The Classics:  Foundations of Humanism

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1347) is generally held to be the first scholar to turn to classical authors such as Cicero and Seneca as models for his own writing and, thus, he is considered to be one of the first true humanists.  A revitalization of classical texts was at the center of the humanistic tradition and this new Greek and Latin scholarship led to the rediscovery of many lost manuscripts.  Petrarca himself was responsible for finding a host of lost texts by Cicero, among others, including the letters to Atticus, speeches, and the Pro Archia.1  The humanists of fifteenth-century Florence produced interpretations and studies of the classics and used them to write their own imitative works, further contributing to the vast amount of scholarship that flourished during the period.

The books depicted below are a sampling of the classics printed in Florence before 1501 as well as books that derive from the classics.  The translation of Josephus' De bello Judaico attests to the increase of the study of Greek that occurred in the Fifteenth century.  De viribus illustribus and Vitae et sententiae philosophorum gave Renaissance scholars information about Greek philosophy while Marullo's Epigrammatum [...], written after 1489, is modeled on Lucretius.  De grammaticis et rhetoribus contains the biographies of grammarians and rhetoricians and--along with Venturini's Rudimenta grammatices, a grammar book--would have proven useful for humanists in their study and teaching of Greek and Latin grammar.  The works of Horace, especially the Ars Poetica, profoundly influenced Renaissance writing and poetry.

Click on images to enlarge.

Flavius Josephus, De bello Judaico, Printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1493 Diogenes Laertius, Vitae et sententiae philosophorum, Printed by Jacopo di Carlo and Pietro Bonaccorsi, 1489
(above) Flavius Josephus, De bello Judaico, printed by Bartolommeo dei Libri, 1493 (UIUC X Q.881 J5BI 1493) (above) Diogenes Laertius, Vitae et sententiae philosophorum, printed by Jacopo di Carlo and Pietro Bonaccorsi, 1489 (UIUC X 881 D8.I 1489)
Anonymous (attributed to Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Cornelius Nepos, and Sextus Aurelius Victor), De viris illustribus urbis Romae, Printed at the press of the Monastery of Saint Jacob of Ripoli, 1478 Michele Marullo, Epigrammatum libri IV.  Hymnorum naturalium libri IV, printed by Societas Colubris, 1497
(above) Anonymous (attributed to Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Cornelius Nepos, and Sextus Aurelius Victor), De viris illustribus urbis Romae, printed at the press of the Monastery of Saint Jacob of Ripoli, 1478 (UIUC X 871A D49 1478) (above) Michele Marullo, Epigrammatum libri IV.  Hymnorum naturalium libri IV, printed by Societas Colubris, 1497 (UIUC X 875.1 M36e 1497)
Caius Suetonius Tranquillus, De grammaticis et rhetoribus, printed at the press of the Monastery of Saint Jacob of Ripoli, 1478 Francesco Venturini, Rudimenta grammatices, printed by Antonio Miscomini, 1482
Caius Suetonius Tranquillus, De grammaticis et rhetoribus, printed at the press of the Monastery of Saint Jacob of Ripoli, 1478 (UIUC X 871 S8v 1478) Francesco Venturini, Rudimenta grammatices, printed by Antonio Miscomini, 1482 (UIUC X Q.475 V56r)

 

Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Opera cum commentariis Christophori Landini, printed by Antonio Miscomini, 1482

Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Opera cum commentariis Christophori Landini, printed by Antonio Miscomini, 1482 (UIUC X 871 H5 1482)

1.  Letizia Panizza, "The Quattrocento," in The Cambridge History of Italian Literature, ed. Peter Brand and Lino Pertile (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 133.

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