Renaissance and Reformation Pier Candido Decembrio
by
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 February 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0345

Introduction

Pier Candido Decembrio (b. c. 1392–d. 1477) was probably the most important humanist in Milan during the first half of the 15th century, acting as secretary to Filippo Maria Visconti from 1419 to 1447. He later served at the papal Curia from 1450 to 1456, then as secretary to the Neapolitan kings from 1456 to 1459, and he received a pension from the Este rulers in Ferrara from 1466 to 1474. Like many humanists of his day, his relationships with his peers were often troubled: he succeeded in remaining friendly with Poggio Bracciolini and Lorenzo Valla, but fought bitterly with Panormita and Francesco Filelfo, and he passed into and out of favor with Guarino da Verona and Leonardo Bruni. His fame spread abroad, especially to England (he advised Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester on how to build his library) and Spain (he exchanged letters for many years with Alonso of Cartagena, bishop of Burgos), and many manuscripts of his works are found in these two countries. Decembrio was the author of some 127 works, ranging from translations to original scholarship written in Latin on a wide variety of topics. His most famous work is his biography of Filippo Maria Visconti, while his grammatical treatise, his translation of Plato’s Republic, and his Peregrina historia circulated widely as well. For a humanist of his generation, he produced an unusually large number of vernacular compositions, largely translations from Latin and Greek. As far back as the mid-20th century, Paul Oskar Kristeller was able to state that modern scholarship on Decembrio was considerable (see Kristeller 1966, in Other Works, p. 538). Since then, some notable work has been done on Decembrio as a historian and as a natural scientist, but scholarship about him has tended to get caught up in the repeated citation of the same handful of articles, and a good deal remains to be done in several key areas.

Editions

For an author as prolific as Decembrio, a number of lesser works are destined to remain accessible only in early printed books or in manuscript, but modern editions exist of most of the key texts. Historical works have been published in Butti, et al. 1925–1958 and Kretschmer 1893, with Decembrio 1913 and Decembrio 1983 making key material available in Italian and German translations, respectively. Petrucci 2013 presents the first volume of Decembrio’s important letter collection, while his translations of Plato can be accessed in Gallego Moya 2001 and Martinelli Tempesta 2009, with Martinelli Tempesta 2010 assessing these last two works. Decembrio 1984 and Ponzù Donato 2012–2013 provide access to other works of Decembrio’s. See also Ditt 1931, in Life and Works and Lucca 1952, in Politics and Culture in Lombardy; Battistella 1895, in Decembrio’s Humanism; Borsa 1893 and Petraglione 1907, in Politics and Culture in Lombardy; all of the entries in Homer and Virgil; Fubini 1966, in Translations of Plato; and Mazzocchi 2007 and Suárez-Somonte, et al. 1988, in Reception in Spain.

  • Butti, Attilio, Felice Fossati, and Giuseppe Petraglione, eds. Petri Candidi Decembri Opuscula historica. 9 vols. Rerum italicarum scriptores, new ed. 20.1. Bologna, Italy: Nicola Zanichelli, 1925–1958.

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    A critical edition of Decembrio’s historical works in a venerable Italian series with massive supporting annotation that often reduces the text to one or two lines on a folio-sized page.

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  • Decembrio, Pier Candido. Leben des Filippo Maria Visconti und Taten des Francesco Sforza. Translated by Philipp Funk. Das Zeitalter der Renaissance, series 1, 7. Jena, Germany: Eugen Diederichs, 1913.

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    A German translation of Decembrio’s life of Filippo Maria Visconti, his account of the deeds of Francesco Sforza, and twelve letters written by Decembrio that illustrate the points brought up in the other two works. Contains a fifty-page introduction that summarizes the Milanese history that the translated texts refer to. Useful for those who read German comfortably.

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  • Decembrio, Pier Candido. Vita di Filippo Maria Visconti. Translated by Elio Bartolini. Piccola biblioteca Adelphi 156. Milan: Adelphi, 1983.

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    An Italian translation of Decembrio’s Vita Philippi Mariae tertii Ligurum ducis, his biography of Filippo Maria Visconti, a psychologically acute portrait of one of the dominant political figures of the day who embodies in many respects the self-conscious construction and projection of power that Machiavelli outlines on a more theoretical level.

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  • Decembrio, Pier Candido. Das Tierbuch des Petrus Candidus, Codex Urbinas 276, Eine Einführung. Translated by Theo Honref and Julia Schlechta. Codices e Vaticanis selecti 60. Commentary by Cynthia Munro Pyle. Zurich, Switzerland: Belser Verlag, 1984.

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    A facsimile of Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Urb. lat. 276, which contains Decembrio’s De animantium naturis, a key text in the evolution of natural science from within the paradigm of Renaissance humanism. Spanish and Italian translations exist as well.

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  • Gallego Moya, Elena. “La versión latina de Pier Candido Decembrio del ‘Lysis’ del Platón.” In Mentis amore ligati: Lateinische Freundschaftsdichtung und Dichterfreundschaft in Mittelalter und Neuzeit. Festgabe für Reinhard Düchting zum 65. Geburtstag. Edited by Boris Körkel, Tito Licht, and Jolanta Wiendlocha, 95–114. Heidelberg, Germany: Mattes, 2001.

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    Offers a critical edition of Decembrio’s Latin translation of Plato’s Lysias, along with an introduction that discusses the weaknesses of the translation and provides an account of the manuscript witnesses.

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  • Kretschmer, Konrad. “Die Kosmographie des Petrus Candidus Decembrius.” In Festschrift Ferdinand Freiherrn von Richthofen zum sechzigsten Geburtstag am 5. Mai 1893 dargebracht von seinen schülern. 267–305. Berlin: Geographische Verlagshandlung Dietrich Reimer, 1893.

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    A critical edition of De cosmographia veteri et nova, the first book of the Historia peregrine, that offers important information on the state of geographical knowledge that was available to educated people in Decembrio’s time. The twenty-page introduction contains information about Decembrio, the contents of the treatise, its sources, and the manuscripts through which it has been transmitted.

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  • Martinelli Tempesta, Stefano, ed. Platonis Euthyphron Francisco Philelfo interprete: Lysis Petro Candido Decembrio interprete. Il ritorno dei classici nell’Umanesimo, Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali 3, Edizione nazionale delle traduzioni dei testi greci in età umanistica e rinascimentale 6. Florence: SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2009.

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    Contains a critical text of Decembrio’s Latin translation of the Lysis, along with Francesco Filelfo’s translation of the Euthyphron, which provides information on the circulation of Plato’s lesser works in the Quattrocento along with the material with which to compare the two translators’ knowledge of Greek and theories about translation.

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  • Martinelli Tempesta, Stefano. “Ancora sulla versione del ‘Liside’ platonico di Pier Candido Decembrio.” Acme: Annali della Facoltà di lettere e filosofia dell’Università degli studi di Milano 63 (2010): 263–270.

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    Compares the author’s edition of Plato’s Lysis (see Martinelli Tempesta 2009) to that of Gallego Moya 2001, listing first the places in which he prefers the readings of the other edition, then discussing the different editorial principles on which the two editions are founded.

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  • Petrucci, Federico, ed. Petri Candidi Decembrii Epistolarum iuvenilium libri octo. Premio tesi di dottorato. Florence: Firenze University Press, 2013.

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    The publication of Decembrio’s letter collection has been delayed for many years in anticipation of the edition on which Vittorio Zaccaria was working, which never appeared (see Zaccaria 1952, in Other Works). The first volume of Petrucci’s critical edition, which has been very carefully prepared, covers the years 1423–1432 and places Decembrio’s political and literary activity into the arc of Italian humanism that extends from Petrarch to Valla.

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  • Ponzù Donato, Paolo. “Il Bellum Alexandrinum e il Bellum Africum volgarizzati da Pier Candido Decembrio.” Interpres 31 (2012–2013): 97–149.

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    A critical edition of Decembrio’s Italian translation of the Bellum Alexandrinum and the Bellum Africum from the Corpus Caesarianum. The work is placed into its context at the Visconti court, and a linguistic analysis of the vernacular text shows that the Latin manuscript that Decembrio used has unique variants. Includes a careful description of the manuscripts and an analysis of their relationship. Article continues in Interpres 32 (2014): 7–111.

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Life and Works

A good, modern intellectual biography of Decembrio would be most welcome. Viti 1960 presents the best overview of Decembrio’s life and works, with Monteverdi 1938 being worth the read as well. Gamba 2014 offers a brief introduction in English, and Hilary 1975 clears up a problem in our understanding of Decembrio’s life. Zaccaria 1956 has done the careful research necessary to calculate precisely how much Decembrio wrote, and Ditt 1931 provides a survey of his literary output.

  • Ditt, Ernst. “Pier Candido Decembrio: Contributo alla storia dell’umanesimo italiano.” Memorie del Reale istituto lombardo di scienze e lettere, classe di lettere, scienze e lettere, scienze morali e storiche 24 (ser. 3, v. 15) fasc. 2 (1931): 21–108.

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    After a brief biography, Ditt examines Decembrio’s writings, taking up in turn his Latin translations, his original works, his editing, and his knowledge of Greek, Latin, and contemporary literature.

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  • Gamba, Eleonora. “Pier Candido Decembrio.” In Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy. Edited by Marco Sgarbi. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2014.

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    A brief overview of Decembrio’s life, followed by several pages on his works and the major themes they contain along with an up-to-date, short bibliography. The best introduction to Decembrio in English.

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  • Hilary, R. B. “Sources for a Biography of Pier Candido Decembrio.” Romance Notes 16 (1975): 700–701.

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    After quickly surveying the secondary sources that contain information on Decembrio’s life, Hilary turns to Vatican City, Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Reg. Lat. 468/F. 192, a bull appointing Decembrio as secretary to Pope Pius II, to account for his whereabouts from 1458 to 1460.

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  • Monteverdi, Angelo. “Pier Candido Decembrio.” In Italia Romana, Lombardia Romana. Edited by Aristide Calderini, Alessandro Visconti, Alberto De Capitani D’Arzago, et al., 169–194. Istituto di studi romani, sezione lombarda 1. Milan: Ceschina, 1938.

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    A sympathetic overview of the political and literary career of Decembrio, placed firmly into the environment of Quattrocento Milan. Rather impressionistic, but an engaging read that offers a good introduction to the man and his times.

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  • Viti, Paolo. “Pier Candido Decembrio.” In Dizionario biografico degli italiani. 84 vols. Vol. 33. Edited by Alberto Maria Ghisalberti, 488–498. Rome: Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana, 1960.

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    A brief synopsis of Decembrio’s life is followed by a more substantive analysis of his literary production than is usually found in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI) entries, along with a bibliography of primary and secondary sources that is good up through the publication date of the biography.

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  • Zaccaria, Vittorio. “Sulle opere di Pier Candido Decembrio.” Rinascimento 7 (1956): 13–74.

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    After sifting through a variety of evidence, Zaccaria concludes that Decembrio was the author of 127 works, a good number of which he describes in detail and all of which are listed out in a table at the end of the article. The definitive treatment of a tricky issue.

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Politics and Culture in Lombardy

While he moved about toward the end of his life, Decembrio’s career unfolded solidly within the ambience of Milan and its environs. Garin 1955 is the classic account of culture in Renaissance Milan, while Rabil 1988 covers the important ground in English and Rinaldi 1990 and Stella, et al. 1990 update and expand upon points raised by Garin. Lentzen 1986, Lucca 1952, and Petraglione 1907 concentrate on the relations between Milan and her neighbors in this period. Borsa 1893 and Zaggio 1993 narrow the focus in this discussion rather more to Decembrio, while Gabotto 1893 offers the classic account of Decembrio’s political activity.

  • Borsa, Mario. “Pier Candido Decembrio e l’umanesimo in Lombardia.” Archivio storico lombardo 20 (1893): 5–75, 358–441.

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    A detailed study of how Decembrio participated in the political life of early Renaissance Milan, integrating his relevant writings first into his work as secretary to Filippo Maria Visconti, then into his various ambassadorial assignments on behalf of the Repubblica Ambrosiana. Includes an appendix containing relevant primary documents.

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  • Gabotto, Ferdinando. “L’attività politica di Pier Candido Decembrio.” Giornale linguistico di archeologia, storia e letteratura 20 (1893): 161–198, 241–270.

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    Beginning from the observation that Renaissance men of letters participated in the political events of their day, Gabotto offers a detailed account of the maneuverings and machinations of the individuals that Decembrio served along with his role in these events. An often-cited article, in spite of its age, with extensive quotations from contemporary documents.

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  • Garin, Eugenio. “La cultura milanese nella prima metà del XV secolo.” In Storia di Milano. Vol. 6, Il Ducato Visconteo e la Repubblica Ambrosiana (1392–1450). 545–608. Milan: Fondazione Treccani degli Alfieri, 1955.

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    An excellent synthesis of Milanese culture during the time when Decembrio was active at the Visconti court, by the leading Italian cultural historian of the Renaissance in his generation. Decembrio’s role is somewhat undervalued, but the overview has remained valuable in the decades since its initial publication. Reprinted (Rome: Istituto della enciclopedia italiana, 1995).

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  • Lentzen, Manfred. “Die Rivalität zwischen Mailand und Florenz in der ersten Hälfte des 15. Jahrhunderts: Zu Pier Candido Decembrios ‘De laudibus Mediolanensium urbis in comparationem Florentie panegyricus.’” Italienische Studien 9 (1986): 5–17.

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    Argues that Decembrio’s praise of Milan can only be understood as an effort to legitimize the seigneury of Milan against Leonardo Bruni’s earlier encomium of republican Florence and Cristoforo Landino’s later defense of Medici hegemony.

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  • Lucca, Piero. “La rivolta di Genova contro Milano nel 1435 e una lettera inedita di Pier Candido Decembrio.” Bollettino della Società pavese di storia patria 51–52 (1952): 3–23.

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    A detailed account of the revolt of Genoa against Milan in 1435, with a special focus on a letter that Decembrio wrote to the rebels on behalf of Filippo Maria Visconti shortly after the revolt began, which shows clearly that as ducal secretary, Decembrio was an active participant in the political events of his day. Includes an edition of the letter in question.

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  • Petraglione, Giuseppe. “Il De laudibus Mediolanensium urbis panegyricus di Pier Candido Decembrio.” Archivio storico lombardo 4.8 (1907): 5–45.

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    After exploring the various options for dating, which is a vexed question, and noting briefly that Decembrio’s work was not the first in its genre, Petraglione examines the panegyric in praise of Milan in relation to the text to which it responds, Leonardo Bruni’s encomium of Florence. Decembrio’s panegyric has not been studied much, but it merits attention for its role in the development of civic humanism in the Renaissance. Includes an edition of the beginning of the text.

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  • Rabil, Albert. “Humanism in Milan.” In Renaissance Humanism: Foundations, Forms, and Legacy. Vol. 1, Humanism in Italy. 2 vols. Edited by Albert Rabil, 235–263. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988.

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    A rare overview in English of humanism in Milan, which has been overshadowed, especially in Anglophone scholarship, by the attention paid to Florence, Rome, and Venice. Rabil explains that Milanese humanism was centered in the chancery and, in time, in the university, with Decembrio, Panormita, Francesco Filelfo, and Lorenzo Valla being the leading figures.

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  • Rinaldi, Rinaldo. Storia della civiltà letteraria italiana. Vol. 2, Umanesimo e Rinascimento. Turin, Italy: UTET, 1990.

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    A general overview of Italian literary culture in the Renaissance whose sections on Milan, which are found in several parts of the book, are useful for understanding the environment in which Decembrio produced many of his most important works.

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  • Stella, Angelo, Cesare Repossi, and Fabio Pusterla, eds. Lombardia. Letteratura delle regioni d’Italia, storia e testi. Brescia, Italy: La scuola, 1990.

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    An overview of literary culture in the region around Milan whose references to the Quattrocento, which are scattered throughout the book, provide useful background about the environment in which Decembrio worked.

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  • Zaggio, Massimo. “Appunti sulla cultura letteraria in volgare a Milano nell’età di Filippo Maria Visconti.” Giornale storico della letteratura italiana 170.550–551 (1993): 161–219, 321–382.

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    An important study of the literary culture in Italian in the Milan of Filippo Maria Visconti, in which Decembrio plays the major role. After surveying literary manuscripts in the vernacular in Milanese libraries, Zaggio places his discussion of Decembrio’s major translations of Latin works into the context of other literary work in Italian that was produced in the same cultural ambience. Contains a rich bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

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Decembrio’s Humanism

Decembrio was first and foremost a humanist, dedicated to using the classics as models to reform the language and culture of his day. Ferrari 1984 and Pade 2005 offer good introductions to his philological activity, while Ianziti 2015 makes an eloquent case for Decembrio’s accomplishments in the theory and practice of history, which is one of the key humanistic disciplines. Sabbadini 1933 provides insight into how Decembrio picked up the knowledge of Greek that a humanist needed, and Battistella 1895 and Zaccaria 1967 connect him to the larger republic of letters and its notable representatives in Renaissance Italy.

  • Battistella, Antonio. “Una lettera inedita di Pier Candido Decembrio sul Carmagnola.” Nuovo archivio veneto 10 (1895): 97–135.

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    A detailed study of a letter, previously unedited, from Decembrio to Count Francesco Carmagnola that touches on broader issues that involved Guarino da Verona and Antonio Beccadelli (called Panormita), with whom Decembrio had rocky relationships. Includes an edition of the letter in question.

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  • Ferrari, Mirella. “Fra i ‘latini scriptores’ di Pier Candido Decembrio e biblioteche umanistiche milanesi: Codici di Vitruvio e Quintiliano.” In Vestigia: Studi in onore di Giuseppe Billanovich. 2 vols. Vol. 1. Edited by Rino Avesani, Mirella Ferrari, Tino Foffano, Giuseppe Frasso, and Agostino Sottili, 247–296. Storia e letteratura 162–163. Rome: Storia e letteratura, 1984.

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    Pulls two authors from the list of writers that were most important to Decembrio, Quintilian and Vitruvius, and shows how much effort the humanist went to in order to construct good texts of the works that interested him.

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  • Ianziti, Gary. “Pier Candido Decembrio and the Beginnings of Humanist Historiography in Visconti Milan.” In After Civic Humanism: Learning and Politics in Renaissance Italy. Edited by Nicholas Scott Baker and Brian Jeffrey Maxson, 153–172. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015.

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    Argues that although Decembrio is not generally considered a historian, he was closely involved in the unfolding of events in Renaissance Milan and that “among the several humanists active at the Visconti court . . . Pier Candido Decembrio is deserving of particular attention as an initiator of new trends in history” (pp. 154–155).

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  • Pade, Marianne. “Le glosse nel Cod. V.G.14 della Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli e il Plutarco di Pier Candiddo Decembrio.” In Parrhasiana III. “Tocchi di uomini dotti,” codici e stampati con postille di umanisti. Proceedings of the III seminario di studi, Rome, 27–28 September 2002. Edited by Giancarlo Abbamonte, Lucia Gualdo Rosa, and Luigi Munzi, 118–128. Aion 27, 2005.

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    A careful study of Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale, V.G.14, which contains Leonardo Bruni’s translation of six of Plutarch’s individual Lives along with marginalia that derive ultimately from Decembrio. Pade concludes that the glosses in this manuscript reflect Decembrio’s philological activity while he was studying Plutarch, but that it is impossible to say for sure whether the glosses are in Decembrio’s hand or are copies of his notes.

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  • Sabbadini, Remigio. “Manuele Crisolora e i Decembri.” In Classici e umanisti da codici ambrosiani. Edited by Remigio Sabbadini, 85–94. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1933.

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    Provides extensive quotations from primary sources along with an analysis that sets out the basic parameters of the relationship of Pier Candido Decembrio and his father Uberto with Manuel Chrysoloras, a Greek emigré who played a key role in the recovery of Greek by the early Italian humanists.

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  • Zaccaria, Vittorio. “Pier Candido Decembrio e Leonardo Bruni (Notizie dell’epistolario del Decembrio).” Studi medievali 8 (1967): 504–554.

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    A detailed study of Decembrio’s relationship with Leonardo Bruni, focused around a dispute concerning Alfonso, bishop of Burgos, in which they both participated; Bruni’s translation of Aristotle’s Politics and Decembrio’s of Plato’s Republic; and Bruni’s Laudatio urbis Florentinae and Decembrio’s De laudibus Mediolanensium urbis panegyricus. Contains extensive extracts from relevant documents.

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Works about Alexander the Great and Caesar

Like other Renaissance humanists going all the way back to Petrarch, Decembrio believed that the humanist project could be advanced significantly by the emulation of worthy models from Antiquity. Alexander the Great and Caesar were especially important to him. Frati 1921 and Schadee 2015 focus on Caesar, while Pade 2007 discusses Decembrio’s comparison of the two figures and Pade 1998 expands the discussion. See also Loatelli 2003, in Other Works; and Moll 1992, in Reception in Spain.

  • Frati, Carlo. “Il volgarizzamento dei ‘Commentarii’ di Giulio Cesare fatto da Pier Candido Decembrio.” Archivum romanicum 5 (1921): 74–80.

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    A brief study of Decembrio’s Italian translation of Caesar’s Commentarii de bello Gallico, tracking how knowledge of this version entered scholarly discussion and providing descriptions of the five manuscripts in which it is preserved.

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  • Pade, Marianne. “Curzio e Plutarco nell’Istoria d’Alexandro Magno: Volgarizzamento e compilazione in un testo di Pier Candido Decembrio.” Studi umanistici piceni 18 (1998): 101–113.

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    A study of Decembrio’s Istoria d’Alexandro Magno, which consists of a compilation of his translations of Quintus Curtius Rufus, his Comparatione di Cesare e d’Alexandro, and his translation of the first part of Plutarch’s biography. Pade argues that the work was successful because it presented a subject of popular interest in a modern treatment that recalled the learned world of Latin scholarship. Includes a census of manuscripts.

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  • Pade, Marianne. “Guarino at Ferrara in the 1430s: Pier Candido Decembrio’s Comparatione di Cesare e dalexandro.” In The Reception of Plutarch’s Lives in Fifteenth-Century Italy. 2 vols. Vol. 1. Edited by Marianne Pade, 251–254. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum, 2007.

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    A brief discussion of Decembrio’s comparison of Caesar and Alexander as generals, with Decembrio praising Caesar in opposition to the anti-monarchist, republican sentiments that had been expressed in a larger debate over the relative merits of Scipio and Caesar that had engaged a number of other humanists. Vol. 2 also includes information on several manuscripts of Plutarch that had passed through Decembrio’s hands.

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  • Schadee, Hester. “The First Vernacular Caesar: Pier Candido Decembrio’s Translation for Inigo D’Avalos with Editions and Translations of Both Prologues.” Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies 46 (2015): 277–304.

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    Presents editions and translations of two dedications with which Decembrio prefaced parts of his Italian renderings of Caesar’s Commentaries, dates them and identifies the Latin manuscript families from which they derive, reconstructs the cultural and political contexts in which they were written, and examines Decembrio’s approach to Caesar, whom he valued not as a political or military leader, but as a writer of history.

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Homer and Virgil

We will have to wait for the completion of Adam Foley’s University of Notre Dame dissertation on Homer translations in the early Italian Renaissance for a full understanding of Decembrio’s work in this area, but Fabiano 1949 and Pade 2008 offer a good beginning. Decembrio began, and then abandoned, an effort to “complete” Virgil’s Aeneid, with Kern 1896 introducing the supplement and Eckmann 2002 offering an assessment of it from within the context of modern Virgilian scholarship. See also Morel-Fatio 1896 and Suárez-Somonte, et al. 1988, in Reception in Spain.

  • Eckmann, Sonja. “Das Aeneis-Supplement der Pier Candido Decembrio: Die pessimistische ‘Stimme’ der Aeneis?” Neulateinisches Jahrbuch 4 (2002): 55–88.

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    Argues that in the eighty-nine-verse fragmentary supplement to Virgil’s Aeneid written by Decembrio, the private voice that many modern critics hear questioning Virgil’s achievement in the Aeneid can be heard, centuries before its full-blown development after World War II. Includes a critical text and translation of the supplement, along with a comparison to the better-known Book 13 of Maffeo Vegio.

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  • Fabiano, Carolina. “Pier Candido Decembrio traduttore d’Omero.” Aevum 23 (1949): 36–51.

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    A rigorous examination of Decembrio’s translation of part of the Iliad, placed within the context of early humanistic translations of Homer. Fabiano concludes that while Decembrio was able to appreciate the artistry of the poem, he was not able to recreate it successfully in Latin, producing what looks more like a school exercise than a literary translation. Contains a transcription of Iliad 1.1–100 from the surviving manuscript, Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, D 112 inf.

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  • Kern, Hans. “Supplement des Pier Candido Decembrio (1419).” In Supplemente zur Aeneis aus dem 15. und 17. Jahrhundert. Edited by Hans Kern, 13–19. Nuremberg, Germany: F. L. Stich, 1896.

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    A brief introduction to Decembrio’s supplement to Virgil’s Aeneid, which consists of a beginning fragment that takes up where Virgil’s action ends and begins to tie up the loose ends in the narrative. Contains the text of the supplement, with references to verbal parallels in Virgil’s poetry.

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  • Pade, Marianne. “The Fortuna of Leontius Pilatus’ Homer: With an Edition of Pier Candido Decembrio’s ‘Why Homer’s Greek Verses Are Rendered in Latin Prose.’” In Classica et Beneventana: Essays Presented to Virginia Brown on the Occasion of Her 65th Birthday. Edited by Frank T. Coulson and Anna A. Grotans, 149–172. Textes et Études du Moyen Ãge 36. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2008.

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    Places Decembrio’s rendering of Iliad 1–4 and 10 into its proper context, as a revision of Leontius Pilatus’s Latin translation that disguises its origins but ultimately fails to present the text in a more aesthetically pleasing state. Includes an edition and translation of a short text in which Decembrio defends a style of translation that privileges content over style.

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Translations of Plato

A significant part of Decembrio’s fame as a scholar rests on his translations of Plato into Latin, the language of learning in his day. Bottoni 1984, Gusmini 2012, and Hankins 1987 unravel the complicated genesis of the translation of the Republic, with the two latter works coming to opposite conclusions about the quality of Decembrio’s effort. Hankins 1994 explores how Decembrio’s translation practice intersected with larger cultural concerns, while Fubini 1966, Zaccaria 1959, and Zaccaria 1974–1975 analyze the network that Decembrio used to disseminate his text. Vegetti and Pissavino 2005 and Zaggio 1993 offer broader analyses of the Republic translation, while Martinelli Tempesta 1997 extends the discussion to Decembrio’s translation of the Lysias.

  • Bottoni, Diego. “I Decembrio e la traduzione della Repubblica di Platone dalle correzioni dell’autografo di Uberto alle integrazioni greche di Pier Candido Decembrio.” In Vestigia: Studi in onore di Giuseppe Billanovich. 2 vols. Vol. 1. Edited by Rino Avesani, Mirella Ferrari, Tino Foffano, Giuseppe Frasso, and Agostino Sottili, 75–91. Storia e letteratura 162–163. Rome: Storia e letteratura, 1984.

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    A detailed study of one of the eight surviving manuscripts of Decembrio’s translation of Plato’s Republic, Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, B 123 sup., that separates out the various strands of intervention owed to Decembrio himself, his father Uberto, and Manuel Chrysoloras.

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  • Fubini, Riccardo. “Tra umanesimo e concili: Note e giunte a una pubblicazione recente su Francesco Pizolpasso (c. 1370–1443).” Studi medievali, ser. 3, 7 (1966): 323–370.

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    As part of a study of the humanist churchman Francesco Pizolpasso, Fubini sets out Pizolpasso’s role as an important intermediary in the dissemination of Decembrio’s translation of Plato’s Republic. An appendix includes an edition of the correspondence between the two men.

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  • Gusmini, Franca. “Le traduzioni della “repubblica” platonica di Uberto e Pier Candido Decembrio: Primi accertamenti testuali.” Filologia italiana 9 (2012): 77–108.

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    A careful codicological study that reveals how Decembrio’s translation of Plato’s Republic evolved, from the initial translation by his father Uberto that was based on Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Graec. 226 (through which the project was connected to Manuel Chrysoloras) to a second draft to a final revision based on a second Greek manuscript, Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, 90 sup. Gusmini stresses the intellectual depth of Decembrio’s achievement, which is an aspect that is not universally recognized in modern scholarship.

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  • Hankins, James. “A Manuscript of Plato’s Republic in the Translation of Chrysoloras and Uberto Decembrio with Annotations of Guarino Veronese (Reg. Lat. 1131),” Part 1: “Chrysoloras, Uberto Decembrio, and the Translation of the Republic.” In Supplementum Festivum: Studies in Honor of Paul Oskar Kristeller. Edited by James Hankins, John Monfasani, and Frederick Purnell Jr., 149–161. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 49. Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1987.

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    Concludes that Decembrio’s translation of the Republic began with the dictation of a literal translation by Manuel Chrysoloras to his father Uberto, who polished it stylistically but produced something that went even farther than the original dictation from grasping and conveying an accurate sense of Plato’s doctrine.

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  • Hankins, James. “Pier Candido Decembrio’s Celestial Polity.” In Plato in the Italian Renaissance. 2 vols. Vol. 1. Edited by James Hankins, 117–154. 3d ed. Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition 17. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994.

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    After noting that Decembrio’s translation rested on a somewhat wobbly command of Greek and a rather outdated literalism, Hankins shows that Decembrio used the hermeneutic methods of his day, along with a certain amount of censorship, to try to make Plato compatible with contemporary Christian ethics but was forced to defend his choice of the work to translate by challenging the reverence toward authoritative texts that was common in the early Renaissance. See also “Appendix 8: Decembrio’s Platonic Studies” in Vol. 2 (pp. 415–421).

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  • Martinelli Tempesta, Stefano. “Le traduzioni latine: La versione di Pier Candido Decembrio.” In La tradizione testuale del Liside di Platone. Edited by Stefano Martinelli Tempesta, 145–155. Pubblicazioni della Facoltà di lettere e filosofia dell’Università degli studi di Milano 173. Florence: La nuova italia, 1997.

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    Discusses Decembrio’s Latin translation of Plato’s Lysias, noting briefly his literal translation style, then focusing on the passages he omitted, either because of their difficulty or because of his discomfort with their homosexual content. Martinelli Tempesta concludes by examining the relationship of Decembrio’s translation to that of Ficino.

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  • Vegetti, Mario, and Paolo Pissavino, eds. I Dicembrio e la tradizione della Repubblica di Platone tra Medioevo e Rinascimento. Saggi Bibliopolis 75. Naples, Italy: Bibliopolis, 2005.

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    A collection of essays that examines the translation of Plato’s Republic made by Decembrio, his father, and Manuel Chrysoloras, placing the translation into the tradition of medieval Platonism, humanist culture in Milan, and the nexus of scholarly relationships connected to this work.

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  • Zaccaria, Vittorio. “Pier Candido Decembrio traduttore della Repubblica di Platone (Notizie dall’epistolario del Decembrio).” Italia medioevale e umanistica 2 (1959): 179–206.

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    Draws from Decembrio’s correspondence to trace the steps that he took to spread his translation of Plato’s Republic to friends and potential patrons. Includes extracts from the relevant letters.

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  • Zaccaria, Vittorio. Pier Candido Decembrio, Michele Pizolpasso e Ugolino Pisani (Nuove notizie dell’epistolario di Pier Candido Decembrio con appendice di lettere e testi inediti). Atti del Reale istituto veneto di scienze, lettere ed arti. Venezia. 187–212. Classe di scienze morali e lettere 133, 1974–1975.

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    An analysis of a dispute between Decembrio and Ugolino Pisani over Decembrio’s translation of Plato’s Republic, which was mediated by Michele Pizolpasso; a brief sketch of Pizolpasso, who is not well known, is followed by a description of the dispute, along with transcriptions from the letters through which it unfolded.

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  • Zaggio, Massimo. “La versione latina di Pier Candido Decembrio dalla ‘Repubblica’ di Platone: Per la storia della tradizione.” Interpres 13 (1993): 7–55.

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    A detailed and richly documented study of Decembrio’s translation of Plato’s Republic, beginning with the circumstances of its composition, followed by a discussion of the intended recipients of copies of the work and a census of manuscripts containing it, and concluding with a fuller analysis of several manuscripts that pose unusual problems.

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Other Works

Several other works of Decembrio’s have attracted some attention from scholars throughout the 20th century. Killermann 1914, Pyle 1984, and Pyle 1996 discuss his work on natural history, while Mezzanotte 1984 attributes an early biography of Petrarch to Decembrio and Kristeller 1966 discusses his treatise on the immortality of the soul. Loatelli 2003 presents his summary of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, Pyle 1988 and Wylie 1909 examine Decembrio’s historical works, Zaccaria 1952 discusses his letter collection, and Zaggio 1993 turns to his translation of Appian.

  • Killermann, Sebastian. “Das Tierbuch des Petrus Candidus geschrieben 1460, gemalt im 16. Jahrhundert (Codex Vaticanus Urb. lat. 276).” Zoologische Annalen-Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Zoologie 6 (1914): 113–221.

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    A detailed study of the contents of Decembrio’s De animantium naturis, working systematically through the various classes of animals and explaining what Decembrio knew about each in relation to what was known at the beginning of the 20th century. An interesting supplement to Pyle 1996.

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  • Kristeller, Paul Oskar. “Pier Candido Decembrio and His Unpublished Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul.” In The Classical Tradition: Literary and Historical Studies in Honor of Harry Caplan. Edited by Luitpold Wallach, 536–558. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966.

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    After a brief overview of Decembrio’s life and works, Kristeller analyzes On Immortality, concluding that Decembrio’s “treatise is neither original nor profound in its doctrine” but can “throw some light on the place of humanism in Renaissance thought, its sources, contributions and limitations, and its attitudes toward philosophy and theology” (p. 537). Reprinted in Paul Oskar Kristeller, Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters, vol. 2 (Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1985), pp. 281–300.

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  • Loatelli, Luigi. Gli uomini illustri di Plutarco nelle miniature del compendio di Pier Candido Decembrio: Codice CCXXXIX della Biblioteca capitolare di Verona. Milan: Banco populare di Verona e Novara, 2003.

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    A lavish production based on Verona, Biblioteca capitolare, Cod. CCXXXIX, the redaction of the epitomes of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives prepared by Decembrio. The book reproduces the illuminated pages from the codex, provides information on the historical figures discussed by Plutarch, and places the manuscript into the humanistic culture of Verona.

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  • Mezzanotte, Gabriella. “Pier Candido Decembrio e la ‘Vita’ del Petrarca attribuita a Antonio da Tempo.” Studi petrarcheschi 1 (1984): 211–224.

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    Examines the two states of a biography of Petrarch attributed to Antonio da Tempo and concludes that the biography was written by Decembrio, as the manuscripts of the second state clearly indicate and as external evidence confirms.

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  • Pyle, Cynthia Munro. “Pier Candido Decembrio and Rome.” In Umanesimo a Roma nel Quattrocento. Edited by Paolo Brezzi and Maristella de Panizza Lorch, 295–307. Rome: Istituto di studi romani, 1984.

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    Establishes that Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Urb. lat. 276, which contains De animantius naturis, was copied in 1460 for Ludovico Gonzaga, illustrated in the 16th century, and has the author’s hand present throughout. Revised and reprinted in Cynthia Munro Pyle, Milan and Lombardy in the Renaissance: Essays in Cultural History (Istituto di filologia moderna, Università degli studi di Parma, testi e studi, nuova serie, studi 1. Rome: La Fenice, 1997), pp. 31–44.

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  • Pyle, Cynthia Munro. “Harvard MS Richardson 23: A ‘Pendant’ to Vatican MS Urb. Lat. 276 and a Significant Examplar for P. C. Decembrio’s Opuscula historica.” Scriptorium 42 (1988): 191–198.

    DOI: 10.3406/scrip.1988.2024Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A careful codicological study showing that versions of several of Decembrio’s works contained in Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Library, MS Richardson 23 are later than those in Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Urb. lat. 276, and that these corrected versions must therefore be taken into account in the textual tradition. Revised and reprinted in Cynthia M. Pyle, Milan and Lombardy in the Renaissance: Essays in Cultural History (Istituto di filologia moderna, Università di Parma, testi e studi, nuova serie, studi 1. Rome: La Fenice, 1997), pp. 45–56.

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  • Pyle, Cynthia Munro. “The Art and Science of Renaissance Natural History: Thomas of Cantimpré, Pier Candido Decembrio, Conrad Gessner, and Teodoro Ghisi in Vatican Library MS Urb. lat. 276.” Viator 27 (1996): 265–321.

    DOI: 10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.301129Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A detailed study, extensively illustrated, of a manuscript of Decembrio’s De animantium naturis, based on the 13th-century Liber de natura rerum of Thomas of Cantipré but illustrated at the end of the 16th century by Teodoro Ghisi. Tracks the evolution of natural history from the High Middle Ages to the early scientific period and concludes that humanist philology imitated the ancient approach to science and thereby approached modern scientific practice.

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  • Wylie, J. Hamilton. “Decembri’s Version of the ‘Vita Henrici Quinti’ by Tito Livio.” English Historical Review 24 (1909): 84–89.

    DOI: 10.1093/ehr/XXIV.XCIII.84Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contains extracts from Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Ms. 2610, which allows Wylie to conclude that Decembrio’s Italian translation of the life of Henry V, originally written in Latin by Tito Livio da Forlì, was made directly from the Latin original and not from an intermediary.

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  • Zaccaria, Vittorio. “L’epistolario di Pier Candido Decembrio.” Rinascimento 3 (1952): 85–118.

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    In anticipation of an edition of Decembrio’s letters, Zaccaria provides information about the origin and formation of the collection, a bibliography of where individual letters have been published, a census of the manuscripts, and a list of correspondents. Contains the information necessary to form an overview of Decembrio’s letter collection.

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  • Zaggio, Massimo. “La traduzione latina da Appiano di Pier Candido Decembrio: Per la storia della tradizione.” Studi medievali 34 (1993): 193–243.

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    Places Decembrio’s translation of Appian into its context in Pope Nicholas V’s Rome, then discusses the nature of the translation and provides a detailed census of the thirty-seven manuscripts in which it can be found.

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Reception in England

Decembrio spent some time cultivating a relationship with Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, which means that his works affected the development of humanism in England, as Newman 1905, Sammut 1980, and Saygin 2001 show. Rundle 1997 offers a broader overview of how humanists like Decembrio operated in contexts that were far from home.

Reception in Spain

Through his relationship with Alfonso de Cartagena, as described in González Rolán, et al. 2000, Decembrio ensured that his compositions were widely diffused in Spain as well. Moll 1992 offers a good overview, while Bravo García 1977 and Mazzocchi 2007 narrow the focus to Decembrio’s work on Alexander the Great. Cátedra 1983; Morel-Fatio 1896; and Suárez-Somonte, et al. 1988 discuss his translation of Homer.

  • Bravo García, Antonio. “Sobre las traducciones de Plutarco y de Quinto Curcio Rufo hechas por Pier Candido Decembrio y su fortuna en España.” Cuadernos de filología clásica 12 (1977): 143–185.

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    An examination of several passages taken by Decembrio from Plutarch’s Life of Alexander to fill in the gaps found in the text of Quintus Curtius Rufus’s History of Alexander the Great as he translated the latter work into Italian. Bravo García first describes the genesis of Decembrio’s work, then focuses on the Spanish translations of it that were made shortly afterward.

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  • Cátedra, Pedro-Manuel. “Sobre la biblioteca del Marqués de Santillana: La Iliada y Pier Candido Decembrio.” Hispanic Review 51 (1983): 23–28.

    DOI: 10.2307/472307Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A brief discussion of London, British Library, Add. 21245, a manuscript that contains the translation of Iliad 1–4 and 10 that Pedro González de Mendoza had made from Decembrio’s Latin translation along with Spanish translations of several of Decembrio’s other works. The discussion is set within a larger consideration of the reception of Decembrio’s works in Spain, as attested by the surviving manuscripts.

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  • González Rolán, Tomás, Antonio Moreno Hernández, and Pilar Saquero Suárez-Somonte, eds. Humanismo y teoría de la traducción en España y Italia en la primera mitad del siglo XV: Edición y estudio de la Controversia Alphonsiana (Alfonso de Cartagena vs. L. Bruni y P. Candido Decembrio). Bibliotheca latina. Madrid: Ediciones clásicas, 2000.

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    After a lengthy introduction devoted to the Controversia Alphonsiana, the debate between Alfonso de Cartagena on one side and Leonardo Bruni and Decembrio on the other over how to translate classical texts, the editors present a critical edition of the key documents, including nineteen letters exchanged between Cartagena and Decembrio.

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  • Mazzocchi, Giuseppe. “La Comparazione di Pier Candido Decembrio nella traduzione di Martín de Avila (BNM, mss. 10171).” In La traduzione della letteratura italiana in Spagna (1300–1939). Traduzione e tradizione del testo. Dalla filologia all’informatica. Proceedings of the first international congress organized by the University of Barcelona, 13–16 April 2005. Edited by María de las Nieves Muñiz Muñiz, with the collaboration of Ursula Bedogni and Laura Calvo Valdivielso, 183–206. Quaderni della Rassegna 48. Florence: Franco Cesati editore, 2007.

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    Presents an edition of one of three Spanish translations of the Comparazione di Giulio Cesare e di Alexandro Magno, the one contained in Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, Mss. 10171, along with an introduction that focuses on lexical choice and syntax within the context of Decembrio’s free translation from Plutarch.

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  • Moll, Angela. “Pier Candido Decembrio y España: Estado della cuestion.” In Actas II Congreso internacional de la Associación hispánica de literatura medieval. Proceedings of a congress held at Segovia, 5–19 October 1987. 2 vols. Vol. 2. Edited by José Manuel Lucía Megías, Paloma Gracia Alonso, and Carmen Martín Daza, 465–474. Alcala, Spain: Universidad de Alcalá, 1992.

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    Offers an overview of what is known about the diffusion of Pier Candido Decembrio’s works in Spain, with special attention paid to Spanish translations and to his compositions about Alexander the Great, which proved especially popular in the Iberian Peninsula.

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  • Morel-Fatio, Alfred. “Les deux Omero castillian.” Romania 15 (1896): 111–129.

    DOI: 10.3406/roma.1896.5438Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    After treating the first Spanish translation of Homer by Juan de Mena, Morel-Fatio explores when and how Decembrio’s translation of selected books of Homer’s poetry was made by Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, at the instigation of the Marquis of Santillana.

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  • Suárez-Somonte, Pilar Saquero, and Tomás González Rolán. “Sobre la presencia en España de la version latina de la ‘Iliada’ de Pier Cándido Decembrio: Edición de la ‘Vita Homeri’ y de su traducción castellana.” Cuadernos de filología clásica 21 (1988): 319–344.

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    A study of the Spanish translation of Decembrio’s Latin rendering of Iliad 1–4 and 10, made at the behest of the Marquis of Santillana, and Decembrio’s more widely diffused Life of Homer. Contains a critical edition of the life, in both the Latin and Spanish versions.

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