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Ioannis Deligiannis, Democritus University of Thrace (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This rich and varied volume in memory of Gianvito Resta consists of thirty-one essays, outstandingly edited by the presidents of the four scientific committees working under a single project envisioned by Resta: "Il Ritorno dei Classici nell'Umanesimo." It opens with a justifiably long and detailed introduction to Resta's contribution to the establishment of the project, the history of the editorial production and research results of the individual committees, their missions and purposes, as well as a justification for preserving and continuing their contribution to the humanities. All the essays, written by leading scholars in the areas covered by the project, provide a detailed and comprehensive study of various aspects related to the humanistic reception of classical Greek and Latin authors and texts, as well as to Renaissance historiography.

For the purpose of this review, the essays will be discussed according to their content and inclusion in one of the project committees, though the boundaries are not always distinct (in the book, the essays are arranged in alphabetical order by author). The first group of essays deals with aspects related to humanist and Renaissance commentaries on Latin texts. V. Cotza outlines the manuscript tradition and circulation of Giovanni de Virgilio's Allegorie Ovidii, especially in Lombardy, and closely examines certain manuscripts that shed light on scribal and textual interrelations. The origins and history of two Greek manuscripts copied by Peter the Cretan in the milieu of Vittorino da Feltre's school in Mantua are discussed in S. Martinelli Tempesta's essay. The discussion includes detailed descriptions of the manuscripts under discussion, identifies Gian Pietro da Lucca as the author of the marginalia in one of them, and provides exhaustive documentation of the author's argument. L.C. Rossi's fascinating contribution discusses Domenico da Peccioli's use of Dante as an authoritative source of quotations in his commentary on Seneca's Epistulae Morales. C. Villa and F. Lo Monaco present an important discussion of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth-century Florentine reception of Martianus Capella's De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii. Villa and Lo Monaco discuss the work's reception not only on a textual level, but also on an educational and artistic level in the city's ruling family. Botticelli's Spring and G. Budé's philological apprenticeship in Florence also become part of the story. To the same group of essays should be ascribed the late M. Geymonat's "Virgilio fra Scilla e Cariddi". Almost equal in number are the essays dedicated to the area of vernacular/Italian translations of classical and medieval texts. On the basis of the dedicatory manuscript of G. Brevio's Italian version of Isocrates' Ad Nicoclem to Alessandro de' Medici, C. Ciociola re-establishes the date of this translation and provides an exemplary study of the manuscript and the text. A. D'Agostino offers a fine analysis of the linguistic and stylistic value of the Istorietta troiana, an anonymous partial version of the French medieval romance Roman de Troie into Florentine dialect, and its relation to a vernacular version of Ovid's Heroides; he also attempts to identify its translator. E. Guadagnini and C. Lorenzi discuss two works by Brunetto Latini: his Rettorica, a partial Italian version of Cicero's De inventione, and an Italian version of Cicero's In Catilinam I, attributed to Latini. The former essay deals with some quite interesting aspects of the manuscript tradition of Latini's text, while the latter provides a close examination of the translation techniques and the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of the translation in comparison with those of the original; the author concludes that its attribution to Latini is rather doubtful. C. Lorenzi Biondi's article is concerned with the life and work of the copyist Gherardo di Tura Pugliesi; the author makes a careful palaeographical analysis in order to secure the attribution of certain manuscripts to Gherardo, and provides a comprehensive list of the manuscripts of vernacular texts and translations copied by him. L. Sacchi studies the remarkable vernacular poetic adaptation of the Latin Historia Apollonii Regis Tyri in a cantari collection from the middle of the fifteenth century and considers attributing the work to various poets active at Sigismondo Malatesta's court. G. Vaccaro focuses on the thirteenth-century Italian translation of Vegetius' Epitoma rei militaris by B. Giamboni; the author briefly discusses the manuscripts preserving the text and their interrelations, and points out the need for a new edition of the text.

E. Berti's article is the first of the essays fully dedicated to the third scientific area of the volume, humanist and Renaissance Latin translations of Greek texts. Its principal focus is a manuscript of L. Bruni's Latin version of Plato's Phaedo copied in the middle of the fifteenth century by B. Bembo and its place in the manuscript tradition of the translation. In the course of the discussion Berti arrives at new conclusions regarding other copies deriving from a lost intermediary from which Bembo's manuscript originated. The Greek manuscripts used by M. Ficino for his Latin versions of Pythagoras' Aurea verba (Laur.Conv.Soppr.180) and the Definitiones (Laur.85.9) ascribed to Speusippus are the focus of A. Carlini's essay; he is able to show how Ficino consulted the former manuscript to supplement and correct the Greek text of Plato in the latter, which he used for his translation of some of Plato's dialogues. C. Cocco offers an exhaustive analysis and a critical edition of the Latin translation of Aesop's fables attributed to Guarino Veronese. Using information extracted from Guarino's letters, other sources and textual evidence, she convincingly discusses this authorial attribution and the textual relations of this translation with another version of the same text made by Guarino. M. Cortesi discusses the Latin version of Plutarch's Quaestiones romanae et graecae made by Gian Pietro da Lucca in the middle of the fifteenth century. The author traces its textual tradition and offers some significant conclusions on a version revised and corrected by G. Calfurnio that was used for the translation's editio princeps. R. Ferri's article is related to late antique lexicography rather than the humanistic translations from Greek into Latin. The two bilingual papyrus fragments examined reveal important aspects related to their role as didactic texts. By exploring possible links between the two fragments and later bilingual dictionaries, the author draws some speculative conclusions on the interrelations between Eastern and Western bilingual lexicography. S. Fiaschi writes about F. Filelfo's Latin translation of the Hippocratic De flatibus and De passionibus, dedicated to F. Maria Visconti. She shows how the translator's choice of the original Greek texts is related to the dedicatee of these versions. She also meticulously examines the manuscript tradition of the Latin texts, identifying the dedication copy, and traces their circulation, especially among students of medicine. In addition, she offers a hypothesis regarding the Greek manuscript probably used by Filelfo for his translations. The article contains an edition of Filelfo's prefatory letters to Visconti. Likewise, P.B. Rossi examines the first humanistic Latin translations of Aristotle's Analytica Posteriora, which were made by R. de' Rossi and G. Tortelli during the first half of the fifteenth century. After outlining the conditions in which the translations were produced, Rossi lists their manuscripts, publishes their dedicatory epistles, and compares sections of them with the corresponding ones from the twelfth-century version by James of Venice, attempting to identify their interrelations. P. Viti discusses the Latin translation of the Enchiridion of Epictetus by A. Poliziano. The article contains a close examination of Poliziano's dedicatory letter to Lorenzo dei Medici and of his epistle/response to B. Scala's criticism, in which Poliziano emphasised the pedagogical and educational purpose of his translation. D. Amendola's article has been left last in the discussion of the essays under this group because it presents various aspects of a historical work by L. Bruni, the Commentarium rerum Graecarum, which derives from Xenophon's Hellenica. It is not a clear case of translation of a Greek text into Latin, but, as the author shows, Bruni abridged and reshaped the Greek text to produce a new Latin one. Amendola outlines the historical circumstances of its production and attempts to identify the Greek manuscript used by Bruni for his work. It is a valuable contribution to the study of the reception of Greek authors in the Italian Renaissance, showing how some humanists departed from the path of traditional translation, adapting the original to new genres and purposes.

The last group of essays discusses various topics of humanistic history and historiography. G. Albanese's article deals with the life, the historical work and the library of Ludovico Saccano. By presenting and discussing new documents, she securely re-establishes the dates of Saccano's life, his intellectual relations with L. Valla, Cardinal Bessarion and C. Lascaris, and his dedicated interest in classical Greek and Latin texts and manuscripts. Enea Silvio Piccolomini's embassies for the Emperor Frederick III to Milan between 1447 and 1449 are the focus of G. Chittolini's article; the author methodically examines the historical and political circumstances that led Milan from F.M. Visconti's signoria to that of F. Sforza as well as the emperor's attempts to place the city under his authority. Piccolomini's Historia Bohemica is the subject of M.G. Fadiga's article; the author's systematic and thorough analysis reveals how the future pope used this historical work to support and promote his ideas on how Papacy and Empire could act together to create a stronger Europe, under threat from the Ottoman Empire. F. Delle Donne examines possible connections between politics and historiography in Gaspar Pelegrí's Historia Alphonsi primi regis and makes some interesting observations on the humanistic ideas of historiography and its theories. B. Figliuolo publishes and discusses all the documents and letters concerning Antonio Beccadelli's embassy for King Alfonso the Magnanimus to Venice; these reveal not only aspects of the political history of the time, but also some cultural aspects as well, related to manuscript trading. G.M. Gianola offers a critical edition with Italian translation of Albertino Mussato's prologue to De gestis Henrici VII Caesaris; the edition is preceded by a discussion of its textual tradition, its content and purpose, and other aspects of this text. L. Gualdo Rosa presents the desperate attempts made by Lapo da Castiglionchio the younger to secure a place in the Papal Curia, as revealed from a letter of his to Biondo Flavio; the author offers an edition of the letter and a brief discussion of the relations between the two men. R. Modonutti focuses on Giovanni Colonna's use of Historia Augusta for his Mare historiarum; the author methodically and persuasively re-evaluates and refutes previous conclusions on the relations of the two texts. A well-documented historical approach of some of Poggio Bracciolini's facetiae is the topic of discussion in S. Pittaluga's essay. P. Pontari offers a detailed analysis of the historical work De origine urbium Italiae et eius primo incolatu, attributed either to Riccobaldo da Ferrara or to Leonardo Bruni; the author rejects both attributions and proves that the work should be considered anonymous until there are secure proofs for its authorial attribution.

The volume concludes with four indices painstakingly compiled by P. Pontari. A selective reading and checking of entries of the indices was sufficient for me to confirm their comprehensiveness and accuracy.

Overall, this collection of essays brings together a number of established scholars in this field of studies, contributing significantly to the investigation and interpretation of the classical tradition and its reception in the Italian Renaissance. The authors successfully study and present new evidence, publishing new documents and texts and shedding light on less known aspects of the classical world. The only drawbacks one could observe, although they are unrelated to the content of the essays, are: a) the essay presentation in alphabetical order of the authors' last name; it would certainly be more helpful if they were distributed thematically according to their content and their attribution or relation to one of the four areas representing the committees, and b) the fact that there is a certain imbalance in the number of works dedicated to the four areas. However, these do not diminish the significance of the volume.

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