Renaissance and Reformation Niccolò Niccoli
by
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0175

Introduction

Niccolò Niccoli (b. c. 1364–d. 1437) is one of the more intriguing figures of early Italian humanism. One of the scholars interested in the revival of Antiquity who gathered around Cosimo de’ Medici in Florence, Niccoli accumulated an enormous library, which he made freely available to others and used himself in an effort to secure reliable texts of ancient authors. Yet his surviving writings consist of only “three Italian letters, two testaments, a search-list of manuscripts and some plangent tax statements” (see Davies 1987 in Invectives against Niccoli), which makes it difficult to get an accurate portrait of him. His friends presented him as a man of exquisite taste, open, generous, and intellectually brilliant. Yet he quarreled often, which led to another portrait of him as lacking in true learning, a spiteful charlatan who carped at the labors of others because he could not write anything himself. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but we will never know for sure.

Life

Although Niccoli wrote little himself, a fair amount was written about him in his own day. These primary sources provide the basis for modern overviews of his life and works.

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