Renaissance and Reformation Leonardo Bruni
by
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 07 February 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0069

Introduction

Leonardo Bruni (b. 1370–d. 1444) is one of the most interesting and versatile of the early Italian humanists. Intellectual leader of the generation following Coluccio Salutati, Bruni made substantial contributions to all the humanistic disciplines except poetry. Yet, though the sheer number of surviving manuscripts of his works establishes him as the most popular author of the Quattrocento, he was no ivory tower academic. He served as secretary to four popes, then as chancellor of Florence from 1427 until his death. And though the details of how he did so are still in dispute, Bruni was remarkably successful in bringing the ideals and values of Antiquity to bear on the intellectual and political concerns of his day.

Life and Works

There is, unfortunately, no good modern biography of Bruni. Gualdo Rosa 1997, Hankins 1999, and Vasoli 1972 present the best introductions, whereas Lazzeri 1945–1946 offers an appreciative overview. Santini 1910 is still widely cited, and Beck 1912 rounds out the picture.

  • Beck, Franz. Studien zu Lionardo Bruni. Abhandlungen zur Mittleren und Neueren Geschichte 36. Berlin and Leipzig: W. Rothschild, 1912.

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    An overview of Bruni’s life and works in three sections: biography, thought and literary works, and letters. Older but still worth consulting.

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  • Gualdo Rosa, Lucia. “Bruni (Leonardo) (1370–1444).” In Centuriae latinae: Cent une figures humanistes de la Renaissance aux Lumières. Vol. 1, Offertes à Jacques Chomarat. Edited by Colette Nativel, 191–199. Travaux d’Humanisme et Renaissance 314. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1997.

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    An overview of Bruni’s life and work, shorter than Vasoli 1972 but incorporating scholarship published since then, by one of the great experts on Bruni.

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  • Hankins, James. “Bruni, Leonardo.” In Encyclopedia of the Renaissance. Vol. 1, Abrabanel–Civility. Edited by Paul F. Grendler, 301–306. New York: Scribner, 1999.

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    The best introduction to Bruni in English by one of the leading Bruni scholars, with a basic bibliography.

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  • Lazzeri, Corrado. “Leonardo Bruni Aretino nel V centenario della morte 1444–1494.” Atti e Memorie dell’Accademia Petrarca di Arezzo 33 (1945–1946): 69–94.

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    A commemorative lecture presented in Bruni’s native city on the quincentenary of his death, prepared by someone who knew him and the relevant scholarly issues in his works well.

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  • Santini, Emilio. Leonardo Bruni Aretino ei suoi Historiarum florentini populi libri xii: Contributo allo studio della storiografia umanistica fiorentina. Pisa, Italy: Nistri, 1910.

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    Contains a biography of Bruni (pp. 3–29). First published in Annali della R. Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 22 (1910): 1–174; reprinted in 1977 (Avezzano, Italy: Studio Bibliografico A. Polla).

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  • Vasoli, Cesare. “Leonardo Bruni.” In Dizionario biografico degli italiani. Vol. 14. Edited by Alberto M. Ghisalberti, 618–633. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1972.

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    Unfortunately no longer current, but the best available overview of Bruni’s life and works, with three full columns of bibliographical references.

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Manuscripts

The massive diffusion of Bruni’s works makes navigating the manuscript tradition a formidable project, but we are fortunate to have several superb guides. Hankins 1997 is the indispensable starting place, with Hankins 2016 also to be consulted. Gualdo Rosa 1993–2004 provides more-detailed information about the manuscripts containing the letters, whereas Gualdo Rosa, et al. 1991 offers narrative commentary on some of the issues involved in preparing the Censimento. Soudek 1968 and Soudek 1976 exemplify the kind of work that can be done when the focus narrows to one of Bruni’s works.

  • Gualdo Rosa, Lucia, ed. Censimento dei codici dell’epistolario di Leonardo Bruni. 2 vols. Rome: Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medioevo, 1993–2004.

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    Contains descriptions of 200 manuscripts of Bruni’s letters held in libraries outside Italy (Vol. 1) and of 333 manuscripts held in Italian libraries, including the Vatican (Vol. 2). Vol. 2 also contains nineteen letters addressed to Bruni that were not included in Luiso 1980 (cited under Individual Works).

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  • Gualdo Rosa, Lucia, Paolo Viti, and Girolamo Arnaldi. Per il censimento dei codici dell’epistolario di Leonardo Bruni: Seminario internazionale di studi, Firenze, 30 ottobre 1987. Rome: Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medioevo, 1991.

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    Eleven essays from a 1987 conference devoted to tracing the surviving manuscripts of Bruni’s letter collection, held to prepare the foundation for Gualdo Rosa 1993–2004.

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  • Hankins, James. Repertorium Brunianum: A Critical Guide to the Writings of Leonardo Bruni. Vol. 1, Handlist of Manuscripts. Fonti per la Storia dell’Italia Medievale. Rome: Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medioevo, 1997.

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    A monumental listing of all the 3,193 surviving manuscripts that contain one or more works of Bruni, along with a series of indexes that allow one to track the manuscript diffusion of any single work.

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  • Hankins, James. “Latin Autographs of Leonardo Bruni.” In Palaeography, Manuscript Illumination and Humanism in Renaissance Italy: Studies in Memory of A. C. de la Mare. Edited by Robert Black, Jill Kraye, and Laura Nuvoloni, 377–384. Warburg Institute Colloquia 28. London: Warburg Institute, 2016.

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    A brief but valuable census of manuscripts written in Latin in Bruni’s hand.

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  • Soudek, Josef. “Leonardo Bruni and His Public: A Statistical and Interpretive Study of His Annotated Latin Version of the (Pseudo-)Aristotelian Economics.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 5 (1968): 49–136.

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    Lists almost 230 manuscripts of Bruni’s translation of the pseudo-Aristotelian Economics, showing that the new translation rapidly displaced its two medieval predecessors, being appreciated both for its stylistic elegance and for the interpretive aid provided by its accompanying commentary.

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  • Soudek, Josef. “A Fifteenth-Century Humanistic Bestseller: The Manuscript Diffusion of Leonardo Bruni’s Annotated Latin Version of the (Pseudo-)Aristotelian Economics.” In Philosophy and Humanism: Renaissance Essays in Honor of Paul Oskar Kristeller. Edited by Edward P. Mahoney, 129–143. New York: Columbia University Press, 1976.

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    A supplement to Soudek 1968, adding and analyzing eight additional manuscripts of Bruni’s translation of the pseudo-Aristotelian Economics.

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Primary Texts

Bruni was a prolific author, writing mostly in Latin but also in the vernacular. Several excellent collections of his original Latin works exist, whereas other texts are best consulted in editions of individual works. Bruni translated a good number of key Greek texts into Latin, the working language of scholarship in his day; many of his works in turn have been translated into English, which has become the scholarly standard.

Original Latin Works

Bruni’s major works, some of which also gather together a number of minor writings, can be found in Collections. Individual works sometimes offer alternatives to what appears in the collected editions, although several key texts are available only in individual edition form (see Individual Works).

Collections

Viti 1996 provides excellent access to many (although not all) of the Latin works in one handy volume, with Bernard-Pradelle 2008 offering an alternative that contains the major writings. Santini 1910, Baron 1928, and Hankins 1990 include texts of a number of minor works.

  • Baron, Hans, ed. Leonardo Bruni Aretino: Humanistisch-philosophische Schriften; Mit einer Chronologie seiner Werke und Briefe. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1928.

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    Presents two groups of texts: one on philosophy, philology, and pedagogy, and the other consisting of prefaces, poems, and unedited letters, along with a bibliography of Bruni’s writings, a chronology of his letters, and a list of manuscripts containing his works.

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  • Bernard-Pradelle, Laurence. Histoire, éloquence et poésie à Florence au début du Quattrocento. Textes de la Renaissance 118. Paris: H. Champion, 2008.

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    Contains Latin text and French translation, with commentary, of Laudatio florentinae urbis, Dialogi ad P. P. Histrum, Vita Ciceronis seu Cicero novus, De studiis et litteris liber, De interpretatione recta, Isagogicon moralis disciplinae, Vita Aristotelis, and Vita di Dante e del Petrarca. Harder to find than Viti 1996 but worth the effort.

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  • Hankins, James. “The Latin Poetry of Leonardo Bruni.” Humanistica Lovaniensia 39 (1990): 1–39.

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    Provides the texts of the five short Latin poems written by Bruni along with an analysis establishing their value not on aesthetic grounds but for the insight they provide into their author’s life.

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  • Santini, Emilio. Leonardo Bruni Aretino ei suoi Historiarum florentini populi libri xii: Contributo allo studio della storiografia umanistica fiorentina. Pisa, Italy: Nistri, 1910.

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    Contains translations of several of Bruni’s orations (pp. 142–145, 149–155, 157–169). First published in Annali della R. Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 22 (1910): 1–174; reprinted in 1977 (Avezzano, Italy: Studio Bibliografico A. Polla).

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  • Viti, Paolo, ed. Opere letterarie e politiche di Leonardo Bruni. Classici Latini: Autori della Tarda Antichità, del Medioevo e dell’Umanesimo. Turin, Italy: Unione Tipografico-editrice Torinese, 1996.

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    Collects all of Bruni’s works except the histories, letters, translations, and his few poetic and narrative writings in Italian. Minimal explanatory notes but an indispensable volume containing more than twenty key texts, some very difficult to find elsewhere.

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Individual Works

Baldassarri 2000 provides an alternative to Viti 1996 (cited under Collections), for the text of Bruni’s Laudatio, a work on which Bruni’s reputation as a civic humanist rests (see Bruni and Civic Humanism). Despite a century of work, Bruni’s letter collection is still referred to in Bruni 1741, although Bernard-Pradelle 2014 finally provides an alternative; see Luiso 1980 for guidance through the collection. Bruni 1735 represents another major work that must be read in an 18th-century edition, whereas Bruni 1914 offers an edition that is still serviceable. Bayley 1961, Daub 1996, Marcellino and Ammannati 2015, and Romo Feito 2012 present good modern editions of four interesting works from Bruni’s substantial oeuvre that are especially worth consulting for their extensive accompanying material.

  • Baldassarri, Stefano U., ed. Laudatio florentinae urbis. Tavarnuzze, Italy: SISMEL, 2000.

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    A critical edition of one of the works of Bruni that has stimulated the most interest in the postwar period, with full apparatus and supporting material.

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  • Bayley, C. C. War and Society in Renaissance Florence: The De Militia of Leonardo Bruni. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961.

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    Contains the text of Bruni’s treatise on warfare along with a 360-page analysis placing it in its broader cultural context and examining its structure and content.

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  • Bernard-Pradelle, Laurence, ed. Leonardo Bruni Aretino: Lettres familières. 2 vols. Collection Histoire et Sociétés. Montpellier, France: Presses Universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2014.

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    A massive, thousand-page work, designed to synthesize Bruni 1741 and Luiso 1980. The letters, sent to contemporaries more or less famous, appear in the original Latin or Italian, with a facing-page French translation.

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  • Bruni, Leonardo. “Commentaria rerum Graecarum.” In Thesaurus graecarum antiquitatum. Vol. 6. Edited by Sixtus Bruno, 3388–3418. Venice: J. B. Pasquali, 1735.

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    A serviceable edition of Bruni’s treatise analyzing the rise and fall of the principal Greek city-states of classical Antiquity.

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  • Bruni, Leonardo. Epistolarum libri VIII. 2 vols. Edited by Lorenzo Mehus. Florence: Bernardius Paperinius, 1741.

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    The best edition of Bruni’s letters available, given that the one being prepared during the 20th century by Francesco Paolo Luiso and Ludwig Bertalot was never finished. Reprinted in 2006 (Hildesheim, Germany: Olms) and 2007 (Rome: Storia e Letteratura).

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  • Bruni, Leonardo. “Rerum suo tempore gestarum commentarius.” In Historiarum florentini populi libri XII: E Rerum suo tempore gestarum commentarius. Edited by Emilio Santini and Carmine di Pierro, 403–458. Rerum Italicarum Scriptores 19.3. Città di Castello, Italy: S. Lapi, 1914.

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    (Commentary on the events of his own time.) An older, but nonetheless valuable, edition.

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  • Daub, Susanne, ed. Leonardo Brunis Rede auf Nanni Strozzi: Einleitung, Edition und Kommentar. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde. Stuttgart and Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1996.

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    A twenty-page critical edition of Bruni’s funeral oration for Nanni Strozzi, accompanied by almost four hundred pages discussing the history and characteristics of the genre.

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  • Luiso, Francesco Paolo. Studi su l’epistolario di Leonardo Bruni. Edited by Lucia Gualdo Rosa. Studi Storici. Rome: Istituto Storico per il Medioevo, 1980.

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    The record of decades of work on a critical edition of Bruni’s letters that never appeared, but offering nonetheless a chronological ordering, a guide through the correspondence, and invaluable notes on issues in the letters.

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  • Marcellino, Giuseppe, and Giulia Ammannati. Il latino e il “volgare” nell’antica Roma: Biondo Flavio, Leonardo Bruni e la disputa umanistica sulla lingua degli antichi Romani. Testi e Commenti 17. Pisa, Italy: Edizioni della Normale, 2015.

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    An interesting record of one moment in the Renaissance debate over what kind of Latin the common people in ancient Rome spoke. Contains an edition of Biondo Flavio’s De verbis Romanae locutionis and the letter written by Bruni in response to it, Epistulae 6.10, along with an Italian translation and commentary.

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  • Romo Feito, Fernando, ed. “De interpretatione recta”, de Leonardo Bruni: Un episodio en la historia de la traducción y la hermenéutica. Monografias da Universidade de Vigo, Humanidades e Ciencias Xurídico-sociais 88. Vigo, Spain: Servizo de Publicacións da Universidade de Vigo, 2012.

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    A critical edition, with Spanish translation, notes, and an introduction that provides basic insight into Bruni’s theories about translation. A welcome volume, given that Bruni made important contributions both to the theory of translation in the Renaissance and to the effort to make Greek texts available in Latin, the universal language of scholarship in his day.

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Latin Translations of Greek Texts

Throughout the Renaissance, competence in Latin far exceeded comfortable control of Greek, so knowledge of Greek works rested primarily on Latin translations of them. Bruni’s translations of Aristotle were his most influential (and controversial) writings in this genre (see Translations), but interestingly it is the shorter translations that have appeared in modern editions: Demosthenes’ speeches (Accame Lanzillotta 1986), Plato’s Crito (Berti and Carosini 1983) and Gorgias (Venier 2011), the beginning of Aristophanes’ Plutus (Cecchini and Cecchini 1965), Saint Basil’s Oratio ad adolescentes (Naldini 1984), and the embassy to Achilles in Iliad 9 (Thiermann 1993). The most-important Aristotle translations can be read in Bruni 1966 or in the original Estienne printing from which this microfilm was made.

  • Accame Lanzillotta, Maria. Leonardo Bruni traduttore di Demostene: La Pro Ctesiphonte. Pubblicazioni dell’Istituto di Filologia Classica e Medievale. Genoa, Italy: Università di Genova, 1986.

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    A critical edition of Bruni’s Latin translation of Demosthenes’ Pro Ctesiphonte, preceded by an extensive study of the manuscript tradition, the Greek text, and the characteristics of Bruni’s Latin rendering.

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  • Berti, Ernesto, and Antonella Carosini, eds. Il Critone latino di Leonardo Bruni e di Rinuccio Aretino. Studia Platonica Saeculi 15. Florence: Olschki, 1983.

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    Contains critical editions of two versions of Bruni’s translation of Plato’s Crito along with Rinuccio Aretino’s version and an extensive study of all this material.

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  • Bruni, Leonardo. Politicorum libri octo commentarij, Economicorum duo commentarii, Hecatonomiarum septem, Economiarum publ. vnus. Microfilm, 1966.

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    A microfilm of an influential 16th-century edition (Paris: Henricus Stephanus, 1506), offering access to several of Bruni’s Aristotle translations, which were well known and controversial in their day.

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  • Cecchini, Maria, and Enzo Cecchini, eds. Versione del Pluto di Aristofane (vv. 1–269) di Leonardo Bruni. Teatro Latino del Rinascimento 1. Florence: Sansoni, 1965.

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    A critical edition of Bruni’s Latin translation of Act 1 of Aristophanes’ Plutus, preceded by a brief study of the translation and the manuscript tradition.

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  • Naldini, Mario, ed. Basilio de Cesarea: Discorso ai giovani—Oratio ad adolescentes. Biblioteca Patristica 3. Florence: Nardini, 1984.

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    Contains an edition of Bruni’s translation of Saint Basil’s educational treatise.

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  • Thiermann, Peter. Die Orationes Homeri des Leonardo Bruni Aretino: Kritische Edition der lateinischen und kastilianischen Übersetzung mit Prolegomena und Kommentar. Leiden, The Netherlands, and New York: Brill, 1993.

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    Critical edition of Bruni’s translation of Iliad 9.222–9.605 (the embassy to Achilles) and a Spanish translation made shortly afterward, with detailed commentary.

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  • Venier, Matteo, ed. Platonis Gorgias: Leonardo Aretino interprete. Il Ritorno dei Classici nell’Umanesimo 7. Florence: SISMEL–Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2011.

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    A meticulously prepared critical edition of Bruni’s Latin translation of Plato’s Gorgias, with an introduction that provides a detailed analysis of Bruni’s translation practices in this work and of the textual tradition. An exemplary edition.

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Original Non-Latin Works

Although Latin was the language of educated people in his day, Bruni wrote in other languages when circumstances dictated. One of his most important non-Latin works can be found in Bruni 1870, whereas his influential lives of Dante and Petrarch are in Bruni 1987, and three short lyric poems in Italian appear in Lanza 1973–1975. Moulakis 1986 prints his remarks on the Florentine constitution written in Greek, something of a tour de force designed to impress visiting dignitaries from the East. See also Viti 1996 (cited under Collections).

English Translations

Bruni’s importance is underscored by the attention he has attracted from translators since the late 20th century. Griffiths, et al. 1987 is invaluable, containing not only translations from a wide variety of Bruni’s works but also introductory material that is worthwhile for those who can read the original languages as well. Thompson and Nagel 1972 offers a widely disseminated alternative for several key texts. Two volumes in the I Tatti Renaissance Library, Bruni 2001–2007 and Bruni 2002, present reliable working editions of key historical and educational texts along with translations. Bruni 1978 and Dees 1987 offer English renderings of two texts with significant political overtones.

  • Bruni, Leonardo. “Panegyric to the City of Florence.” In The Earthly Republic: Italian Humanists on Government and Society. Edited by Benjamin G. Kohl and Ronald G. Witt, 135–175. Translated by Benjamin G. Kohl. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978.

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    A solid introduction by Witt places Bruni’s “Panegyric” in its historical and political context; Kohl then translates a document that is key to Hans Baron’s discussion of civic humanism (see Bruni and Civic Humanism).

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  • Bruni, Leonardo. History of the Florentine People. 3 vols. Edited and translated by James Hankins. I Tatti Renaissance Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001–2007.

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    First English translation, accompanied by the Latin text, of what is usually considered the first modern work of history, one that was widely influential for two centuries after its official publication by the Florentine state in 1444. Vol. 3 also contains Bruni’s Memoirs, his autobiography.

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  • Bruni, Leonardo. “The Study of Literature.” In Humanist Educational Treatises. Edited and translated by Craig W. Kallendorf, 92–125. I Tatti Renaissance Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.

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    English translation, with Latin text, of Bruni’s educational treatise, which shows how the ancients should be studied not as an antiquarian exercise but as the source for wisdom to live by and for a linguistic facility that fosters clear thinking and persuasive communication. English translation only was reprinted in 2008.

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  • Dees, Russell. “Bruni, Aristotle, and the Mixed Regime in ‘On the Constitution of the Florentines.’” Medievalia et Humanistica, n.s. 15 (1987): 1–23.

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    English translation of On the Constitution of the Florentines along with an analysis of its ideas and terminology in light of the modern discussion of Bruni as a civic humanist (see Bruni and Civic Humanism).

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  • Griffiths, Gordon, James Hankins, and David Thompson. The Humanism of Leonardo Bruni: Selected Texts. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 46. Binghamton, NY: Renaissance Society of America, 1987.

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    Contains translations, with excellent introductions, of a variety of Bruni’s writings in the areas of politics, history, language, education, philosophy, morals, and the church. Far and away the best introduction to Bruni’s works.

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  • Thompson, David, and Alan F. Nagel, eds. and trans. The Three Crowns of Florence: Humanist Assessments of Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio. New York: Harper and Row, 1972.

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    Contains translations of “Dialogues to Pier Paolo Vergerio,” “The Life of Dante,” “The Life of Petrarch,” and “Comparison of Dante and Petrarch.”

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Translations

Bruni was widely known in his own day for his translations of key texts, especially those by Aristotle, from Greek into Latin. Garin 1947–1950 considers Bruni’s Aristotle translations in the context of their competitors. Botley 2004 and Gerl 1981 suggest, from different perspectives, that Bruni’s linguistic choices provide important insight into his ideas about the philosophy of language. González Rolán, et al. 2000 and Harth 1968 focus on the dispute between Bruni and Alfonso de Cartagena over how Aristotle should be translated, whereas Hankins 1991a and Hankins 1991b move the discussion to Bruni’s Plato translations, and De Nichilo 2013 considers Bruni’s translation of a minor work of Xenophon.

  • Botley, Paul. “Leonardo Bruni.” In Latin Translation in the Renaissance: The Theory and Practice of Leonardo Bruni, Giannozzo Manetti, and Desiderius Erasmus. By Paul Botley, 5–62. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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    An excellent, up-to-date survey of Bruni’s encounter with Greek texts, demonstrating the coherence of his ideas about Aristotelian eloquence and showing that these ideas reopened an ancient debate about the relationship between rhetoric and philosophy.

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  • De Nichilo, Mauro. “Fortuna e tradizione della versione bruniana dello Ierone di Senofonte.” In Special Issue: Le droit et son écriture. Cahiers de Recherches Médiévales et Humanistes 25 (2013): 327–340.

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    A study of a newly discovered manuscript of Bruni’s translation of Xenophon’s Hiero that was written by Giovanni Pontano, the great Neapolitan humanist. This manuscript leads to a reconsideration of the influence of Bruni’s translation, which became an important document in 16th-century ruminations on the subject of tyranny.

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  • Garin, Eugenio. “Le traduzioni umanistiche di Aristotele nel secolo XV.” Atti e Memorie dell’Accademia Fiorentina di Scienze Morali “La Columbaria” 16 (1947–1950): 55–104.

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    A masterful overview of humanist translations of Aristotle in the 15th century, placing Bruni’s work in the context of other translators and of Greek language study during this period.

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  • Gerl, Hanna-Barbara. Philosophie und Philologie: Leonardo Brunis Übertragung der nikomachischen Ethik in ihren philosophischen Prämissen. Humanistische Bibliothek. Munich: W. Fink, 1981.

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    A careful study that places Bruni’s translation of the Nicomachean Ethics in the larger context of his philosophy of language, carefully distinguishing this approach from that of his medieval predecessors.

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  • González Rolán, Tomás, Antonio Moreno Hernández, and Pilar Saquero Suárez-Somonte. Humanismo y teoría de la traducción en España e Italia en la primera mitad del siglo XV. Biblioteca Latina. Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas, 2000.

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    A fascinating study of how Bruni’s approach to translation stimulated debate in Renaissance Spain. Contains the texts in which the debate played out, along with an extensive analysis of the points in dispute between Bruni and Alfonso de Cartagena, who defended the traditional medieval approach.

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  • Hankins, James. “Plato and the Defense of the Humanities.” In Plato in the Italian Renaissance. By James Hankins, 29–57. Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition 17. Leiden, The Netherlands, and New York: Brill, 1991a.

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    Traces in detail Bruni’s work as a translator of Plato, showing the novelty of his effort to render thoughts, rather than individual words, in an eloquent way. Suggests that Bruni’s grasp of and sympathy with Plato’s thought were limited.

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  • Hankins, James. “Plato as Civic Humanist.” In Plato in the Italian Renaissance. By James Hankins, 58–80. Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition 17. Leiden, The Netherlands, and New York: Brill, 1991b.

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    Explores the relationship between Bruni’s work on Plato and his intellectual and political environment, showing how Bruni used Plato to advise the Medici on political matters.

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  • Harth, Helene. “Leonardo Brunis Selbstverständnis als Übersetzer.” Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 50 (1968): 41–63.

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    Examines the conflict with Alonso of Cartagena over how to translate Aristotle as the source for Bruni’s principles of translation, which Harth then situates in his broader educational program.

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20th-Century Scholarship

Bruni has been fortunate to have attracted the attention of a number of excellent scholars since the turn of the 20th century. Hans Baron, whose studies on Bruni would launch a discussion of the nature of humanism later in his career (see his work in Bruni and Civic Humanism), began his examination of the key texts many years before; essential points were taken up again in Baron 1968. Quint 1985 focuses on an important work, the Dialogues, to propose a new understanding of Bruni’s relationship to Antiquity, whereas Witt 2000 stresses the secular nature of Bruni’s humanism.

  • Baron, Hans. From Petrarch to Leonardo Bruni: Studies in Humanistic and Political Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.

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    Contains essays on the dating of Bruni’s Laudatio and Dialogi and on the style and thought of the Laudatio as well as the first printed edition of it.

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  • Quint, David. “Humanism and Modernity: A Reconsideration of Bruni’s Dialogues.” Renaissance Quarterly 38.3 (1985): 423–445.

    DOI: 10.2307/2861078Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A widely cited article that argues that Bruni was one of the first humanists to perceive the rupture between Antiquity and his own day to be unbridgeable, a kind of self-reflexivity that Quint sees as very modern.

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  • Witt, Ronald G. In the Footsteps of the Ancients: The Origins of Humanism from Lovato to Bruni. Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought 74. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2000.

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    As part of a revisionist history that pushes the origins of Italian humanism back two generations before Petrarch, Witt argues that Bruni used Cicero to revive humanism’s earlier secular spirit, which Petrarch had deflected with his union of Christianity and pagan culture.

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Bruni and Civic Humanism

In Baron 1955a, Hans Baron argues that Bruni decisively reoriented Italian humanism in the first years of the 15th century, replacing a basically apolitical literary humanism focused on the contemplative life with one focused on Antiquity as the model for a new culture in which adherence to republican ideals stimulates personal and corporate achievement. Upon publication, the book aroused immediate controversy, with Seigel 1966 serving as a representative example and Baron 1967 containing the response; the latter author extended his argument in Baron 1955b and Baron 1988. Major reassessments came forty years after the initial publication of Baron 1955a. Witt 1996 concludes that this book, arguing for Bruni’s Laudatio florentinae urbis as the first manifestation of the new civic humanism, was more influential than anything else in Italian Renaissance studies written during the 20th century, giving Bruni prominence among scholars in the field. Hankins 1995 and Hankins 2000 offer a more nuanced assessment.

  • Baron, Hans. The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance: Civic Humanism and Republican Liberty in an Age of Classicism and Tyranny. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1955a.

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    The book that started it all, arguing that Bruni led a recasting of Italian Renaissance humanism into a fusion of classical ideals and contemporaneous political engagement. Revised edition in one volume published in 1966; Italian translation with revisions, La crisi del primo Rinascimento italiano: Umanesimo civile e libertà repubblicana in un’età di classicismo e di tirannide (Florence: Sansoni, 1970).

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  • Baron, Hans. Humanistic and Political Literature in Florence and Venice at the Beginning of the Quattrocento: Studies in Criticism and Chronology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955b.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674280922Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contains important essays on the Laudatio florentinae urbis and the Dialogi ad Petrum Paulum Histrum, Bruni’s work as a translator, and his description in 1413 of the Florentine constitution. Reprinted in 1968 (New York: Russell & Russell).

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  • Baron, Hans. “Leonardo Bruni: ‘Professional Rhetorician’ or ‘Civic Humanist’?” Past and Present 36.1 (1967): 21–37.

    DOI: 10.1093/past/36.1.21Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A reaction to Seigel 1966, arguing that Bruni operated from conviction and consistent principles through the key points of his career.

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  • Baron, Hans. In Search of Florentine Civic Humanism: Essays on the Transition from Medieval to Modern Thought. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

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    Extends Baron’s work on civic humanism back to its 14th-century roots and out to its 16th- and 17th-century descendants. Contains two essays specifically on Bruni, with other references scattered throughout both volumes.

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  • Hankins, James. “The ‘Baron Thesis’ after Forty Years and Some Recent Studies of Leonardo Bruni.” Journal of the History of Ideas 56.2 (1995): 309–338.

    DOI: 10.2307/2709840Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reiterates the importance of Baron’s work but argues that “the tendency of recent studies of Florentine intellectual history, and particularly studies of Leonardo Bruni, has been to revise or even undermine Baron’s view of the nature and significance of the phenomenon he called ‘civic humanism’” (p. 310).

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  • Hankins, James, ed. Renaissance Civic Humanism: Reappraisals and Reflections. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511558474Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of essays reassessing the impact of civic humanism, expanding the discussion from Baron’s focus on Florence at the beginning of the Quattrocento to the placing of classical republicanism with the emergence of oligarchy, imperialism, patronage politics, and the Medici rise to power in the 14th to the 16th centuries.

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  • Seigel, Jerrold E. “‘Civic Humanism’ or Ciceronian Rhetoric? The Culture of Petrarch and Bruni.” Past & Present 34 (July 1966): 3–48.

    DOI: 10.1093/past/34.1.3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Challenges both the dating of Bruni’s works and the applicability of civic humanism to his career, arguing that he operated not from conviction but as a rhetorician who freely adopted different principles according to changing circumstances.

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  • Witt, Ronald G.. “AHR Forum: The Crisis after Forty Years.” American Historical Review 101.1 (1996): 110–118.

    DOI: 10.2307/2169226Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A sympathetic view of Baron 1955a, suggesting that although parts of Baron’s argument may now seem exaggerated, the break with the two preceding generations of humanists was real and civic humanism continues to be recognized as a major strain in Renaissance thought. Part of a larger reassessment of Baron’s work, with three other relevant articles by John Najemy, Craig Kallendorf, and Werner Gundersheimer (pp. 119–144).

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Education

Bruni was not a teacher, but his Study of Literature is one of the commonly cited educational treatises from the period (see Bruni 2002, cited under English Translations). David 1935 offers an overview of the treatise, whereas Viti 1998 stresses the integration of Christian and pagan learning found there. Cox 2009 presents a revisionist reading of the text from the perspective of rhetorical history. Griffiths 1973 highlights a little-known educational intervention from Bruni’s time in Rome.

  • Cox, Virginia. “Leonardo Bruni on Women and Rhetoric: De studiis et litteris Revisited.” Rhetorica 27.1 (2009): 47–75.

    DOI: 10.1525/rh.2009.27.1.47Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Challenges the customary reading of The Study of Literature, which appears to reject the possibility that women can study rhetoric, arguing instead that this treatise proposes an innovative educational model whose novelty is underlined by the choice of a female addressee.

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  • David, Mariano. La prima “institutio” umanistica femminile: De studiis et litteris de Lionardo Bruni. Turin, Italy: L’Impronta, 1935.

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    A brief overview of The Study of Literature, now decades old and attainable from only one library in North America (Harvard University’s Widener Library), but still the most comprehensive study of the treatise.

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  • Griffiths, Gordon. “Leonardo Bruni and the Restoration of the University of Rome (1406).” Renaissance Quarterly 26.1 (1973): 1–10.

    DOI: 10.2307/2859454Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A rare study focused on the decade (1405–1414) Bruni spent in the employ of the papacy in Rome, where he participated in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to renew the city’s moribund university.

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  • Viti, Paolo. “Leonardo Bruni e le polemiche antiumanistiche.” In Gli umanesimi medievali: Atti del II Congresso del’ “Internationales Mittellateinerkomitee” (Firenze, Certosa del Galluzzo, 11–15 settembre 1993). Edited by Claudio Leonardi, 803–805. Florence: SISMEL, 1998.

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    Offers a persuasive reading of The Study of Literature within the context of Bruni’s general approach to humanism as a reconciliation between pagan and Christian learning, which is described further in his translation of Saint Basil’s Oratio ad adolescentes (see Naldini 1984, cited under Latin Translations of Greek Texts).

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History

Bruni was a major historian whose writings had a significant impact on the historiography of the period, with Ianziti 2012 offering an important synthesis in this area. Fubini 1980 and Fubini 2003 approach his History of the Florentine People as a document whose writer played a significant role in the events he narrates. Fryde 1980 and La Penna 1966 examine Bruni’s use of sources, whereas Ianziti 1998 explores the connection with translation in his historical writings, and Struever 1970 unravels their underlying rhetorical principles. Ullman 1946 stresses the modernity of Bruni’s historical method.

  • Fryde, Edmund. “The Beginnings of Italian Humanist Historiography: The ‘New Cicero’ of Leonardo Bruni.” English Historical Review 95.376 (1980): 533–552.

    DOI: 10.1093/ehr/XCV.CCCLXXVI.533Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A useful overview of Bruni’s general historical method and use of sources, followed by a careful study of the Cicero novus, indicating both what Bruni did well in this work and its shortcomings.

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  • Fubini, Riccardo. “Osservazioni sugli Historiarum florentini populi libri XII di Leonardo Bruni.” In Studi di storia medievale e moderna per Ernesto Sestan. Vol. 1. Edited by Maria Serena Mazzi and Sergio Raveggi, 403–448. Florence: Olschki, 1980.

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    Argues that Historiarum florentini populi libri XII (History of the Florentine People) should be read as a justification of Florentine expansionism, a defense of the then-recent creation of an oligarchy in the city, and a challenge to Florence’s medieval Guelf traditions.

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  • Fubini, Riccardo. Storiografia dell’umanesimo in Italia da Leonardo Bruni ad Annio da Viterbo. Rome: Storia e Letteratura, 2003.

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    Contains three important essays on Bruni: “Note preliminari sugli Historiarum florentini populi libri XII di Leonardo Bruni” (previously published as Fubini 1980), “La rivendicazione di Firenze della sovranità statale e il contributo delle ‘Historie’ di Leonardo Bruni,” and “L’ebraismo nei riflessi della cultura umanistica: Leonardo Bruni, Giannozzo Manetti, Annio di Viterbo.”

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  • Ianziti, Gary. “Bruni on Writing History.” Renaissance Quarterly 51.2 (1998): 367–391.

    DOI: 10.2307/2901571Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the evolution of Bruni’s ideas on the writing of history, arguing that he saw this activity as close to if not identical with translation. Explores the implications of this assertion for Bruni’s major historical writings and the challenge to this approach launched by Biondo Flavio in the early 1440s.

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  • Ianziti, Gary. Writing History in Renaissance Italy: Leonardo Bruni and the Uses of the Past. I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674063266Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A systematic, work-by-work investigation that draws from the full range of Bruni’s writings to explore what is widely understood to be a new approach to the past. Classical models, especially Greek writers such as Thucydides and Polybius, receive due attention, but Bruni’s ideas about history are also interpreted next to the political purposes they were meant to serve within Renaissance Florence. An important book.

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  • La Penna, Antonio. “Die Bedeutung Sallusts für die Geschichtsschreibung und die Politischen Ideen Leonardo Brunis.” Arcadia 1.3 (1966): 255–276.

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    Shows that for Bruni, Sallust was an important author who helped him formulate his political ideas and establish his standards for historical judgment. Italian translation in Sallustio e la “rivoluzione” romana (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1968), pp. 409–431; reprinted in 1973 and 1988.

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  • Struever, Nancy S. “Rhetoric, Politics, and History—Leonardo Bruni.” In The Language of History in the Renaissance: Rhetoric and Historical Consciousness in Florentine Humanism. By Nancy S. Struever, 101–143. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970.

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    An influential book that places Bruni within a larger study of how language theory affected the writing of history for the early Italian humanists, showing that for Bruni, rhetorical values reinforced political goals within the Florentine historical process, and that concepts of rhetorical structure clarify the structure of Florentine political history.

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  • Ullman, Berthold Louis. “Leonardo Bruni and Humanist Historiography.” Medievalia et Humanistica 4 (1946): 45–61.

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    A response to Santini 1910 (cited under Life and Works), confirming that, despite his shortcomings, Bruni’s use of source material and analytical perspective makes him “the first modern historian” (p. 343). Reprinted in Ullman’s Studies in the Italian Renaissance (Rome: Storia e Letteratura, 1955), pp. 321–343, with a second edition published in 1973.

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Philosophy

Freudenthal 1911 and Gentile 1962 represent an older emphasis on the return to classical sources as the key to Bruni’s philosophical work. Garin 2008 takes a broader approach, linking Bruni’s philosophy to his humanism, whereas Gerl 1978 shows that a concept that appears to lack ontological significance in fact shows Bruni to be a more subtle thinker than he is often given credit for being.

  • Freudenthal, Jakob. “Leonardo Bruni als Philosoph.” Neue Jahrbücher für Klassische Altertum 27 (1911): 48–66.

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    A good example of an approach that prevailed through the postwar period, showing that Bruni sought to replace Scholastic thought with a return to ancient sources, and surveying his responses to these sources, but concluding that Bruni, like the other humanists of his age, did not contribute much to the discipline of philosophy.

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  • Garin, Eugenio. “The Aristotelianism of Bruni: The Ancients and the Moderns.” In History of Italian Philosophy. Vol. 1. Translated by Giorgio Pinton, 171–176. Value Inquiry Book Series 191.1. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2008.

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    A brief but trenchant examination of Bruni as a philosopher, placing his Aristotelian orientation within a humanism that was committed to the civic life of his day.

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  • Gentile, Giovanni. “La filologia.” In Storia della filosofia italiana fino a Lorenzo Valla. 2d ed. Edited by Vito A. Bellezza, 255–344. Opere Complete di Giovanni Gentile. Florence: Sansoni, 1962.

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    In a chapter on the history of philosophy after Petrarch as a return to the ancient sources, Gentile examines Bruni’s works, including his translations of Plato and Aristotle, within the context of other thinkers of his generation. Originally published as La filosofia (Milan: Vallardi, 1904–1915).

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  • Gerl, Hanna-Barbara. “On the Philosophical Dimension of Rhetoric: The Theory of Ornatus in Lionardo Bruni.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 11.3 (1978): 178–190.

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    Shows that for Bruni, embellishment is not an empty formal concept but a means by which true philosophy is to be differentiated from a counterpart that seems true but is not.

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Rhetoric, Language, and Style

Garin 1970 offers a good introduction to Bruni’s ideas about language, arguing that the value of rhetoric lay in the ideas it could disseminate; Seigel 1968 also stresses the importance of rhetoric in Bruni’s work. Kirner 1889, Marsh 1980, and McLaughlin 1995 explore different aspects of Bruni’s relationship to Antiquity, the first by studying epideictic, the second by focusing on the dialogue form, and the last by analyzing his style. Santini 1912 offers a balanced assessment of Bruni’s attitudes toward the vernacular, with Hankins 2006 and Rizzi 2013 updating the discussion.

  • Garin, Eugenio. “La retorica di Leonardo Bruni.” In Dal Rinascimento al Illuminismo: Studi e ricerche. By Eugenio Garin, 21–42. Pisa, Italy: Nistri-Lischi, 1970.

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    Examines the place of rhetoric in Bruni’s thought from a broad perspective, concluding that Bruni was interested less in technicalities than in anchoring the persuasive power of words in a clear conception of liberty and virtue.

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  • Hankins, James. “Humanism in the Vernacular: The Case of Leonardo Bruni.” In Humanism and Creativity in the Renaissance: Essays in Honor of Ronald G. Witt. Edited by Christopher S. Celenza and Kenneth Gouwens, 11–29. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History 136. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2006.

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    Examines Bruni’s contributions to vernacular literature along with the translation of Bruni’s Latin writings into the vernacular, in order to show that in his vision of humanism, he “clearly had ambitions to spread its cultural values further down the social pyramid into the middle classes, and across gender lines to women. That those ambitions were not vain is shown by the numerous copyists and printers who spent time and resources making Bruni’s work available in the vernacular” (p. 24).

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  • Kirner, Giuseppe. Della ‘Laudatio urbis florentinae di Leonardo Bruni. Livorno, Italy: R. Giusti, 1889.

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    Analyzes how Bruni imitated Aristides’ oration in praise of Athens within the rhetorical genre of epideictic in his Laudatio, concluding that the speech was a youthful exercise whose defects pertain more to its genre and model than to any failings of the author.

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  • Marsh, David. “Leonardo Bruni and the Origin of Humanist Dialogue.” In The Quattrocento Dialogue: Classical Tradition and Humanist Innovation. By David Marsh, 24–37. Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674180550Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An interesting analysis suggesting that in his Dialogus ad Petrum Paulum Histrum, Bruni returned to a Ciceronian form of dialogue in which ambiguity prevailed and one could not assume that the views of the interlocutors corresponded to those of the historical figures on which they were based.

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  • McLaughlin, Martin L. “Leonardo Bruni.” In Literary Imitation in the Italian Renaissance: The Theory and Practice of Literary Imitation in Italy from Dante to Bembo. By Martin L. McLaughlin, 81–97. Oxford Modern Languages and Literature Monographs. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.

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    An insightful analysis of Bruni’s imitational practice, concluding that his sensitivity to word choice and rhythm made him the first to recapture a truly classical style, and that he also inaugurated a revival of several classical genres.

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  • Rizzi, Andrea. “Leonardo Bruni and the Shimmering Facets of Languages in Early Quattrocento Florence.” I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance 16.1–2 (2013): 243–256.

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    Examines “Bruni’s understanding of the link between Latin and vernacular languages of early quattrocento Florence and the cultural and political spaces they occupied. According to this new reading, for Bruni, Latin and the Florentine vernacular occupied specific and yet compatible cultural domains befitting their audiences and users . . . : Latin for supraregional, epideictic, and demonstrative oratory and official written exchange, on the one hand, and the vernacular for localized, deliberative, and forensic exchange, on the other” (p. 244).

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  • Santini, Emilio. “La produzione volgare di Leonardo Bruni Aretino e il suo culto per ‘le tre corone fiorentine.’” Giornale Storico della Letteratura Italiana 60 (1912): 289–339.

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    Shows that Bruni reserved a place for Italian when the discussion centered on everyday matters, and that his biographies of Dante and Petrarca demonstrate that he was not opposed to the use of the vernacular.

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  • Seigel, Jerrold E. “Leonardo Bruni and the New Aristotle.” In Rhetoric and Philosophy in Renaissance Humanism: The Union of Eloquence and Wisdom, Petrarch to Valla. By Jerrold E. Seigel, 99–136. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968.

    DOI: 10.1515/9781400878826Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    As part of a larger study of the relationship between philosophy and rhetoric in early Italian humanism, Seigel contends that Bruni showed greater faith in the power of eloquence than Petrarch and Coluccio Salutati before him.

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Political Career

It is sometimes easy to forget that for much of his life Bruni held an important political appointment at the same time that he was writing prolifically. Garin 1959 places Bruni’s work as chancellor of Florence in the context of those who came before and after him. Griffiths 1999 and Viti 1992 rely on intensive study of his public letters to clarify Bruni’s goals as chancellor, whereas Viti 1990 presents a group of essays that explore his public service from a variety of angles. Field 1998 is a provocative analysis suggesting that Bruni’s political intentions may have been more complicated than is generally believed, and Maxson 2012 places Bruni’s humanistic work into its broader civic and political context.

  • Field, Arthur. “Leonardo Bruni, Florentine Traitor? Bruni, the Medici, and an Aretine Conspiracy of 1437.” Renaissance Quarterly 51.4 (1998): 1109–1150.

    DOI: 10.2307/2901962Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An interesting study of Bruni’s relationship with the Medici, suggesting that although he stayed on as chancellor after the Medici took over in 1434, there is evidence that his support for them was neither wholehearted nor consistent.

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  • Garin, Eugenio. “I cancellieri umanisti della Repubblica Fiorentina da Coluccio Salutati a Bartolomeo Scala.” Rivista Storica Italiana 71 (1959): 185–208.

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    Places Bruni’s work in the context of other Florentine humanist chancellors whose scholarly interests are inextricable from their political careers. Reprinted in Garin’s La cultura filosofica del Rinascimento italiano (Florence: Sansoni, 1961), pp. 3–37, which was reprinted in 1979.

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  • Griffiths, Gordon. The Justification of Florentine Foreign Policy Offered by Leonardo Bruni in His Public Letters, 1428–1444. Nuovi Studi Storici 47. Rome: Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medioevo, 1999.

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    A study of Bruni’s public letters, on the basis of extensive archival research, designed to define the foreign policy he was seeking to implement as chancellor.

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  • Maxson, Brian Jeffrey. “Establishing Independence: Leonardo Bruni’s History of the Florentine People and Ritual in Fifteenth-Century Florence.” In Foundation, Dedication and Consecration in Early Modern Europe. Edited by Maarten Delbeke and Minou Schraven, 79–98. Intersections: Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture 22. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012.

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    Examines how Bruni’s History of the Florentine People became a key object in the civic ritual of the state, leading to a better understanding of how and why the Florentines sought to refound their city in an official Latin history by establishing its independence from outside powers, particularly the Roman and Holy Roman Emperors.

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  • Viti, Paolo, ed. Leonardo Bruni, cancelliere della Repubblica di Firenze: Atti del convegno di studi (Firenze, 27–29 ottobre 1987). Florence: Olschki, 1990.

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    A welcome counterbalance to the general interest in Bruni’s work as a humanist, offering twenty essays focused mainly (although not exclusively) on his work as chancellor of the Florentine Republic from 1427 to 1444.

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  • Viti, Paolo. Leonardo Bruni e Firenze: Studi sulle lettere pubbliche e private. Humanistica 12. Rome: Bulzoni, 1992.

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    A collection of essays that includes studies of Bruni’s handwriting and the structure of his private letter collection, but focusing on his public letters and his career as chancellor. See Hankins 1995 (cited under Bruni and Civic Humanism) for some additions and corrections.

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