bonæ litteræ: occasional writing from David Rundle, Renaissance scholar

Humanism in Fifteenth-Century Europe: the structures of contacts

Posted in Humanism by bonaelitterae on 25 May, 2012

Thanks to those very nice people over at the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature, I can provide a brief update on the volume that has just appeared. In their wisdom, they have decided to make a sample of the latest Medium Ævum Monograph, Humanism in Fifteenth-Century Europe, available on-line for free (none of this nonsense of Open Access at a price) and the sample provided is the front matter plus one chapter — my own on ‘The Structures of Contacts‘. That essay attempts to provide an interpretation that could knit together the other contributions to the volume (though, at times, a critical reader might feel, it unstitches a few of those chapters). The interpretation centres on the concept in which I strongly believe: that quattrocento humanism was, from its inception, an international enterprise, with a cast-list of participants or, at least, collaborators that was cosmopolitan, as were the locations both for humanist invention and of audiences for these works. In discussing this, I attempt to cover the geographical range of the volume, but concentrate on highlighting a series of themes: the differing nature of travel of humanists (the émigré, the migrant, the migratory), the eclectic nature of the community of humanist scribes in Italy, the role of merchants in the humanist enterprise (using a particular example relating to Bartomoleo Facio), and the chronological change over the century and, in particular, the impact of the intervention of print. I end with a side-swipe or perhaps rather a gentle cuff around the head for those early modernists who imagine the Renaissance is theirs. Read on…

A dated humanist manuscript at auction

Posted in Manuscripts by bonaelitterae on 25 November, 2008

The catalogue of the Sotheby’s sale on 3rd December is now available on-line. It includes one very interesting manuscript by a humanist scribe. It is a manuscript of St Ambrose, Hexameron, dated to 1446 by the scribe who also signs himself in code: he is Antonio Crivelli.

The catalogue entry talks of there being only two other manuscripts signed by him. In fact, there are at least nine others known to be by him: they are discussed by Massimo Zaggia in his seminal article, ‘Copisti e commitenti di codici a Milano nella prima metà del Quattrocento’, Libri e documenti, xxi (1995). Prof. Zaggia does not include this manuscript in his list, nor does it seem recently to have appeared at auction (I say on the basis of a quick search of the Schoenberg Database). As the title of Zaggia’s article suggests, Crivelli was Milanese and the illumination of this manuscript is the style related to the Master of the Vitae Imperatorum (a designation which has become so widely used, the Master’s workshop would have to be have been working over-time). Milan had its own distinct response to the Florentine invention, or revival, of littera antiqua, most notable in the circle of Pier Candido Decembrio but Crivelli wrote a bookhand more fully consonant with the Florentine reforms. He is unusual among his humanist brethren not for naming himself but for doing so in code, sometimes following the colophon ‘Libri scriptorem bone iesu fac meliorem’, as in this manuscript and in a copy of Suetonius in the Trivulziana, and dated 1444. That latter manuscript was made for the bishop of Novara, Bartolomeo Visconti, and one wonders whether this manuscript, in which the coat-of-arms at the foot of the first folio is now damaged but clearly formed of four quarters, was transcribed for the same owner. I have not had — and fear I will not have time to — visit New Bond Street to see this codex in the flesh. Who, I wonder, will buy this elegant manuscript in such torrid times?