Sozomeno Da Pistoia (1387-1458): Scrittura E Libri Di Un Umanista

By Kallendorf, Craig | Seventeenth-Century News, Spring-Summer 2017 | Go to article overview

Sozomeno Da Pistoia (1387-1458): Scrittura E Libri Di Un Umanista


Kallendorf, Craig, Seventeenth-Century News


Sozomeno da Pistoia (1387-1458): Scrittura e libri di un umanista. By Irene Ceccherini. Preface by Stefano Zamponi, with an essay by David Speranzi. Biblioteca dell'<>, Serie I: Storia, letteratura, paleografia, 431. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2016. XX + 466 pp. 65 [euro]. I have to admit that I began reading this book with a sinking feeling. Basically a library catalogue of a minor humanist that no one has ever heard of, presented in enormous detail, as homage to a favored local son and funded by a bank that (unlike many others) succeeded in completing its act of cultural homage before the fiscal crisis hit and terminated most projects like this in Italy, the project initially seemed to promise little. By the time I finished the preface, however, it became clear that this book fully merits all the time, effort, and expense lavished on it. Let me explain.

The protagonist of this story is one Zomino (also referred to in the sources as Zambino, Zembino, and Zombino), who Hellenized his name to Sozomeno and is now generally referred to as such. He was born in Pistoia and received his initial education there, but after winning a scholarship for students of modest means, he studied canon law, first in Padua, then in Florence. While in Florence he entered the orbit of the humanism that was emerging there and studied Greek with Guarino da Verona. He was fortunate enough to attend the Council of Constance, where he had the chance to learn of Poggio Bracciolini's manuscript discoveries and to rub shoulders with some of the students of Manuel Chrysoloras, after which he returned to Italy and was elected canon of the cathedral in Pistoia. For more than a decade he continued to live and study primarily in Florence, teaching (probably privately) the sons of Palla Strozzi, Matteo Palmieri, and Leonardo Dati and lecturing at the Florentine Studio in poetry and rhetoric. After finally returning to Pistoia and actually taking up residence there, he participated in the religious and cultural life of the city until his death some twenty-five years later.

Sozomeno was not, to be sure, a superstar scholar like Poggio Bracciolini, Leonardo Bruni, or Lorenzo Valla, but he is an excellent representative of the middle to upper middle register of learning at the dawn of humanism. This by itself merits some attention now, but the same could be said for a good number of others. There are, however, three things that render Sozomeno and his work unique. First is the fact that the surviving documentation allows us to study him in more detail than anyone else like him: he is the only mid-level humanist born in the 70s and 80s of the Trecento whose passage from his initial scholastic education to the new grammatical and rhetorical learning, based in Greek as well as Latin, can be followed in this kind of detail. …

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