A Bibliographical Introduction to the Italian Humanists

Edited by Craig Kallendorf

Italian humanism, the defining movement of the Renaissance, was a system of learning that produced a cultural renewal in Europe through the study and adoption of ancient Greco-Roman culture. Scholarly interest in the work of both major and minor Italian humanists has been a cornerstone of Renaissance studies and continues to thrive.

This page features a curated collection of annotated bibliographies on eminent humanists drawn from Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation, designed to spur further research. The following set of bibliographies is freely available to read, and other articles will be made available on a rotating basis. For more information about this collection, please click here to read editor Craig Kallendorf’s Introduction.



“Humanism was the major intellectual movement of the Renaissance. Proponents of humanism believed that a body of learning, consisting of the study and imitation of the classical culture of ancient Rome and Greece, would produce a cultural rebirth after what they saw as the decadent and “barbarous” learning of the Middle Ages.”


“Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, b. 1304–d. 1374) occupies a unique position in Renaissance studies. While modern scholarship has shown that others laid the foundation for him, Petrarch was the first to insist forcefully and polemically that the culture of his day needed reorientation toward the past.”

Leon Battista Alberti

“Leon Battista Alberti (b. 1404–d. 1472), humanist and architect, was born in Genoa. He was a prolific and innovative writer in both Latin and Italian. More than any of his contemporaries, Alberti succeeded in fusing ancient and modern elements in all of his humanistic projects ranging from literature to architecture.”

Cardinal Bessarion

“Cardinal Basilios Bessarion (b. 1408–d. 1472) became the leading proponent of union with the Roman Church among the Greeks and spent the rest of his life trying to make that union a reality.”

Poggio Bracciolini

“Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini (b. 1380–d. 1459) spent almost fifty years in the service of the papacy but never took orders and had no hesitations about ridiculing the vices of churchmen. His literary output covered a wide range, but he is probably best known today for his manuscript discoveries and polemics.”

Pier Candido Decembrio

“Pier Candido Decembrio (b. c. 1392–d. 1477) was probably the most important humanist in Milan during the first half of the 15th century. Decembrio was the author of some 127 works, ranging from translations to original scholarship written in Latin on a wide variety of topics.”

Cristoforo Landino

“Cristoforo Landino (b. 1424–d. 1498) held the chair in rhetoric and poetics at the Florentine university for forty years, from which he lectured to the sons of the rich and famous and had easy access to the city’s Medici rulers and to the scholars and artists who gathered around them.”

Aldo Manuzio

“Aldo Manuzio (b. c. 1450–d. 1515) was famous in his own day as one of a group of great scholar-printers. He began printing in Venice at the end of the 15th century and worked there until his death, joining the second wave of printers who established that city as the center of the European printing industry in the 16th century.”

Angelo Poliziano

“Angelo Ambrogini (b. 1454–d. 1494), called Poliziano after his home town, was a Renaissance man of letters of international renown. Under the patronage of the Medici, he lectured and prepared commentaries on an unusually wide range of authors, becoming one of the first scholars in the West whose facility in Greek was equal to that of the Byzantine émigrés.”


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