Renaissance and Reformation Petrarch
by
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 March 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0026

Introduction

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. In a peculiarly modern act of self-presentation, he put himself forward as the one to effect this reorientation, something for which he received credit, in his day and in ours. The scope of his intellectual activity was enormous, ranging from the scholarly study of classical Antiquity to the production of many creative works, the ones in Latin known principally in the early 21st century to specialists, but one of which, the Canzoniere, set the standard for lyric poetry for generations to follow.

Bibliographies

The Petrarchan bibliographical tradition begins with collectors such as Antonio Marsand (Marsand 1826), Domenico Rosetti (Hortis 1874), and Willard Fiske (Fowler 1916) and with scholars working to service their needs (Volpi 1722). Studies of works about Petrarch are first joined to catalogues of early editions (Marsand 1826, Suttina 1908, Fowler 1916) then are published separately. The first bibliographies, such as Ferrazzi 1877, are sometimes maddeningly imprecise, but by the beginning of the 20th century, good works such as Calvi 1904 were prepared according to modern principles. Fucilla 1982 and Marcozzi 2005 provide the essential starting point for scholarly work on Petrarch in the early 21st century.

  • Calvi, Emilio, ed. Bibliografia analitica petrarchesca, 1877–1904, in continuazione a quella del Ferrazzi. Rome: Loescher, 1904.

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    Ostensibly a continuation of Ferrazzi 1877 but presents its 1,136 notices in accordance with modern bibliographical principles in five sections: bibliographical sources, bibliographies of printed works, editions, a bibliography of autographs and annotations, and conference proceedings.

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  • Ferrazzi, Giuseppe Jacopo. Bibliografia petrarchesca del Giuseppe Jacopo Ferrazzi. Bassano, Italy: Sante Possato, 1877.

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    A bibliography whose intent exceeds its accomplishment but that rests on genuine erudition and contains valuable notices that cannot be found elsewhere on Petrarch’s biography, the Canzoniere, the Latin works, and scholarship on Petrarch. Printed in only fifty copies but reprinted in 1979 (Bologna, Italy: Forni).

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  • Fowler, Mary, ed. Catalogue of the Petrarch Collection Bequeathed by Willard Fiske. London: Oxford University Press, 1916.

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    The catalogue of Willard Fiske’s collection of over four thousand volumes, left upon his death in 1904 to Cornell University. Divided into “Works of Petrarch” and “Works on Petrarch.” Not in fact exhaustive, as frequently thought, but especially valuable for the older scholarship noted in the second section of the book.

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  • Fucilla, Joseph G. Oltre un cinquantennio di scritti sul Petrarca, 1916–1973. Padua, Italy: Antenore, 1982.

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    A key source on Petrarchan scholarship in the 20th century, presenting almost four thousand notices in twenty-three sections, beginning where Fowler 1916 left off. Especially valuable for the study of Petrarchism.

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  • Hortis, Attilio. Catalogo delle opere di Francesco Petrarca esistenti nella Petrarchesca Rossettiana di Trieste, aggiuntavi l’iconografia della medesima. Trieste, Italy: Appolonio e Caprin, 1874.

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    A catalogue of the works of Petrarch collected by Domenico Rossetti and left at his death in 1842 to the public library of Trieste.

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  • Marcozzi, Luca. Bibliografia petrarchesca: 1989–2003. Florence: Olschki, 2005.

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    An admirable effort, containing 2,647 entries from a brief fourteen-year period. Especially strong on non-Italian work and on scholarship that touches only peripherally on Petrarch.

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  • Marsand, Antonio. Biblioteca petrarchesca formata, posseduta, descritta ed illustrata dal professore Antonio Marsand. Milan: Paolo Giusti, 1826.

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    The catalogue of an extensive Petrarch collection divided into three parts: editions of works in Italian; biographies, commentaries, and studies about Petrarch; and manuscripts. Of little help for the Latin works.

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  • Suttina, Luigi. Bibliografia delle opere a stampa intorno a Francesco Petrarca esistenti nella Biblioteca Rossettiana di Trieste, anni 1485–1904. Trieste, Italy: Decreto del Comune, 1908.

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    Completes Hortis 1874 by listing the works of scholarship on Petrarch from Domenico Rossetti’s collection, supplemented by those obtained by the library in Trieste after his death. More accessible in the reprint edited by G. Gregoratti (Florence: Olschki, 1996).

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  • Volpi, Gaetano. “Catalogo di molte delle edizioni del Canzoniere, disposto per ordine di cronologia e arrichito di qualche osservazione da G.V.” In Le rime di Francesco Petrarca . . . . Edited by Gaetano Volpi, 64–104. Padua, Italy: Presso Giuseppe Comino, 1722.

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    The first effort to provide a history of the printed editions of the Canzoniere, containing references to more than 130 earlier versions along with an influential, carefully prepared text that precedes the bibliography. Contains references to a number of items that have dropped away from later studies.

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Monographs

Books on Petrarch can be found in many of the standard monograph series in Renaissance studies, but as for many major canonical authors, publication outlets devoted exclusively to his work have also appeared. Studi sul Petrarca (Ente Nazionale Francesco Petrarca 1977–) has accumulated an impressive series of books on Petrarch.

  • Ente Nazionale Francesco Petrarca. Studi sul Petrarca. Edited by Giuseppe Billanovich, Giuseppe Frasso, and Paolo Sambin. Padua, Italy: Antenore, 1977–.

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    A prestigious book series with a long and successful history, sponsored by a publishing house that has specialized in Italian humanist studies, especially Petrarch.

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Conference Proceedings

As a major figure in the canon of world literature, Petrarch has been the subject of many specialized conferences, especially, as one would expect, in Italy. Some have a regional focus: Belloni 2007 starts with Petrarch and his relation to Padua, Billanovich and Frasso 1997 centers on Verona, Billanovich and Frasso 1975 turns to Arquà, and Secchi Tarugi 1997 and Coppini and Feo 2012 expand out from Italy to Europe. Other collections are organized thematically: Chegai and Luzzi 2005 focuses on music; Comitato nazionale per il settimo centenario della nascita di Francesco Petrarca 2006, on politics. Bernardo 1980 is an excellent general introduction to Petrarch and his work. Not all the contributions to these volumes of conference proceedings are equally worthwhile, but the volumes are an invaluable point of entry for further work in the field they treat.

  • Belloni, Gino, ed. Francesco Petrarca: Da Padova all’Europa; Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi (Padova, 17–18 giugno 2004). Rome: Antenore, 2007.

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    Fourteen essays that range widely but focus primarily on Padua as a place that influenced some of Petrarch’s most important work and from which his ideas spread throughout Europe.

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  • Bernardo, Aldo S., ed. Francesco Petrarca, Citizen of the World: Proceedings of the World Petrarch Congress, Washington, DC, April 6–13, 1974. Studi sul Petrarca 8. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1980.

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    A widely cited series of broadly ranging essays by established scholars that provide excellent introductions to key topics such as Petrarch and Christianity, his philological method, and the influence of Petrarch on the arts.

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  • Billanovich, Giuseppe, and Giuseppe Frasso, eds. Il Petrarca ad Arquà: Atti del Convegno di studi nel VI centenario (1370–1374), Arquà Petrarca, 6–8 novembre 1970. Studi sul Petrarca 2. Padua, Italy: Antenore, 1975.

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    A series of essays focused on Petrarch’s refuge and the work he did there, also containing a group of essays on Petrarch’s manuscripts that are now found outside Italy.

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  • Billanovich, Giuseppe, and Giuseppe Frasso, eds. Petrarca, Verona e l’Europa: Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi (Verona, 19–23 sett. 1991). Studi sul Petrarca 26. Padua, Italy: Antenore, 1997.

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    A substantial collection of essays that begin with Petrarch’s connections to the city of Verona but extend outward from there to such diverse topics as the influence of Petrarch on Luiz Vaz de Camões and the reception of Petrarch’s work in Austria.

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  • Chegai, Andrea, and Cecilia Luzzi, eds. Petrarca in musica: Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi; VII centenario della nascita di Francesco Petrarca, Arezzo, 18–20 marzo 2004. Lucca, Italy: Libreria Musicale Italiana, 2005.

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    A collection of essays on the musical settings of Petrarch’s poems and on ways his poetry influenced the development of music from his day to the early 21st century.

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  • Comitato nazionale per il settimo centenario della nascita di Francesco Petrarca, ed. Petrarca politico: Atti del convegno, Roma-Arezzo, 19–20 marzo 2004. Nuovi Studi Storici 70. Rome: Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo, 2006.

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    An interesting set of essays on Petrarch and politics, covering broad ideas such as his attitude toward Italy, as well as specific matters such as his relationship with the Carrara, the rulers of Padua.

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  • Coppini, Donatella, and Michele Feo, eds. Petrarca, l’umanesimo e la civiltà europea: Atti del Convegno internazionale, Firenze, 5–10 dicembre 2004. 2 vols. Quaderni Petrarcheschi 15–16, 17–18. Florence: Le Lettere, 2012.

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    A wide-ranging collection of fifty-three essays by many of the leading Petrarch scholars at the turn of the 21st century, including pieces on Petrarch’s key works, the context in which they were written, and the reception of Petrarch in Italy and beyond.

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  • Secchi Tarugi, Luisa Rotondi, ed. Petrarca e la cultura europea: Atti del quinto Convegno internazionale dell’Istituto di studi umanistici “Francesco Petrarca,” Chianciano, 1993. Milan: Nuovi Orizzonti, 1997.

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    In spite of what the title suggests, this collection focuses primarily on Petrarch’s role in Italian culture, but it contains a number of interesting essays on topics such as Petrarch’s reading of Vitruvius, his relationship with the field of medicine, and his impact on Italian architecture.

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Collections of Essays

Much valuable work on Petrarch is done by specialists who resolve individual problems in articles then collect their articles on similar topics into books. Fenzi 2003 and Martellotti 1983 range widely, as does Carrara 1959, which also has several essays on Petrarch’s life. Mommsen 1959 and Ricci 1999 focus more on Petrarch as humanist, while Mazzotta 1993 discusses Petrarch’s general intellectual milieu. De Robertis 1997 centers on the Canzoniere and its sources, with Barański and Cachey 2009 clarifying Petrarch’s relationship with Dante in particular. The important essays in Bloom 1989 and Kirkham and Maggi 2009 offer a useful introduction to the key concerns of modern Petrarchan scholarship.

Journals

Articles on Petrarch can be found in many of the standard journals. Studi Petrarcheschi immediately established itself as the outlet of choice for major articles. Quaderni Petrarcheschi has been through several iterations but remains an important source for work on Petrarch.

Life and Works

As a major figure in Western culture, Petrarch has stimulated the writing of an unusual number of excellent, readable biographies. Bishop 1963 is the most accessible to the general reader, while Wilkins 1961 (supplemented by Wilkins 1955) remains the indispensable starting place for Petrarch’s life and works. Bosco 1968 and Mann 1984 approach the subject through a series of representative themes, while Boyle 1991 and Trinkaus 1979 focus more on Petrarch’s thought. Billanovich 1995 concentrates on several key parts of Petrarch’s life and work.

  • Billanovich, Giuseppe. Petrarca letterato. Vol. 1, Lo scrittoio del Petrarca. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1995.

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    Contains two long studies detailing Petrarch’s relationship with Giovanni Boccaccio and the spread of his works throughout Europe after his death, from his circle of admirers in Padua. Only this volume has been published.

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  • Bishop, Morris. Petrarch and His World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963.

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    A nice introduction to Petrarch’s life and works for the general reader, organized chronologically and developed with generous extracts from Petrarch’s writings.

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  • Bosco, Umberto. Francesco Petrarca. 4th ed. Bari, Italy: Laterza, 1968.

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    Contains biographical and bibliographical data, approaching Petrarch’s life and works through a series of themes: love and contemplation, literature and life, Christianity and humanism, desire for and fear of death, literature and politics, and so forth.

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  • Boyle, Marjorie O’Rourke. Petrarch’s Genius: Pentimento and Prophecy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

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    Presents Petrarch as a prophet-theologian who works by means of allegory that must be penetrated by the reader. A stimulating read, but one that not everyone finds convincing.

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  • Mann, Nicholas. Petrarch. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.

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    A concise exploration of Petrarch as “the first modern man” (p. 113), as seen through a series of images that Petrarch projected of himself through his writings, sometimes conflicting but interlocking to make the intellectual himself into a work of art.

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  • Trinkaus, Charles. The Poet as Philosopher: Petrarch and the Formation of Renaissance Consciousness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979.

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    Not a biography as such but an exploration of Petrarch’s thought, in particular his moral philosophy, as it relates to the classical philosophical and rhetorical traditions and to his general musings on the self and its place in society.

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  • Wilkins, Ernest Hatch. Studies in the Life and Works of Petrarch. Cambridge, MA: Medieval Academy of America, 1955.

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    Not a continuous biography but a series of essays on key works and moments in Petrarch’s career, by the foremost American Petrarch specialist of the mid-20th century.

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  • Wilkins, Ernest Hatch. Life of Petrarch. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.

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    A traditional biography broken down by date and place, allowing the reader to trace the physical movements and intellectual activity of one of the great wandering scholars of the Renaissance. Reliable and complete but tends to accept Petrarch’s claims at face value rather than analyzing them critically.

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Petrarch and the Rise of Christian Humanism

While Petrarch’s self-presentation as the founder of humanism in a new era has been modified in Witt 2000, it remains true that he was the central figure around which the new intellectual movement coalesced and spread. Nolhac 1965 remains the essential starting place for an understanding of how Petrarch used the classical authors as guides for self-development, with Zak 2010 offering an intriguing update on this idea. Billanovich 1996 offers access to the works of the leading scholar in this area in the postwar period, and Feo 1992–1993 collects a substantial group of essays on Petrarch’s engagement with classical authors. Toffanin 1954, Cardini and Viti 2004, and Yocum 2013 remind us that Petrarch’s humanism was very much a Christian one in which self-development existed in a sometimes uneasy tension with God’s will, while Quillen 1998 and Lee 2012 narrow this approach to Petrarch’s relationship with Augustine.

  • Billanovich, Giuseppe. Petrarca e il primo umanesimo. Padua, Italy: Antenore, 1996.

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    An important volume that begins with the two-hundred-item bibliography of Billanovich, one of the great experts in Petrarch and the early rise of humanism, then reprints twenty-five of his most important essays in this area.

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  • Cardini, Roberto, and Paolo Viti, eds. Petrarca e i padri della chiesa: Petrarca e Arezzo. Florence: Pagliai Polistampa, 2004.

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    An important exhibition catalogue that contains several excellent essays that focus on the contribution of Aretine prehumanism to the development of Petrarch’s ideas and the role of the church fathers, whom Petrarch understood to have lived at the end of Antiquity, in his humanism.

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  • Feo, Michele, ed. Il Petrarca latino e le origini dell’umanesimo: Atti del Convegno internazionale, Firenze 19–22 maggio 1991. 2 vols. Florence: Le Lettere, 1992–1993.

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    Thirty essays by established scholars on various aspects of Petrarch’s Latinity, from the characteristics of his Latin style and annotating practice to his use of key Latin authors and the nature of his works written in Latin.

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  • Lee, Alexander. Petrarch and St. Augustine: Classical Scholarship, Christian Theology, and the Origins of the Renaissance in Italy. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History 210. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004226029Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Augustine played a greater role in Petrarch’s thought than has previously been recognized, with his early writings providing Petrarch with a conceptual basis for answering moral questions and with a model for integrating classical precepts into a consistent Christian framework.

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  • Nolhac, Pierre de. Pétrarque et l’humanisme. 2d ed. Paris: Champion, 1965.

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    An older work but still the necessary beginning place for the appreciation of Petrarch’s humanism, providing detailed evidence of which classical authors Petrarch knew and initial observations on how they were used in his work. Originally published in 1907.

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  • Quillen, Carol Everhart. Rereading the Renaissance: Petrarch, Augustine, and the Language of Humanism. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998.

    DOI: 10.3998/mpub.15299Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Asserts that Petrarch’s use of Augustine is most evident in his modes of reading and his strategies of argument, and that this appropriation upholds Petrarch’s humanist ideals while simultaneously threatening the assumptions on which that humanism was founded.

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  • Toffanin, Giuseppe. “Petrarch.” In History of Humanism. By Giuseppe Toffanin, 63–126. Translated by Elio Gianturco. New York: Las Americas, 1954.

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    A long chapter on Petrarch stresses the importance of religion as part of what the great popularizer of humanism bequeathed his followers, in contrast to the view of scholars such as Jacob Burckhardt that emphasizes what they see as the secular nature of Renaissance humanism.

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  • Witt, Ronald G. In the Footsteps of the Ancients: The Origins of Humanism from Lovato to Bruni. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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    A long-awaited revisionist work, this meticulously researched monograph stresses the development of 13th-century prehumanism in Italy as the foundation built on by Petrarch, who is discussed in chapter 6, “Petrarch, Father of Humanism?” (the question mark is significant), as a third-generation humanist.

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  • Yocum, Demetrio S. Petrarch’s Humanist Writing and Carthusian Monasticism: The Secret Language of the Self. Medieval Church Studies 26. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1484/M.MCS-EB.5.112242Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Identifies the Carthusian imprint on Petrarch’s thought, as well as elements of Carthusian spirituality in his texts, as a basis for the argument that Carthusianism was an essential element of Petrarch’s humanism and of his hermeneutics of the self.

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  • Zak, Gur. Petrarch’s Humanism and the Care of the Self. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511730337Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Approaches Petrarch’s humanism from a novel perspective: that Petrarch was afflicted by a strong sense of fragmentation, which he attempted to cure through the ancient idea that philosophy can bring harmony and wholeness to the soul through the use of writing as a sort of spiritual exercise.

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Classical Scholarship

While Petrarch’s humanism turns out not to have been quite as original as he claimed, his role as the greatest classical scholar of his age remains undisputed. Billanovich 1981 is a fundamental work of scholarship that explicates Petrarch’s methods. Rüegg 1946; Baglio, et al. 2006; and Eisner 2014 show how Petrarch interacted with the two Latin authors who influenced him most, while Pertusi 1964 and Feo, et al. 2002–2003 shed light on the complexities of Petrarch’s Greek studies, which never reached the level he felt they should have.

  • Baglio, Marco, Antonietta Nebuloni Testa, and Marco Petoletti, eds. Le postille del Virgilio Ambrosiano. Padua, Italy: Antenore, 2006.

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    A massive, thousand-page edition of the marginal comments that Petrarch entered into his famous manuscript of Virgil, which is now in Milan’s Ambrosian Library.

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  • Billanovich, Giuseppe. La tradizione del testo di Livio e le origini dell’umanesimo. 2 vols. Padua, Italy: Antenore, 1981.

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    Vol. 1, Tradizione e fortuna di Livio tra medioevo e umanesimo; Vol. 2, Il Livio del Petrarca e del Valla: British Library, Harleian 2493, riprodotto integralmente. Places Petrarch’s seminal work on the text of Livy into an account of the recovery of previously lost material by the Italian humanists.

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  • Eisner, Martin. “In the Labyrinth of the Library: Petrarch’s Cicero, Dante’s Virgil, and the Historiography of the Renaissance.” Renaissance Quarterly 67.3 (2014): 755–790.

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    Argues that Dante’s complex relationship to the past, embodied in the figure of Virgil, shaped his construction of Cicero and the broader Renaissance understanding of history.

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  • Feo, Michele, Vincenzo Fera, Paola Megna, and Antonio Rollo, eds. Petrarca e il mondo Greco: Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi, Reggio Calabria, 26–30 novembre 2001. 2 vols. Florence: Le Lettere, 2002–2003.

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    A wide-ranging series of essays, some of which focus more on background and on people associated with Petrarch than on Petrarch himself, but a valuable collection that provides up-to-date information on the Greek part of Petrarch’s classical scholarship.

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  • Pertusi, Agostino. Leonzio Pilato fra Petrarca e Boccaccio: Le sue versioni omeriche negli autografi di Venezia e la cultura greca del primo umanesimo. Rome and Venice: Istituto per la Collaborazione Culturale, 1964.

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    A massive, six-hundred-page study of the scholar with whom Homeric studies in Italy effectively began, covering inter alia Petrarch’s initial attempts to learn some Greek, both what he accomplished and what he did not.

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  • Rüegg, Walter. Cicero und der Humanismus: Formale Untersuchungen über Petrarca und Erasmus. Zurich, Switzerland: Rheinverlag, 1946.

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    A study of the role of the classics in Petrarch’s humanism, with a focus on life applications. Ranges widely but with a discernible focus on Cicero.

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Manuscripts

Since Petrarch died before the printing press emerged in the West, the critical editions in which his works are studied rest primarily on manuscripts. Censimento dei Codici Petrarcheschi, to be used in conjunction with Rauner 1998, represents a systematic effort to identify and describe the relevant material. Petrucci 1967 is the definitive study of Petrarch’s handwriting, but De la Mare 1973 should also be consulted. Barolini and Storey 2007 extends the discussion from Petrarch’s manuscripts to the interpretation of the works they contain.

  • Barolini, Teodolinda, and H. Wayne Storey, eds. Petrarch and the Textual Origins of Interpretation. Papers presented at a conference held 10 December 2004 at Columbia University, New York. Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition 31. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2007.

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    Ten essays that focus on the interactions among Petrarch’s texts, their material form, and the history of their reception, on the basis of the premise that Petrarch’s works cannot be properly understood without paying attention to the codicological and philological issues tied to the physical form in which they circulated.

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  • Censimento dei Codici Petrarcheschi. Padua, Italy: Antenore, 1964–.

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    A book series by a distinguished publisher, originally edited by Giuseppe Billanovich, designed to list the surviving manuscripts as a foundation on which critical editions can be built. The following volumes, some of which were originally published in the journal Italia Medioevale e Umanistica, have appeared in the series: Codici petrarcheschi nelle biblioteche svizzere, Census of Petrarch Manuscripts in the United States, and Petrarch Manuscripts in the British Isles.

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  • De la Mare, Albinia Catherine. “Francesco Petrarca.” In The Handwriting of the Italian Humanists. Vol. 1. By Albinia Catherine De la Mare, 1–16. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.

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    A handy brief description of the basic features of Petrarch’s handwriting, illustrated by reproductions of sections of manuscripts he wrote.

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  • Petrucci, Armando. La scrittura di Francesco Petrarca. Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1967.

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    A thorough study by a master paleographer of Petrarch’s handwriting, which began the change away from the Gothic style of the late Middle Ages toward the humanist book hand that dominated Renaissance manuscripts of classical texts.

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  • Rauner, Erwin, ed. Petrarcae codices latini: Datenbank lateinischer Handschriften des Franciscus Petrarca. CD-ROM, version 1.49. Augsburg, Germany: ERV, 1998.

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    A database of 1,700 Latin manuscripts containing at least one text of Petrarch, accompanied by an explanatory booklet. Also available online.

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Editions and Translations

As a prolific writer both in Latin and Italian, Petrarch presents his modern editors with formidable challenges, the greatest of which is the sheer volume of his work. Edizione nazionale delle opere di Francesco Petrarca, which builds on the work of Censimento dei Codici Petrarcheschi (cited under Manuscripts), is designed to be the definitive edition of Petrarch’s complete works. Martellotti 1955 and Neri 1951 provide good, easily accessible editions of the major texts, while Bufano 1975 offers access to the Latin works. Roche 2005 and Hainsworth 2010 are handy one-volume editions with a selection of Petrarch’s works translated into English, and Petrarch at 700 offers access to Petrarch in early printed editions.

  • Bufano, Antonietta, ed. Opere latine. 2 vols. Turin, Italy: Unione Tipografico Editrice Torinese, 1975.

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    An excellent edition of Petrarch’s Latin works only, with good notes that facilitate a basic understanding of the text.

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  • Edizione nazionale delle opere di Francesco Petrarca. Florence: G. C. Sansoni, 1926–.

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    Begun in the early 20th century with the intention of producing definitive texts of Petrarch’s works. Over the first several decades, little progress was made. Work was resumed and reorganized in the late 20th century, published by Le Lettere in Florence. Projected are editions of all of Petrarch’s works (without commentary but with authorial variants and an introduction to textual issues), Italian translations of Latin texts, and a CD-ROM.

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  • Hainsworth, Peter, ed. and trans. The Essential Petrarch. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2010.

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    Contains an English translation of about a third of the Canzoniere, The Triumph of Eternity, Book 3 of the Secretum, and five letters, including the autobiographical “To Posterity.” A handy selection of key texts.

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  • Kirkham, Victoria, Stefano Cracoloci, Seth Jerchower, Michael Ryan, and Daniel Traister. Petrarch at 700.

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    Guide to an exhibition mounted jointly by the libraries of Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania and held 29 March–21 May 2004 at the University of Pennsylvania Library, Philadelphia, in which key editions from the 15th through the 18th centuries are placed into their broader context, including the manuscripts from which they derive, the censors who restricted their reception, and the musicians who transformed them. Offers easy access to the Petrarchan books viewed as physical objects.

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  • Martellotti, Guido, ed. Prose. Milan: Ricciardi, 1955.

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    Still widely cited, with a generous selection from the Latin prose accompanied by Italian translations and enough commentary to facilitate an initial reading of the texts.

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  • Neri, Ferdinando, ed. Rime, “Trionfi,” e poesie latine. Milan: Ricciardi, 1951.

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    A handy edition containing a broad selection of Petrarch’s poetry, both in Italian and Latin, with Italian translations. Includes brief but incisive commentary.

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  • Roche, Thomas P., Jr., ed. and trans. Petrarch in English. London and New York: Penguin, 2005.

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    An interesting selection of translations of poems from the Trionfi and Canzoniere into English from the 14th through the 20th centuries, along with a number of famous English poems influenced by Petrarch, showing the changing views of his works through English culture.

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Individual Works in the Vernacular

The sheer size of Petrarch’s body of writings forces an introductory bibliographic article such as this to be selective. Among his Italian works, far and away the most important are the Canzoniere and the Trionfi.

Canzoniere

Petrarch’s Canzoniere (Songbook), also known as his Rerum vulgarim fragmenta (Fragments written in the vernacular), is one of the most influential collections of lyric poetry ever published, providing the model for similar such works throughout the Renaissance. Wilkins 1951 discusses the growth and development of the collection, while Ley, et al. 2002 offers a bibliography of early printed editions and commentaries.

  • Ley, Klaus, Christine Mundt-Espin, and Charlotte Krauss. Die Drucke von Petrarcas “Rime,” 1470–2000: Synoptische Bibliographie der Editionen und Kommentare, Bibliotheksnachweise. Hildesheim, Germany: Olms, 2002.

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    A seven-hundred-page bibliography of the early printed editions of the Canzoniere, beginning with bibliographical descriptions and containing extensive abstracts from secondary writings on each volume. Essential for following the accessibility of paratextual material, including commentaries.

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  • Wilkins, Ernest Hatch. The Making of the “Canzoniere” and Other Petrarchan Studies. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1951.

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    Contains a few essays on other subjects but focuses on the Canzoniere, especially on the genesis of the collection, the manuscripts that contain it, and the circulation of the poems.

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Editions and Translations

Among the many editions and translations of the Canzoniere produced in the 20th and 21st centuries, several stand out. Dotti 1996 presents the poems with enough commentary to facilitate an appreciative reading, while Santagata 2004 and Bettarini 2005 offer more-extensive commentaries. Musa 1996 and Durling 1976 are good dual-language editions, the former with substantive commentary in English and the latter with a translation that is somewhat more literal. Slavitt 2012 presents an important new translation.

Criticism and Interpretation

Much of the criticism of the Canzoniere has been published as articles, some of which have been collected in books by a single author (e.g., De Sanctis 1964). Others are accessible in collections of essays by several scholars (e.g., Barbarisi and Berra 1992). Picone 2007 offers an interesting variation on the latter model, a collection of essays that works systematically through the entire Canzoniere. Belloni 1992 concentrates on the early commentaries to the text, while Kennedy 1994 explores the Canzoniere’s rise to popularity. Sturm-Maddox 1992 offers a synthetic reading of the poems that picks up themes from Petrarch’s Latin writings.

  • Barbarisi, Gennaro, and Claudia Berra, eds. Il “Canzoniere” di Francesco Petrarca: La critica contemporanea. Milan: LED, 1992.

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    A collection of now-classic essays on the Canzoniere by the scholars who drove research during the postwar period: Ernest Hatch Wilkins, Gianfranco Contini, Marco Santagata, Francisco Rico, Emilio Bigi, Giuseppe Velli, Domenico De Robertis, and Michele Feo.

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  • Belloni, Gino. Laura tra Petrarca e Bembo: Studi sul commento umanistico-rinascimentale al “Canzoniere.” Padua, Italy: Antenore, 1992.

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    Contains eight studies published originally in the 1980s along with one new piece, focused on the humanistic commentaries to the Canzoniere, including those of Alessandro Vellutello, Sebastiano Fausto da Longiano, Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo, and Pietro Bembo.

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  • De Sanctis, Francesco. Saggio critico sul Petrarca. 2d ed. Edited by Niccolò Gallo. Turin, Italy: Einaudi, 1964.

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    A classic study by a great critic, paying attention both to formal elements and to key themes associated with the figure of Laura.

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  • Kennedy, William J. Authorizing Petrarch. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994.

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    An important book that follows in detail the process by which Petrarch became a canonical author, beginning with the first commentaries and continuing through the readings and imitations of the later Renaissance.

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  • Picone, Michelangelo, ed. Il “Canzoniere”: Lettura micro e macrotestuale. Ravenna, Italy: Longo, 2007.

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    Contains the texts of a series of lectures delivered at the University of Zurich from 2003 to 2005, in which the entire text was divided into sections and each lecturer was assigned a section. The lectures, with accompanying bibliography, give a good systematic overview of the issues preoccupying critics of the Canzoniere.

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  • Sturm-Maddox, Sara. Petrarch’s Laurels. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992.

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    An interesting study by an American scholar offering a totalizing, systematic reading that argues that the Canzoniere offers not a passage from amorous passion to earthly sublimation but two cosmologies that ultimately cannot be reconciled.

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Language, Meter, and Style

The Canzoniere occupies a pivotal place in the development of Italian poetry and of the Italian language. Vitale 1996 studies the poem from a linguistic perspective, Capovilla 1998 and Chiappelli 1971 study verse form, and Praloran 2003 and Zenari 1999 focus on metrical practice.

Trionfi

Bernardo 1974 offers a useful introduction to the Triumphs, in which its development is linked to that of the Canzoniere. Berra 1999 and Eisenbichler and Iannucci 1990 offer essay collections that suggest the variety of issues to emerge from this poem, while Recio 1996 exemplifies the rich influence that the Triumphs had in Renaissance Europe. An early English translation can be found in Canicelli 1971, with a modern one available in Wilkins 1962.

  • Bernardo, Aldo S. Petrarch, Laura, and the “Triumphs.” Albany: State University of New York Press, 1974.

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    A widely ranging study that examines Laura as the figure in which Petrarch sought a resolution of the conflict between the spirit and the flesh. Begins with the Canzoniere but culminates in the Triumphs, in which Petrarch achieves the fusion he wanted among poetry, history, and philosophy.

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  • Berra, Claudia, ed. I “Triumphi” di Francesco Petrarca: Gargnano del Garda, 1–3 ottobre 1998. Bologna, Italy: Cisalpino, 1999.

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    A collection of conference papers that discuss classical influences in the Triumphs, its linguistic variety, its relationship to Dante, and its place in the literary tradition of Renaissance humanism.

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  • Canicelli, D. D., ed. Lord Morley’s Tryumphes of Fraunces Petrarcke: The First English Translation of the Trionfi. Translated by Henry Parker. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971.

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    A mid-16th-century translation of the Triumphs, with a lengthy introduction placing the work into Renaissance English culture. E-book published in 2013.

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  • Eisenbichler, Konrad, and Amilcare A. Iannucci, eds. Petrarch’s “Triumphs”: Allegory and Spectacle. Ottawa, ON: Dovehouse, 1990.

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    An essay collection that considers, with an eye on allegory and spectacle, the intertextual strategies in the Triumphs, its fragmented structure, its way of signifying, and its influence in Renaissance Europe.

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  • Recio, Roxana. Petrarca en la Península Ibérica. Madrid, Spain: Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, 1996.

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    A study of the influence of the Trionfi on Alvar Gómez, on the basis of the author’s University of Michigan PhD dissertation (1993).

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  • Wilkins, Ernest Hatch, trans. Triumphs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962.

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    A serviceable translation accompanied by attractive illustrations drawn by Virgil Burnett.

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Individual Works in Latin

Secchi Tarugi 2006 and Preveggenze umanistiche di Petrarca offer good, up-to-date introductions to scholarship on Petrarch’s Latin works. Also see Editions and Translations.

  • Preveggenze umanistiche di Petrarca: Atti delle giornate petrarchesche di Tor Vergata (Roma/Cortona 1–2 giugno 1992). Preface by Giorgio Brugnoli. Pisa, Italy: ETS, 1993.

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    A group of lengthy essays focused on the range of Petrarch’s Latin writings, including works by established scholars such as Francesco Tateo, Giorgio Brugnoli, and Fabio Stok.

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  • Secchi Tarugi, Luisa Rotondi, ed. Francesco Petrarca, l’opera Latina: Tradizione e fortuna; Atti del Convegno, Pienza 19–22 luglio 2004. Florence: Cesati, 2006.

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    A massive, wide-ranging introduction to Petrarch’s Latin culture, containing up-to-date treatments of many of his Latin works, analyses of his Latin sources, and surveys of the influence of his Latin poetry and prose.

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Africa

Petrarch believed that his posthumous reputation would rest on his Latin epic the Africa, but at his death the poem remained unfinished. Bernardo 1962 offers a good introduction to the poem, with Kallendorf 1989 analyzing it as an imitation of Virgil’s Aeneid. Fera 1984 details the responses of the Africa’s first readers, while Voce 2004 offers access to early-21st-century scholarship on the poem. Bergin and Wilson 1977 contains an English translation, while the Latin text can be found under Editions and Translations.

  • Bergin, Thomas G., and Alice S. Wilson, eds. and trans. Petrarch’s “Africa.” New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977.

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    An English translation whose introduction and notes offer an outline of the importance of the poem as the first effort to imitate and revive the classical epic in postclassical times.

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  • Bernardo, Aldo S. Petrarch, Scipio, and the “Africa”: The Birth of Humanism’s Dream. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1962.

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    Studies the epic through the figure of its hero Scipio, who is traced through the various works of Petrarch to the Africa; also considers Livy as a source and the impact of the poem on later writers.

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  • Fera, Vincenzo. Antichi editori e lettori dell’ “Africa.” Messina, Italy: Centro di Studi Umanistici, 1984.

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    A detailed study of how the poem, which Petrarch himself refused to allow into circulation, was read and edited by its earliest circle of readers.

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  • Kallendorf, Craig. “Francesco Petrarca: Scipio, Aeneas, and the Epic of Praise.” In In Praise of Aeneas: Virgil and Epideictic Rhetoric in the Early Italian Renaissance. By Craig Kallendorf, 58–76. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1989.

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    An interpretation of the Africa that stresses its status as an imitation of Virgil’s Aeneid, which Petrarch and other early Italian humanists read as praise of its hero. The notes (pp. 180–189) offer access to earlier scholarship on the poem.

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  • Voce, Stefania. Bibliografia sull’ “Africa” di Petrarca: Dal 1900 al 2002. Cesena, Italy: Stilgraf, 2004.

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    A bibliography devoted exclusively to the Africa. Not complete, but useful.

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Letters

Petrarch’s letters reflect his network of friends and professional relationships, but they must be read as literary artifacts, not as straightforward pieces of correspondence. In fact, Petrarch reworked the individual letters and then shaped them into collections so that they presented the image of himself that he wanted to project. The two major collections are those written earlier in his life, the Familiares (Bernardo 1975–1985) and the Seniles, his letters of old age (Bernardo, et al. 1992). Petrarca 2017 offers a selection of the most-important letters, and Wilkins 1960 provides a scholarly guide to the correspondence.

  • Bernardo, Aldo S., trans. Rerum familiarum libri. 3 vols. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1975–1985.

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    The first English translation of the letters written between 1325 and 1366 and organized into a collection of twenty-four books at the end of this period, presenting a reworking of Petrarch’s youth, from the perspective of his artistic maturity.

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  • Bernardo, Aldo S., Reta A. Bernardo, and Saul Levin, trans. Letters of Old Age: Rerum senilium libri. 2 vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

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    An English translation of the letters written by Petrarch toward the end of his life, including the influential Latin translation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Griselda tale and Petrarch’s “Letter to Posterity,” the picture he wanted to present to those who followed him. Reprinted in 2010 (New York: Italica).

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  • Petrarca, Francesco. Selected Letters. 2 vols. Translated by Elaine Fantham. I Tatti Renaissance Library 76–77. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017.

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    Contains ninety-seven letters selected from Petrarch’s extensive correspondence, touching on such topics as the recovery of classical texts, the reform of the church, the ideal prince, and the proper nature of education, along with his letters to ancient authors and his autobiographical Letter to Posterity.

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  • Wilkins, Ernest Hatch. Petrarch’s Correspondence. Padua, Italy: Antenore, 1960.

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    A handbook to accompany study of Petrarch’s letters, giving fundamental information about the collections and the letters in them, with tables containing the addressee and the date and place of composition for each letter. Contains a valuable bibliography of Wilkins’s writings.

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Secretum

The Secretum offers perhaps the single best introduction from among the Latin works to Petrarch’s thought and values. Cast as a dialogue between himself and Saint Augustine, it ends inconclusively with the recognition that there is a tension between the classics and Christianity that cannot be resolved. Tateo 1965 offers a good account of the issues involved, with Quillen 2003 presenting an English translation of the text. Both Rico 1974 and Baron 1985 try to place the Secretum within Petrarch’s general life and intellectual development, with the latter book reacting to and against many conclusions set forth in the former.

  • Baron, Hans. Petrarch’s “Secretum”: Its Making and Its Meaning. Cambridge, MA: Medieval Academy of America, 1985.

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    A seminal book that studies the genesis of the Secretum during the 1350s, arguing that this work offers insight into a middle period in Petrarch’s life in which his thought and values differed noticeably from the preceding and following periods. The precision with which Baron dates revisions in the text has proved controversial.

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  • Quillen, Carol E., ed. The Secret. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2003.

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    A translation aimed primarily at students, with some pedagogical material at the end, but reliable for those who need an English text.

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  • Rico, Francisco. Vida u obra de Petrarca. Vol. 1, Lectura del “Secretum.” Padua, Italy: Antenore, 1974.

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    A five-hundred-page reading of the Secretum designed to follow the spiritual development of the author and to place what he says there into the general trajectory of his life.

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  • Tateo, Francesco. Dialogo interiore e polemica ideologica nel “Secretum” del Petrarca. Florence: Monnier, 1965.

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    Approaches the Secretum as a record of Petrarch’s spiritual formation as influenced by his reading in religious literature, especially the works of Augustine.

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Editions and Translations of Other Latin Works

The books listed in this section have been selected to provide reliable guides to representative Latin works of secondary but nonetheless notable significance. Bergin 1974 offers both a Latin text and an English translation of Petrarch’s pastoral poetry, as Marsh 2003 does for the invectives. Zacour 1973 and Zeitlin 1924 present helpful English translations of two of Petrarch’s less studied works, while Rawski 1991 presents a monumental translation and commentary on one of the more influential of the secondary Latin writings, De remediis utriusque fortune.

Petrarch and the Arts

Petrarch’s relation to the visual arts begins with the manuscripts that carry his work, which were often illustrated, as Trapp 2003 explains. Bettini 2002 explores some of the complexities in Petrarch’s attitude toward the visual arts, with Ortner 1998 focusing exclusively on the Trionfi. Ciccuto 1991 begins with the Trionfi then studies the illuminations in Petrarch’s manuscripts. Caanitz 1969 explores the relationship between Petrarch’s writing and music, with Willaert 2009 offering a musical setting of selected madrigals.

  • Bettini, Maurizio. Francesco Petrarca sulle arti figurative: Tra Plinio e Sant’Agostino. Livorno, Italy: Sillabe, 2002.

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    A brief but suggestive study of Petrarch’s complex attitude toward the arts, focused on Pliny and Augustine, the two authors whose ideas in this area most affected his own.

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  • Caanitz, Mechthild. Petrarca in der Geschichte der Musik. Freiburg, Germany: Johannes Krause, 1969.

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    A fascinating survey, focused on the Canzoniere, of the musical settings of Petrarch’s poems, from the 14th to the 20th centuries.

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  • Ciccuto, Marcello. Figure di Petrarca: Giotto, Simone Martini, Franco Bolognese. Naples, Italy: Federico e Ardia, 1991.

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    Studies key moments in the iconographic cycle related to the Trionfi, along with Petrarch’s manuscripts of Virgil and Livy and their decoration.

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  • Ortner, Alexandra. Petrarcas “Trionfi” in Malerei, Dichtung und Festkultur: Untersuchung zur Entstehung und Verbreitung eines florentinischen Bildmotivs auf cassoni und deschi da parto des 15. Jahrhunderts. Weimar, Germany: Verlag und Datenbank für Geisteswissenschaften, 1998.

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    A study of allegorical triumphal processions in painting, poetry, and festivals, showing how a theme treated extensively by Petrarch requires placement in its broader artistic and cultural environment to be understood.

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  • Trapp, Joseph Burney. Studies of Petrarch and His Influence. London: Pindar, 2003.

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    A series of essays from the preceding decade focused on Petrarch and art, with several on illustrated manuscripts of Petrarch’s works, including a long piece on Petrarch’s legacy in Europe.

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  • Willaert, Adrian. Musica nova: The Petrarca Madrigals. Performed by Singer Pur. 2 CDs. Munich: Oehms Classics, 2009.

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    A performance of the twenty-five madrigals from a larger collection of musical settings of Petrarch’s poems by the Flemish composer Willaert, originating at the court of Alfonso d’Este in Ferrara.

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Petrarchism

Petrarch’s works, especially the Canzoniere, attracted many imitators throughout Renaissance Europe. This phenomenon, commonly referred to as Petrarchism, grew to such an extent that a recognizable reaction, anti-Petrarchism, developed as well.

Essay Collections

As with several other aspects of Petrarchan studies, much important work on Petrarchism is found in essay collections. Caratozzolo and Güntert 2000 offers a general introduction to the phenomenon, while Hempfer and Regn 1993 focuses primarily on Italy, and Cabré, et al. 2012 suggests how quickly and far Petrarchism spread.

  • Cabré, Lluís, Alejandro Coroleu, and Jill Kraye, eds. Fourteenth-Century Classicism: Petrarch and Bernat Metge. Papers presented at a colloquium held on 12 February 2010 at the Warburg Institute, London. Warburg Institute Colloquia 21. London: Warburg Institute, 2012.

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    An essay collection derived from a conference held at the Warburg Institute on the Petrarchan readings of Bernat Metge, a Catalan humanist best known as the author of Lo somni (c. 1399). A good example of the pervasive influence of Petrarch in the Renaissance.

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  • Caratozzolo, Vittorio, and Georges Güntert, eds. Petrarca e i suoi lettori. Ravenna, Italy: Longo, 2000.

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    A collection of essays focused on Petrarch and his readers, beginning with those of the Renaissance (Jacopo Sannazaro, Pietro Bembo, and Giovanni Giorgio Trissino) and extending to the great interpreters of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

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  • Hempfer, Klaus W., and Gerhard Regn, eds. Der Petrarkistiche Diskurs: Spielräume und Grenzen; Akten des Kolloquiums an der Freien Universität Berlin, 23.10.–27.10.1991. Stuttgart: Steiner, 1993.

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    Focused primarily on Petrarchism in Italian authors but including essays on Pierre de Ronsard and neo-Latin as well.

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Monographs

The spread of Petrarchism throughout Europe can be traced in a series of monographs. Forster 1969 is the classic study, which should be supplemented and updated with Braden 1999. Petrarchism in France is surveyed in Duperray 1997, Manero Sorolla 1990 extends the analysis to Spain, and Roche 1989, Dubrow 1995, and Zuccato 2008 focus on England. Moore 2000 turns to women writers in this tradition, while Kennedy 2003 offers an intriguing political reading of this material. Fechner 1966 explores the phenomenon of anti-Petrarchism, poetry that sets itself up explicitly in opposition to the norms of the Canzoniere.

  • Braden, Gordon. Petrarchan Love and the Continental Renaissance. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999.

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    A complete history (excluding England) of poetry based on the Canzoniere on the subject of desire for someone who cannot be had, without reference to the poetry’s political content but with the final third of the book devoted to female participation in the tradition.

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  • Dubrow, Heather. Echoes of Desire: English Petrarchism and Its Counterdiscourses. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

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    Explores how Petrarchism was criticized and contradicted in Tudor and Stuart England, focusing on such matters as the linkage between form and cultural conditions, the meaning of a poet’s recounting of failure, and especially gender. Shows the permeability of even such basic boundaries as Petrarchism and anti-Petrarchism, male and female.

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  • Duperray, Ève. L’or des mots: Une lecture de Pétrarque et du mythe littéraire de Vaucluse des origines à l’orée du XXe siècle; Histoire du pétrarquisme en France. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1997.

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    A history of Petrarchism in France through the 20th century, organized around themes such as life as myth, myth and literature, and myth and society.

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  • Fechner, Jörg-Ulrich. Der Antipetrarkismus: Studien zur Liebessatire in Barocker Lyrik. Heidelberg, Germany: Winter, 1966.

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    An interesting study of poetry satirizing women and love as anti-Petrarchan, focused initially on German material but extending from that to a study of the phenomenon as a western European unity.

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  • Forster, Leonard W. The Icy Fire: Five Studies in European Petrarchism. London: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

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    Five separate essays on Petrarchism, ranging from diction and form to politics and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust. A classic study, very influential; reprinted as recently as 2010.

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  • Kennedy, William J. The Site of Petrarchism: Early Modern National Sentiment in Italy, France, and England. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

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    An important book that argues that Petrarchism provides a site for early modern expressions of nationalism and that a protonationalism unfolds in the critical commentary appended to early modern editions of the Canzoniere.

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  • Manero Sorolla, Miria Pilar. Imágenes petrarquistas en la lírica española del Renacimient: Repertorio. Barcelona: PPU, 1990.

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    An exhaustive, seven-hundred-page survey of “Petrarchan images” in Spanish Renaissance lyric poetry, organized by categories (animal, vegetable, mineral, etc.).

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  • Moore, Mary B. Desiring Voices: Women Sonneteers and Petrarchism. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000.

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    An examination of links and gaps among sonnet sequences inspired by Petrarch and written by women, with analysis of the resistance these sequences encountered among early readers.

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  • Roche, Thomas P., Jr. Petrarch and the English Sonnet Sequences. New York: AMS, 1989.

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    A massive, six-hundred-page critical history of the English sonnets written under Petrarchan inspiration, including discussions of relatively obscure authors such as Anne Locke and Barnabe Barnes, as well as Philip Sidney and William Shakespeare.

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  • Zuccato, Edoardo. Petrarch in Romantic England. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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    Shows that Petrarch’s works occupied the attention of a surprising number of scholars, translators, and poets in England during the romantic era, from which a history of the sonnet during this period and a new lens for appreciating romantic poetry in general emerge.

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