bonæ litteræ: occasional writing from David Rundle, Renaissance scholar

Marianne Pade and the Popularity of Plutarch

Posted in Manuscripts by bonaelitterae on 29 August, 2008

I recently wrote a review for Renaissance Studies of a work which deserves the epithet ‘monumental’: the long-awaited, two-volume comprehensive study of The Reception of Plutarch’s Lives in Fifteenth-Century Italy by Danish humanist scholar Marianne Pade. It is so important because there was a veritable vogue for Plutarch translations in the early quattrocento, particularly (though not exclusively) of his Lives, which appealed to humanists as improving, diverting and thankfully short. Plutarch’s place in the humanist revival of classical literature is well-known but has not previously received such sustained study.

I notice that there are already a couple of reviews on-line of this work, by Julia Haig Gaisser and Maude Vanhaelen; it is not my intention to repeat here the substance of my own review, which will appear in print early in 2009. You will already be in little doubt of the praise I heap on the work, not least for the meticulous scholarship on display in the second volume, which edits all the surviving dedications of the Latin translations of Plutarch’s Vitae and a full listing of the extant manuscripts. I do mention in my review that I have a very few corrigenda and addenda to her catalogue of manuscripts which I promise to place here on this site. So, below, are the few comments I can make which I hope will be of some use. I attempt to follow Pade’s layout and use her abbreviations for the names of Lives and translators.

Delete 230 = 220 (The Norfolk Library, held at Gresham College, listed by Bernard, eventually entered the BL as the Arundel MSS).

253: Present location remains unknown but a later sighting, after it left Dyson Perrins collection, can be noted: it was in the Witten catalogue of 1975 as lot 82 and sold for $3150.

325 = Oxford: Bodleian, MS. Ashmole 780, s. xvii. Paper.  A manuscript of only 14 leaves, consisting of brief lives in English, which may in part précis Plutarch.

Add 395.5: Paris: Les Enluminures Gallery, sine numero, s. xv3/4. Paper, northeastern Italy. Po / IA (attrib AP).

441: According to Kristeller, Iter Italicum, ii, p. 146a, it was destroyed in the Second World War.

Add 556.5: Verona: Biblioteca Capitolare, MS. CCLV (227). Thm / G+ (1 – 17v).

The information about 253 I garnered from the useful resource the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts, which records the appearance of manuscripts in sales catalogues over the centuries. From that, a few additions to Pade’s catalogue can be made of manuscripts in private hands and so presently inhabiting Utopia:

Add. i: 1438?. Last sold at Sotheby’s in 1965 (Rukh catalogue, lot 205). Original Italian binding. Mbr. Mar / ??. Context: Sallust, De bello Jugurthino.

Add. ii: s. xvmed. Last sold by Sam Fogg in 1995 (catalogue 16, no. 98). Paper, Venice?. Lu / LI.

Add. iii: 1450?. Last sold at Sotheby’s in 1936 (Mensing catalogue, lot 469). Mbr, Florence. Cam / OL.

Finally, as Pade includes entries which have material related to Plutarch’s Vitae which are not the Latin translations, there are further manuscripts which can surely be added. I offer one example:

Add 470.5: BAV, MS. Cappon. 247. s. xv. Bru / Giovammaria dalla Porta (volgare; ded. Francesco Maria della Rovere, duke of Urbino).

If and when I find further information, I hope to add it to this brief listing.

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  1. […] Humfrey, duke of Gloucester, owned several manuscripts of Latin translations of Plutarch’s Vitae, some of which he gave to the University of Oxford, in his donation of 1444, and one of which, as we shall see, was shipwrecked in Cambridge after his death. The relevant booklists have been or are being edited in the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues (that for Oxford by Rod Thomson, and that for King’s, Cambridge, already published, by Peter Clarke); I use the sigla of that series in the following notes. I will also cite the invaluable guide to the Latin Plutarch recently published by Marianne Pade and which I have discussed elsewhere. […]


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