In the Footsteps of the Ancients: The Origins of Humanism from Lovato to Bruni

By Ronald G. Witt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
THE BIRTH OF THE NEW AESTHETIC

The renewed interest in Latin grammar and literature by 1190, after a century of neglect, could not by itself have led to the birth of Italian humanism.1 Nonetheless, the early Italian humanists would not have

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1
I deal extensively with the decades following the struggle over investiture in my The Two Cultures of Medieval Italy, 800–1250 (forthcoming). See also my brief characterization of the period in my “Medieval Italian Culture and the Origins of Humanism as a Stylistic Ideal, ” in Renaissance Humanism: Foundations, Forms, and Legacy, ed. Albert Rabil, 3 vols. (Philadelphia, 1988), 1:42.

Because commentaries on ancient authors were intimately connected with the formal teaching of their work, the popularity of a particular author can be gauged by the number of surviving commentaries and accessus to his work. B. Munk Olsen, L'Etude des auteurs dassiques latins aux IXe et Xlle sucks, 3 vols. in 4 (Paris, 1982–89), devotes the first two volumes of his study to an inventory of Latin manuscripts of most of the literary writings of ancient Latin authors, along with commentaries and accessus to their work, copied in various areas of western Europe between 800 and 1200 and currently found in European and American libraries.

I will deal with this catalogue in more detail in my forthcoming work on medieval Italy, but for the present it is important to say that in the statistics that I give below, I have condensed to four the geographical areas that Munk Olsen assigns for the origin of the manuscripts: Italy, France, Germany, and England. I include in the geographical area “Germany” all manuscripts originating in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland. Those manuscripts whose origin is given as northern or southern France are comprised under “France.” Because of the complexity of the Low Countries, manuscripts designated as from “Belgium” or “the Low Counties” have been omitted. I have arbitrarily assigned manuscripts credited to Lorraine to “France” and those to Alsace to “Germany.” “Italy” includes all manuscripts listed by Munk Olsen as originating in Italy. Although Munk Olsen marks many manuscripts as of unknown origin, if he suggests a single area as a possible location for a manuscript, I assign it to that area. If, however, he indicates that alternative origins are possible, I have omitted the manuscript from my calculations.

Where possible, Munk Olsen uses abbreviations to indicate more specifically the period when a manuscript was copied, within the four centuries covered by his inventory. His terminology for the twelfth century reads as follows: xii in [beginning], xii 1 [first half], xii m [middle], xii [within the century], xii 2/4 [second half], xii/xiii [either late xii or early xiii], and finally xii/xiii xiii [leaving open the possibility that the manuscript was copied after the first decades of the thirteenth century]. Because the last designation suggests the possibility that the manuscript was copied well into the thirteenth century, I do not consider manuscripts belonging to that category in the statistics below. Scholars working in particular areas may quarrel with dating of hands, places of origin, and with the incomplete nature of the inventory in general. Nonetheless, the statistics are suggestive.

Those for commentaries and accessus written for major ancient writers (Virgil, Lucan, Statius, Ovid, Terence, Juvenal, Cicero, Horace, and Sallust) are as follows:

The three Italian manuscripts are Oxford, Bodleian, Canon. Cl. lot. 201–1 (xii) (on De inv.): ibid., 1:326–27 (Commentary 26 [which Munk Olsen abbreviates “Cc. 26”]); Montpellier, Faculte de medecine, 426–1 (xii) (on Horace): ibid., 1:516 (Cc. 11); and Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Lat. 4. 219–1 (xii/xiii): ibid., 2:798 (Cc. 5). To these should be added Pierpont Morgan Library 404, a manuscript of the twelfth century containing numerous glosses on Horace's poetry: ibid., 1:473 (Cc. 124).

Apart from their relevance for determining the relative status of classical authors in the school curricula of different areas of northern Europe over the twelfth century, the figures indicate that the soaring interest in ancient authors in the twelfth century in France was not matched in Italy.

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In the Footsteps of the Ancients: The Origins of Humanism from Lovato to Bruni
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Table of Contents *
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Chapter Two - The Birth of the New Aesthetic 31
  • Chapter Three - Padua and the Origins of Humanism 81
  • Chapter Four - Albertino Mussato and the Second Generation 117
  • Chapter Five - Florence and Vernacular Learning 174
  • Chapter Six - Petrarch, Father of Humanism? 230
  • Chapter Seven - Coluccio Salutati 292
  • Chapter Eight - The Revival of Oratory 338
  • Chapter Nine - Leonardo Bruni 392
  • Chapter Ten - The First Ciceronianism 443
  • Chapter Eleven - Conclusion 495
  • Appendix 509
  • Bibliography 515
  • Index of Persons 549
  • Index of Places 556
  • Index of Subjects 558
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