The learned dottoressa Nuvoloni, felicitously forenamed Laura considering her gifts for humanist study, has moved on from the success of the volume on Bartolomeo Sanvito, the leading exponent of the italic script that refines textual presentation to a level of sustained elegance. More on the Sanvito volume, which builds on the work of the late A. C. de la Mare, another time. Laura’s new project demonstrates that she is one of those rare scholars who can combine both manuscript and incunable expertise — a combination that remains all too rare. She is now ensconced in Cambridge, working with their incunables, and — the casus belli for this post — is providing with her research an enlightening and wonderfully illustrated blog.
Her work, already finding evidence for the lives of the volumes she handles, also reminds us how incunable studies have developed since Oates’s 1954 catalogue of incunabula in Cambridge libraries. Building on previous generations’ work, some of the most interesting — at least for someone like myself interested in issues of provenance — research has been on the history of individual copies. This approach, in Britain, is best demonstrated in the Bodleian Catalogue of Incunables to which several scholars contributed. It is excellent to know that Cambridge has a similar project, though the description of it suggests that the information will, in the main, be provided on their main on-line catalogue. Let us hope that it is also made available in other ways, and that the project will provide an opportunity for an exhibition to follow in the footsteps of ‘Cambridge Illuminations.’ Forza, Laura!
Tomorrow, I set off for a month’s teaching in Florence. It is a new course, organised at the Palazzo Rucellai, intended for high-flying graduate medievalists who want to learn more than is often available about the skills that are core to our subjects: palaeography, philology, codicology. It will be an adventure for everyone — for Stefano Baldassarri, the mastermind behind the project, those of us who are designing the modules for it, and most especially for the students themselves.
The contribution I have been asked to give is on ‘codicology and incunabula’. As those of you will know who have followed this blog with an assiduity that is uncommon and perhaps unwise, my expertise lies in the manuscript world — I am guilty, perhaps, of a little of the disdain that Vespasiano had in spades for the new-fangled culture of print. But providing a course that ranges across both allows for interesting juxtapositions and reflections on what each subject can learn from the other. And having the course in Florence invites me to consider the differences in national approach to the subjects and in particular to the tradition of manuscript and incunable description.
As both an introduction and a coda to the course, I have concocted a brief bibliography on the topics. It is by no means meant to be full, nor am I anticipating that the students hunt down all of the 100 plus works during their four weeks in Tuscany. I hope rather — and this is why I call it a coda — that they will refer to it long after they have left Alberti’s palace and the winds have blown them, like the Rucellai’s boat, far from their temporary home. I am putting it on-line here, both for their benefit of the students and for the interest of any wandering scholar who might happen upon here and wish to find some intellectual nourishment.