Francesco Petrarca: Citizens of the World (Studi Sul Petrarca, 8)

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It is never easy to deliver a new idea, a new invention, or a new product. Cornell copy Petrarch PQ B01 [ill. This book used to be part of the great library of Spencer, Charles, 3 rd Earl of Sunderland , a statesman, landlord, bibliophile, and distant ancestor of the late Lady Diana Spencer. His books show his arms, with the motto , Dieu defend le droit [ill. The library at Blenheim was increased by the Dukes of Marlborough, and a catalogue was printed in Between and , the collection was dispersed by London-based dealer Bernard Quaritch, only a few years after Winston Churchill was born in the palace.

To be exact, the present volume is a post- incunable , that is, a book printed between and about It was acquired in November by Willard Fiske [ill.

The colophon [ill. The ascendency of print technology was a steady transformation that made use of [the] twin logics of mediacy and hypermediacy, a relatively slow dance of remediation that owed at least as much to handwritten and spoken discourse for its existence as it did to its own technological novelty.

More importantly, Manutius also argued and proved that his elegantly printed books were less flawed than copies made manually by scribes or sold by unscrupulous printers. As a student, and then as a humanist, Aldus himself had suffered from the mediocrity of most editions of the Greek and Roman authors: he worked tirelessly to change that.

Despite his young age he was thirty-one , Piero Bembo [ill. He would establish the modern literary canon with Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio as the three most important Italian writers.

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Bembo could not be blamed for any mistake in the transcriptions, editing, and revisions. Clearly, Aldus Manutius had set new standards for printing and publishing, and readers were appreciative: more than a thousand copies of the Aldine Petrarch book were printed and sold, most of them on paper at the time, the average output was to copies. At this point Petrarch does not lose the opportunity for comparing himself with Cicero. The passage gives so completely the information needed by the reader that it is hereby translated in full Praefatio , I, p. Cicero, however, exhibits such weakness in his adversity that, although I am delighted with his style, I am oftentimes equally offended by his actions.

Add to this his quarrelsome letters—the altercations and the reproachful language which he employs against the most illustrious men whom he has but recently been praising. It all reveals a remarkable fickleness of disposition. On reading these letters, I was soothed and ruffled at the same time. I could not restrain myself, and, indignation prompting me, I wrote to him as to a friend of my own years and time, regardless of the ages which separated us.

Indeed, I wrote with a familiarity acquired through an intimate knowledge of the works of his genius, and I pointed out to him what it was that offended me in his [Pg xi] writings. This letter served as a precedent. Years later, on re-reading the tragedy entitled Octavia , the memory of the letter which I had addressed to Cicero prompted me to write to Seneca also.

Thereafter, and as occasion offered, I addressed letters to Varro, Vergil, and others. Some of these I have placed at the end of this work, and I hereby forewarn the reader of this fact, lest he should be perplexed at coming upon them unawares. The rest perished in that general holocaust of which I have told you above. In the last letter of the collection De rebus familiaribus XXIV, 13, likewise addressed to Socrates, and dated , Petrarch refers again to the grouping together of the letters to the classical authors.

He says III, pp. In ordering these letters, I have been guided entirely by their chronology, and not by their contents. These I have purposely gathered together on account of their strange character and the similarity of their subject-matter. A second exception must be made in the case of the first letter, which, though written later, I have placed at the head of her companions to serve as a preface [a reference to the Praefatio , I, pp. The material embraced in these pages has been partly treated in English and to a greater extent in French by Robinson and Rolfe, and by Develay; see Bibliography.

In both cases, however, the letters chosen have been merely translated, with only the barest attempt at annotating. Even the notes of the Italian translation by Fracassetti are only such as pertain to the life of Petrarch and to those of his correspondents. Thus much concerning the history of the text proper. The notes have been made as detailed as seemed necessary and consistent with the character of the work.

Some of the quotations from the original sources, or from translations, may appear somewhat lengthy at first glance. Only in this way do many brief expressions and pregnant allusions of Petrarch become perfectly clear.

Petrarch and St. Augustine

It is a privilege and a pleasure to acknowledge my great indebtedness to two authors in particular, without whose labors the present study would have been impossible, or, at any rate, vastly more difficult: Giuseppe Fracassetti [Pg xiii] and Pierre de Nolhac. All quotations from the letters are made from the Latin text and from the Italian version as published by Fracassetti.

The volumes of the former are referred to by Roman numerals, those of the latter by Arabic numerals. Passages from other works of Petrarch are cited from the Basle edition of the Opera omnia , except the De remediis utriusque fortunae , for which the edition has been used.

All other titles have been abbreviated in such manner as to be readily identified by consulting the Bibliography.

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The texts used in referring to the works of the classical authors themselves are except when otherwise indicated those of the Teubner series. The number of persons interested in the absorbing period of the Italian Renaissance is increasing daily. The present study deals with only one phase of that truly wonderful period— [Pg xiv] with the beginnings of the Classical Renaissance.

It is hoped that this study may make some appeal to one or to all of these classes. It is the earnest hope of the author, therefore, to pursue his researches along these lines, and to add other volumes to this preliminary study. I have read thy letters through to the end most eagerly—letters for which I had diligently searched far and wide, and which I finally came upon where I least expected.

I have heard thee speak on many subjects, give voice to many laments, and waver frequently in thy opinions, O Marcus Tullius. Hitherto I knew what true counsel thou gavest to others; now, at last, I have learned to what degree thou didst prove mentor to thyself. Wherever thou mayest be, hearken in turn to this—I shall not call it advice—but lament, a lament springing from sincere love and uttered, not without tears, by one of thy descendants who most dearly cherishes thy name.

O thou ever restless and distressed spirit, or, that thou mayest recognize thine own words, O thou rash and unfortunate old man!


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Wherefore didst thou forsake that peaceful ease so befitting a man of thy years, and of thy vocation, and of thy station in [Pg 2] life? Alas, forgetful of the admonitions of thy brother, [4] forgetful of thy own numerous and wholesome precepts, like a traveler in the night didst thou bear the light in the darkness, and didst enlighten for those following thee the path on which thou thyself didst stumble most wretchedly. I forbear to speak of Dionysius; I shall make no mention of thy brother, nor of thy nephew, and, if it pleases thee, I shall pass over Dolabella too—men whom thou dost praise to the skies at one moment, and the next dost rail at in sudden wrath.

Such examples of thy inconstancy may, perhaps, be excused. I shall say naught of the great Pompey, with whom it seemed that thou couldst accomplish anything thou didst set thy heart upon, such was the friendship between you. But what madness arrayed thee against Antony? Love for the [Pg 3] Republic, I suppose thou wouldst answer. But as thou thyself didst assert the Republic had already been destroyed root and branch.


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  • Indeed, what possible answer canst thou give to thy Brutus? There still remained this lamentable, finishing stroke, O Cicero, that thou shouldst speak ill of that very man, notwithstanding thy previous high praise.

    And on what grounds? Not because he was doing thee any wrong, but merely because he did not oppose those who were.

    I grieve at thy lot, my friend; I am ashamed of thy many, great shortcomings, and take compassion on them. And so, even as did Brutus, I attach no importance to that knowledge with which I know that thou wert so thoroughly imbued. Ah, how much better had it been for a man of declining years, and especially for one devoted to studies, even as thou, to have lived his last days in the quiet of the country, meditating as thou thyself hast said somewhere on that everlasting life, and not on this fleeting one.

    Farewell forever, my Cicero. Written in the land of the living, on the right bank of the river Adige, in Verona, a city of Transpadane Italy, on the sixteenth day before the Kalends of Quintilis June 16 , in the thirteen hundred and forty-fifth year from the birth of that God whom thou never knewest. It has been proved that he did not discover the ad Familiares , an honor which belongs to Coluccio Salutati P.

    Owing, however, to the lack of intelligent copyists, or perhaps because copyists were not admitted into the Chapter Library, Petrarch was obliged to transcribe the large volume himself, in spite of his physical debility at the time.