Renaissance and Reformation Ambrogio Traversari
by
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0364

Introduction

Ambrogio Traversari (b. 1386–d. 1439), a Camaldolese monk, represents the Christian strain in Florentine humanism at the turn of the 15th century. For the early humanists, the classics included the works of the Church Fathers, and, with the encouragement of Niccolò Niccoli, Traversari turned enthusiastically to the translation of Greek patristic texts. He became prior general of the Camaldulensian order, where he sought to find a place for the new humanistic studies within the order, and he also played an important role at the Councils of Basel, Ferrara, and Florence. Along with his translations into Latin of some two dozen Greek patristic works, he produced a letter collection and a work entitled Hodoeporicon (Traversari 1985, cited under Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present), which provides a record of his travels between 1431 and 1435, including the visitations he made to various monasteries. He is generally interpreted from within the framework of learned piety, which tried to join biblical and patristic devotion to the eloquence of the pagan world. Traversari is fortunate in having attracted attention from two distinguished scholars early on, Lorenzo Mehus in the 18th century and Giovanni Mercati at the turn of the 20th; since then there has been a steady stream of scholarship about him, by both Anglophone and Italian scholars.

Life and Works

Unlike a number of Italian humanists, Traversari has been well served by biographers and bibliographers, beginning in his own day. Caby 1996 shows how his contemporaries sought to fashion an appropriate image of him, while Castrucci 1722 shows where things stood in the 18th century. Ricci 1939 presents a good overview, while Pontone 2011 serves as a reliable modern biography. Caciolli 2000, Frazier 2005, and Guerrieri 2012 list Traversari’s works, with information about them, while Dini-Traversari 1912 combines a biographical essay with an edition of a key work. See also Traversari 1968a and Traversari 1968b, both cited under Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present.

  • Caby, Cécile. “Culte monastique et fortune humaniste: Ambrogio Traversari, ‘vir illuster’ de l’ordre camaldule.” Mélanges de l’École française de Rome: Moyen Age 108 (1996): 321–354.

    DOI: 10.3406/mefr.1996.3486Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the effort within his own culture to present Traversari as an illustrious man worthy of emulation by manipulating both textual and artistic resources to produce appropriate biographical and sculptural models.

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  • Caciolli, Luca. “Ambrogio Traversari.” In Compendium auctorum Medii Aevi (500–1500). Vol. 1, pt. 2. Edited by Michael Lapidge, Gian Carlo Garfagnini, and Claudio Leonardi, 204–207. Florence: SISMEL, 2000.

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    A list of works composed by Traversari, with a bibliography containing manuscripts and editions of each work and studies devoted to it. By no means complete, but a useful starting place.

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  • Castrucci, Niccolò. Vita del beato Ambrogio Traversari. Lucca: n.p., 1722.

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    An 18th-century biography that covers Traversari’s early years, his scholarly work (especially as a translator), and his activity as a churchman. Lacks references and notes, but valuable nonetheless.

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  • Dini-Traversari, Alessandro. Ambrogio Traversari e i suoi tempi: Albero genealogico Traversari ricostruito; Hodoeporicon. Florence: Succ. B. Seeber, 1912.

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    An interesting collection of miscellaneous works, beginning with a lengthy biography of Traversari that is accompanied by three appendices containing primary documents connected to Traversari’s life and works, a family tree, and an edition of his Hodoeporicon (Traversari 1985, cited under Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present), which provides information on his life through his observations on the pastoral visits he made as supervisor of the Camaldulensian order.

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  • Frazier, Alison Knowles. “Ambrogio Traversari.” In Possible Lives: Authors and Saints in Renaissance Italy. By Alison Knowles Frazier, 473–482. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.7312/fraz12976Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contains in an appendix a preliminary hand list of Traversari’s Latin prose saints’ lives, with information about each work and a list of surviving manuscripts and early editions. Traversari also appears passim in the book’s narrative discussion.

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  • Guerrieri, Elisabetta. “Ambrosius Traversarius.” In Clavis degli autori camaldolesi (secoli XII-XVI). By Elisabetta Guerrieri, 4–57. Florence: SISMEL, 2012.

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    A drastically expanded version of Caciolli 2000, starting with a brief biographical sketch and general bibliography of books and articles about Traversari, followed by a list of his works, each with a list of manuscripts, printed editions, and relevant secondary scholarship. A veritable gold mine.

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  • Pontone, Marzia. Ambrogio Traversari monaco e umanista: Fra scrittura latina e scrittura greca. Turin, Italy: Nino Aragno Editore, 2011.

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    An intellectual biography in the Italian tradition, showing how Traversari blended a religious fervor that affected everything from his diplomatic missions to the texts he translated with a scholarly program that brought him into contact with the leading representatives of humanistic studies in his day.

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  • Ricci, Pier Giorgio. “Ambrogio Traversari.” Rinascita 2 (1939): 578–612.

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    Beginning from the two attributes for which he was praised in his own day, his virtue and his learning, Ricci constructs a basic picture of the life and works of Traversari, taking due account both of his life as a churchman and his literary activity, especially as translator of the Church Fathers.

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Editions

As is the case with other Italian humanists, the works of Traversari must be consulted in both Renaissance editions and modern texts. Given his importance, there are fewer modern editions than one might expect.

Renaissance Editions

Diogenes Laertius 1592 is an edition of a pagan Greek writer who was of special interest to Traversari, but most of his works that must be read in Renaissance editions are texts of Greek patristic writers that he translated into Latin. Traversari played a major role in disseminating the works of important Church Fathers, such as Athanasius 1522 and Chrysostom 1521–1522, as well as those of lesser-known writers, such as Aeneas of Gaza 1516, Caleca 1608, Ephrem Syrus 1501, and Climacus 1583. His translation of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite 1555 was also popular in his day. See also Cortesi 2008, cited under Translations.

  • Aeneas of Gaza. De immortalitate animae, deque corporum resurrectione dialogus aureus, qui Theophrastus inscribitur. Translated by Ambrogio Traversari. Edited by Beatus Rhenanus. Basel, Switzerland: Johann Froben, 1516.

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    Traversari’s translation of a work on the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body by Aeneas of Gaza (d. c. 518), a Neoplatonic philosopher who converted to Christianity. Included in ProQuest’s Early European Books.

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  • Athanasius. Opera. Translated in part by Ambrogio Traversari. Strasbourg, France: Johann Knobloch, 1522.

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    A translation of the works of one of the four great Eastern doctors of the church, who argued decisively against the Arian heresy, with the translation prepared in part by Traversari.

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  • Caleca, Manuel. Contra Graecorum errores libri quatuor. Translated by Ambrogio Traversari. Ingolstadt, Germany: Angermarius, 1608.

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    A translation of a work by a Byzantine monk and theologian (c. 1360–1410) who was of particular interest to Traversari because he also wanted to effect a union of the Eastern and Western churches.

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  • Chrysostom, John. Opera latina, tomis V comprehensa. Vol. 3, De laudibus Pauli homilias VIII et Adversus vituperatores vitae monasticae libros III. Translated by Ambrogio Traversari. Basel, Switzerland: In Aedibus Andreae Cratandri, 1521–1522.

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    One volume in an influential edition of the works of St. John Chrysostom, including some of his homilies and a treatise defending the monastic vocation against its detractors, as translated by Traversari.

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  • Climacus, John. Scala Paradisi. Translated by Ambrogio Traversari. Cologne: In Officina Birckmannica, 1583.

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    A translation of the Ladder of Paradise, a 7th-century work by John Climacus that explains how asceticism can help the body and soul ascend to God. Published along with Saint Sophronius’s Pratum spirituale, also translated by Traversari.

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  • Diogenes Laertius. De vita et moribus philosophorum. Translated by Ambrogio Traversari. Lyon, France: Antonius Grypnius, 1592.

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    An important translation into Latin of the 3rd-century CE Greek writer Diogenes Laertius’s treatise on the lives and sayings of the Greek philosophers, a book that had a significant influence in the classical revival of the Renaissance after it became accessible in the prevailing scholarly language of the day.

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  • Ephrem Syrus. Sermones. Translated by Ambrogio Traversari. Venice: Christophorus de Pensis, 1501.

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    Traversari’s translation of sermons by Saint Ephrem the Syrian, a doctor of the Catholic Church who also wrote hymns, poems, and biblical exegesis.

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  • Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. S. Dionysii Areopagitae martyris inclyti, Athenarum episcopi, et Galliarum apostoli opera. Translated by Ambrogio Traversari. Paris: Apud Hieronymum et Dionisiam de Marnes Fratres, 1555.

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    A translation of works that attracted considerable interest in Christian humanist circles because they were presented as being by the Athenian whose conversion Paul recounts in Acts 17:34. They were actually written by a Christian, perhaps from Syria, sometime before 532 CE and are now recognized as spurious.

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Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present

Traversari 1968a and Traversari 1968b are facsimiles of an important 18th-century edition that contains several key works. Tamburini offers a modern edition of Traversari’s account of his travels in connection with his church work (Traversari 1985), while Traversari 1877 presents several important letters. See also Dini-Traversari 1912 (cited under Life and Works), Lorini 1999 (cited under Translations), and Rao 1994 (cited under Role as Church Official).

  • Traversari, Ambrogio. “Briefe.” In Briefe heiliger und gottesfürchtiger Italiener. Edited by Alfred von Reumont, 107–132. Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany: Herder’sche Verlagshandlung, 1877.

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    Contains five letters addressed to Lorenzo de’ Medici, Niccolò Niccoli, Mariotto Allegri, and Luca de’ Malefici. Not a large selection, but one that provides insight specifically into Traversari’s travels, his religious work, and his relationships with the famous men of his day.

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  • Traversari, Ambrogio. Ambrosii Traversarii . . . aliorumque ad ipsum, et alios . . . Latinae Epistolae . . . a Petro Canneto . . . in libros XXV tributae. . . . Accedit eiusdem Ambrosii vita in qua Historia litteraria Florentina. 2 vols. Edited by Pietro Canetti and Lorenzo Mehus. Bologna, Italy: Forni, 1968a.

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    Following a lengthy introduction by Mehus, the two volumes contain Traversari’s literary history of Florence, within which he places his own life, his letter collection in twenty-five books, and six orations. The continued value of this edition is shown by its reprinting, as a facsimile of the Florence: Ex typographio Caesareo, 1759 edition.

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  • Traversari, Ambrogio. “Vita Ambrosii Traversarii generalis Camaldulensium sive Historia litteraria Florentina.” In Historia litteraria Florentina ab anno MCXCII usque ad annum MCDXXXIX. Edited by Eckhard Kessler, CXLV–CCCCLIV. Humanistische Bibliothek, Abhandlungen und Texte, Reihe 2, Texte 2. Munich: W. Fink, 1968b.

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    An edition of Traversari’s Literary History of Florence, beginning at the end of the 12th century and concluding with a lengthy biography of Traversari himself. Contains a massive 144-page introduction by Lorenzo Mehus, the editor of the original volume, providing information on sources and people mentioned in Traversari’s work. Facsimile reprint of Florence: Ex typographio Caesareo, 1759 edition.

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  • Traversari, Ambrodio. Hodoeporicon. Edited by Vittorio Tamburini. Florence: F. Le Monnier, 1985.

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    An edition, without critical apparatus but based on two manuscripts and the corrections provided in Traversari 1968a and Dini-Traversari 1912 (cited under Life and Works), of Traversari’s autobiographical account of his pastoral and scholarly work from the years 1431 to 1434.

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Manuscripts

Traversari was a prolific author who was famous in his own time, so many manuscripts that he used in his work and that contain his writings survive. Cacioli 1994 describes how Traversari, along with his humanist friends, searched out manuscripts of ancient authors, while Pomaro 1979 provides information about how he used the manuscripts he found. Sottili 1965 and Sottili 1984 focus attention on autograph manuscripts, while Varalda 2002, Varalda 2004–2005, and Varalda 2006 unravel the textual traditions of two of Traversari’s translations. Manfredi 2012 is an unusually interesting study of how Traversari and his friends tried to prepare an authoritative edition of his works. See also Delcorna Branca 2001 (cited under Role as Church Official), Gentile 2000 (under Role in Florentine Cultural Life, Favi 2001 and Pontone 2011 (under Letter Collection), Sottili 1966 and Way 1961 (under Translations), and Brown 1996 (under Other Works).

  • Cacioli, Lidia. “Codici di Giovanni Aurispa e di Ambrogio Traversari negli anni del Concilio di Firenze.” In Firenze e il Concilio del 1439. Vol. 2. Edited by Paolo Viti, 546–647. Proceedings of a conference held in Florence, 29 November–2 December 1989. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1994.

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    Places Traversari’s time at the Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence into the context of the general humanist activities conducted by authoritative participants there, both in regard to searching out lost manuscripts and to translating and commenting on the works contained in these manuscripts.

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  • Manfredi, Antonio. “Per la ricostruzione della ‘bibliotheca traversariana’ di Pietro del Monte.” Archivum mentis: Studi di filologia e letteratura umanistica 1 (2012): 159–171.

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    A description of twelve manuscripts that were part of an effort to collect the complete works of Traversari; the books passed first to the Venetian Pietro del Monte and then to the Vatican Library.

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  • Pomaro, Gabriella. “L’attività di Ambrogio Traversari in codici fiorentini.” Interpres 2 (1979): 105–115.

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    A careful effort to reconstruct Traversari’s intellectual activity by examining manuscripts in Florentine libraries that carry traces of his intervention, as witnessed by what he wrote there.

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  • Sottili, Agostino. “Autografi e traduzioni di Ambrogio Traversari.” Rinascimento 5 (1965): 3–15.

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    Discusses several translations of Traversari’s of which the original autograph manuscript survives, as a supplement to the work done by Mehus in the 18th century (see Traversari 1968a and Traversari 1968b, cited under Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present).

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  • Sottili, Agostino. “Il Laerzio latino e greco e altri autografi di Ambrogio Traversari.” In Vestigia: Studi in onore di Giuseppe Billanovich. Vol. 2. Edited by Rino Avesani, Mirella Ferrari, Tino Foffano, Giuseppe Frasso, and Agostino Sottili, 699–745. Storia e letteratura 162–163. Rome: Storia e letteratura, 1984.

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    An exhaustive effort to shed light on the surviving autograph manuscripts of Ambrogio Traversari, with a focus on his Latin translation of Diogenes Laertius’s Lives of the Philosophers but extending to other manuscripts that Traversari wrote or used as well. Meticulously documented and argued throughout.

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  • Varalda, Paolo. “Prime indagini sulla tradizione manoscritta della versione climachea di Ambrogio Traversari.” Rivista di storia e letteratura religiosa 38 (2002): 107–144.

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    A survey of the manuscripts of Traversari’s translation into Latin of the Scala Paradisi of St. John Climacus, separating them into two groups in preparation for an edition of this work. Included are three brief texts that are also found in the recension used by Traversari.

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  • Varalda, Paolo. “Ambrogio Traversari a la traduzione della prima omelia ‘De statuis’ di Giovanni Crisostomo.” Rudiae: Ricerche sul mondo classico 16–17 (2004–2005): 483–494.

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    Studies the manuscript tradition of Traversari’s translation of John Chrysostom’s sermon on 1 Tim. 5:23, concluding that the Greek manuscript Traversari used did not come from the branch that included the Latin version of the “38 homilies” and that this manuscript was not, or was not only, Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Barb. gr. 528, which belonged to Niccolò Niccoli.

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  • Varalda, Paolo. “L’Homolia I ad populum Antiochenum (de Statuis) di Giovanni Crisostomo nella versione latina di Ambrogio Traversari.” Medioevo greco: Rivista di storia e filologia bizantina 6 (2006): 215–257.

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    Follows up on Varalda 2004–2005, reviewing the manuscript testimony, discussing Traversari’s approach to translation, and offering a critical edition of the sermon.

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Essay Collections and Exhibition Catalogue

Scholarship on Traversari benefits from several essay collections and an exhibition catalogue that provide an enormous amount of useful information in compact form. Ambrogio Traversari Camaldolese nel VI centenario dalla nascita 1386–1986, accompanied by Calati 1987 and Garfagnini 1988, contains many valuable essays that were written to recognize the anniversary of Traversari’s birth six centuries earlier, while Gentile 1997 is a beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogue that clarifies the intellectual environment in which Traversari worked.

  • Ambrogio Traversari Camaldolese nel VI centenario dalla nascita 1386–1986. Quaderni di vita monastica 45. Camaldoli, Italy: n.p., 1987.

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    A collection of essays that includes studies of Traversari’s life and the intellectual and religious contexts of his times, followed by two brief essays about relevant documents and a lengthy Italian translation of Traversari’s letters to his friend Mariotto Allegri, which form Book 15 of his letter collection, as found in Traversari 1968a and Traversari 1968b (both cited under Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present).

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  • Calati, Benedetto. “Ambrogio Traversari nel VI centenario della nascita (1386–1986).” Archivio storico italiano 145 (1987): 117–124.

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    Essentially a commentary on the papers delivered at the conference from which Ambrogio Traversari Camaldolese nel VI centenario dalla nascita 1386–1986 was derived, placing a number of the key essays into a broader context and offering a general assessment of Traversari’s importance.

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  • Garfagnini, Giancarlo, ed. Ambrogio Traversari nel VI Centenario della nascita. Proceedings of the Convegno internazionale di studi, Camaldoli and Florence, 15–18 September 1986. Istituto nazionale di studi sul Rinascimento, Atti di convegni, 17. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1988.

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    An important collection of twenty-one essays, divided into three sections, on Traversari and the society of his time, the churchman and the Council of Ferrara-Florence, and Traversari’s works (his letter collection, the manuscripts of his writings, and his translations). Extensive in coverage and richly annotated.

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  • Gentile, Sebastiano, ed. Umanesimo e padri della Chiesa: Manoscritti e incunaboli di testi patristici da Francesco Petrarca al primo Cinquecento. Florence: Rose, 1997.

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    Catalogue of an exhibition held in Florence at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, 5 February–9 August 1997. A sumptuous exhibition catalogue in the best Italian tradition, containing manuscripts and early printed editions of the Church Fathers on whom Traversari worked, a number of which were the books he himself used, preceded by several excellent essays on this topic.

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Monastic Humanism

While a number of scholars still present humanism as a secularizing movement within a broader Renaissance trajectory away from the ubiquitous presence of Christianity in the Middle Ages, Traversari offers the basis for a counterargument, as can be seen in Frigerio 1988. While spending his entire adult life as a leading member of a monastic order, Traversari also exercised his scholarly skills in the service of Greek and Latin authors at the highest level. Rovella 1940 lays out the issues, while Stinger 1977 represents the definitive analysis of the relevant points. Caby 2000 and Sottili 1979 show clearly how, for the early humanists, the Christian writers of late antiquity served as an important object of study. Hyland 2008 explains how Traversari’s scholarship impacted his daily life as a monk, while Iaria 2004 extends the discussion to one of his key associates. See also Cacioli 1994, cited under Manuscripts.

  • Caby, Cécile. “I padre nell’oservanza camaldolese: uso, riuso, abuso.” In Traduzioni patristiche nell’Umanesimo. Edited by Mariarosa Cortesi and Claudio Leonardi, 175–192. Proceedings of a conference sponsored by the Istituto nazionale di studi sul Rinascimento, Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, 6–8 February 1997. Florence: SISMEL, 2000.

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    Studies the Church Fathers within the life of the Camaldulensian order, as sources for monastic reform, wisdom, and erudition, and as masters of classical eloquence. Traversari played a significant role in this story.

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  • Frigerio, Salvatore. Ambrogio Traversari: Un monaco e un monastero nell’umanesimo fiorentino. Siena, Italy: Alsaba, 1988.

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    A detailed study of Traversari that positions him within the intellectual milieus of Renaissance humanism in Florence and of the Camaldulensian monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where he lived and worked for most of his life. An important book.

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  • Hyland, William. “The Climacteric of Late Medieval Camaldolese Spirituality: Ambrogio Traversari, John-Jerome of Prague, and the Linea salutis heremitarum.” In Florence and Beyond: Culture, Society and Politics in Renaissance Italy: Essays in Honour of John J. Najemy. Edited by David S. Peterson and Daniel E. Bornstein, 107–120. Publications of the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, Essays and Studies, 15. Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2008.

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    An interesting study that illuminates Traversari’s ideal of learned piety through contrast with the holy simplicity of John-Jerome of Prague, another Camaldulensian leader whose conservative opposition to the Christian humanism embraced by Traversari led to a clash over the nature and direction of the order.

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  • Iaria, Simona. “Un discepolo di Ambrogio Traversari: Fra’ Michele di Giovanni Camaldolese.” Italia medioevale e umanistica 44 (2004): 245–296.

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    A study of one of Traversari’s most important followers, Michele di Giovanni, a monk from his same monastery to whom he entrusted the transcription of his translations and of the manuscripts destined for his humanist friends and important churchmen.

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  • Rovella, G. “Ambrogio Traversari e l’umanesimo cristiano.” La civiltà cattolica 91 (1940): 48–59, 203–214.

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    A worthwhile article in a journal aimed at a general audience that explores and resolves the potential contradictions within Traversari’s concept of Christian humanism, which fused the techniques and many of the principles of classical scholarship with the goals and values of Christian life.

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  • Sottili, Agostino. “Griechische Kirchenväter im System der humanistischen Ethik: Ambrogio Traversaris Beitrag zur Rezeption der patristischen Literatur.” In Ethik im Humanismus. Edited by Walter Rüegg and Dieter Wuttke, 63–85. Boppard, Germany: Boldt, 1979.

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    An interesting reminder of why Traversari’s translations into Latin of the Greek Church Fathers were important: the humanist effort to recapture antiquity included the Christian past as well as the pagan one, and these writers had things to say about how to live one’s life that had broad implications for the humanist movement as a whole.

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  • Stinger, Charles L. Humanism and the Church Fathers: Ambrogio Traversari (1386–1439) and the Revival of Patristic Theology in the Early Italian Renaissance. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977.

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    “This book . . . is intended to describe fully the religious and intellectual context of Traversari’s study of the Fathers, the aim and method of his patristic scholarship, and the efforts he made to apply his knowledge of patristic literature and of the early history of Christianity to the pressing spiritual and institutional problems of the 15th century Church” (p. xii). The major work on Traversari in English.

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Role as Church Official

Among the other roles that he played, Traversari was also the prior general of the Camaldulensian order and a high official in the councils called to work on reuniting the Eastern and Western branches of the church. Somigli and Bargellini 1986 presents a good overview of Traversari’s role in the history of the Camaldulensian order, while Delcorna Branca 2001 and Iaria 2015 concentrate on his reform efforts and Iaria 2014 focuses on a particular event within his official duties. Rovella 1939 moves the discussion to his activity at the reunification councils, a subject that is treated from different angles in Décarreaux 1957, Rao 1994, Somigli 1964, and Viti 1992. See also Sottili 2002, cited under Letter Collection.

  • Décarreaux, Jean. “Un moine helléniste et diplomate: Ambroise Traversari.” Revue des études italiennes 4 (1957): 101–143.

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    Offers a detailed description of Traversari’s work as a church diplomat, charged to deal with issues of papal, imperial, and conciliar authority, church reform, the suppression of heresy, and the reunification of the Eastern and Western branches of the church.

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  • Delcorna Branca, Daniela. “Lettere di direzione spirituale di un discepolo del Traversari: Agostino di Portico di Romagna.” Lettere italiane 53 (2001): 377–396.

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    Introduces Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ital. f. 3, a manuscript containing 134 letters written by the Camaldulensian monk Agostino di Portico di Romagna, a disciple and correspondent of Traversari’s. The article contains information about the author, the people to whom he sent letters, and the date and formation of the letter collection. An important source for information about the effects of Traversari’s reform efforts.

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  • Iaria, Simona. “San Vito di Vicenza nel contesto delle visite di Ambrogio Traversari (con un nuovo autografo).” Aevum 88 (2014): 553–576.

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    Discusses the official visits made by Traversari as prior general of his order to the monastery of San Vito in Vicenza, which had fallen into decadence but was targeted for attention as part of the reform movement prompted by Traversari between 1431 and 1439. Includes two relevant documents in an appendix.

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  • Iaria, Simona. “Da Ambrogio Traversari a Luca Carducci: Aspetti e momenti della riforma camaldolese nell’età di Eugenio IV.” Aevum 89 (2015): 483–524.

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    Places Traversari’s drive for monastic reform within its larger context, showing first how Traversari’s vision for this reform differed from that of Pope Eugenius IV, then how reform within the Camaldulensian order played out after Traversari’s death.

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  • Rao, Ida Giovanna. “Ambrogio Traversari al Concilio di Firenze.” In Firenze e il Concilio del 1439. Vol. 2. Edited by Paolo Viti, 577–597. Proceedings of a conference held in Florence, 29 November–2 December 1989. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1994.

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    Offers a focused study of five letters and five orations that shed light on Traversari’s role as official translator of the Latin delegation at the Council of Florence and the bridge, as it were, between the Latin and Greek groups, with an eye on redefining and amplifying the role that Traversari played at this important meeting, as part of his broader effort to refine the spiritual life of his day. Includes a text of Traversari’s sixth oration.

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  • Rovella, G. “Ambrogio Traversari servo fedele e laborioso della Chiesa.” La civiltà cattolica 90 (1939): 383–438.

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    A good overview of Traversari’s activity as a servant of the church, focused on his role at the councils convened to reunite the Eastern and Western churches but also taking account of his scholarly activity and his work as prior general of his order.

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  • Somigli, Costanzo. Un amico dei Greci, Ambrogio Traversari. Camaldoli, Italy: Edizioni Camaldoli, 1964.

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    A study that allows us to integrate Traversari’s study of the Greek Fathers into his larger goal of reuniting the Greek Orthodox Church with Western Catholicism, with a focus on his role at the councils called to facilitate this union and on his relationship with Silvestro Siropoulos, one of the Eastern dignitaries.

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  • Somigli, Costanzo, and Tommaso Bargellini. Ambrogio Traversari, monaco camaldolese: La figura e la dottrina monastica. Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1986.

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    A book about Traversari that focuses on his place as the central figure in the history of the Camaldulensian order, with discussions of his spirituality, thought, and organizational work.

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  • Viti, Paolo. “Ambrogio Traversari al Concilio di Ferrara.” In Ferrara e il concilio 1438–39. Edited by Patrizia Castelli, 95–119. Proceedings of the conference to mark the 550th anniversary of the council to unify the Western and Eastern churches, Ferrara, 23–24 November 1989. Ferrara, Italy: Università Degli Studi, 1992.

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    Argues that Traversari’s deep engagement with Greek culture as part of his work as a Christian humanist led him to an exceptional openness to and respect for the Greek delegation that attended the meetings in Ferrara and Florence that were designed to explore the possibility of reunifying the church.

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Role in Florentine Cultural Life

Traversari was active at the time when Florence was providing the intellectual center to the emerging Renaissance movement. Castelli 1982 provides a useful overview, while Lackner 2002 focuses on Traversari’s relationships with key humanists and Gentile 2000 extends that discussion to the books that these humanists shared with one another. Clarke 1997 and Stinger 1978 offer contrasting interpretations of Traversari’s interest and involvement in the arts.

  • Castelli, Patrizia. “Lux Italiae: Ambrogio Traversari (1386–1439) monaco camaldolese: Idee e immagini nel Quattrocento fiorentino.” Atti e memorie dell’Accademia toscana di scienze e lettere, La Colombaria 47 (1982): 41–90.

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    A wide-ranging inquiry into Traversari’s efforts to effect a renaissance in both the arts and letters, within the frameworks of his monastic order and the cultural revolution that was going on around Florence at the end of the 15th century.

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  • Clarke, Georgia. “Ambrogio Traversari: Artistic Adviser in Early Fifteenth-Century Florence?” Renaissance Studies: Journal of the Society for Renaissance Studies 11 (1997): 161–178.

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    Argues that Traversari’s interest in art did not extend to a sort of proto-Albertian expertise, but that his “letters and Hodoeporicon reveal how architecture could be seen to embody an inner spiritual state, and how this was intimately bound up with his sense of community and order” (p. 178).

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  • Gentile, Sebastiano. “Traversari e Niccoli, Pico e Ficino: Note in margine ai alcuni manoscritti dei Padri.” In Tradizioni patristiche nell’Umanesimo. Edited by Mariarosa Cortesi and Claudio Leonardi, 81–118. Proceedings of a conference sponsored by the Istituto nazionale di studi sul Rinascimento, Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, 6–8 February 1997. Florence: SISMEL, 2000.

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    Begins with an analysis of the contents of the library of the monastery of San Marco, whose nucleus came from Niccolò Niccoli, to provide the manuscript evidence confirming that Niccoli had a serious interest in patristic texts and that he shared this interest with Traversari.

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  • Ianziti, Gary. “Leonardo Bruni and Biography: The Vita Aristotelis.” Renaissance Quarterly 55 (2002): 805–832.

    DOI: 10.2307/1261557Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Places Traversari’s translation of Diogenes Laertius into the controversy in Florence over the relative merits of Plato and Aristotle, with Traversari’s enemy Leonardo Bruni opposing his translation and trying to have it replaced with his own Vita Aristotelis.

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  • Krautheimer, Richard, with Trude Krautheimer-Hess. Lorenzo Ghiberti. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970.

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    Demonstrates Traversari’s involvement with the famous doors on the Florentine Baptistery, with some of the iconography owed to Traversari’s study of Origen—with Traversari in fact being sculpted into a panel in the doors. Reprinted from 1956 edition. See Volume 1, pp. 169–188.

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  • Lackner, Dennis F. “The Camaldolese Academy: Ambrogio Traversari, Marsilio Ficino and the Christian Platonic Tradition.” In Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy. Edited by Michael J. B. Allen, and Valery Rees, with Martin Davies, 15–44. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History 108. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

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    Argues that “the Camaldolese played a central and hitherto unrecognized role in the conception, establishment, teachings and wider influence of the Platonic Academy of Florence” (p 16), with special attention paid to the relationship between Traversari and Marsilio Ficino and to the interest they shared in the Greek East.

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  • Stinger, Charles. “Ambrogio Traversari and the ‘tempio degli scolari’ at S. Maria degli Angeli in Florence.” In Essays Presented to Myron P. Gilmore. Vol. 1, History. Edited by Sergio Bertelli and Gloria Romakus, 171–186. Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1978.

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    Suggests the possibility that Traversari may have been involved in some way in the design of Brunelleschi’s oratory for the Camaldulensian monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence, to evoke the spirit of the earliest Christian church.

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Letter Collection

More than nine hundred letters of Traversari’s survive. He himself recognized their importance and began the process of collecting them. Traversari 1968a (cited under Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present) presents the largest block of letters, but others unknown to the 18th-century editor have emerged. Iaria 2005 and Pontone 2011 present previously unknown letters, while Zorzi 1997 revisits an important letter that had been initially edited decades earlier. Luiso 1898–1903 provides the chronological foundation on which a modern edition of the letters might be based, with Favi 2001 offering further advice to the editor of such an edition. Bertalot 1915 offers a selection of important letters, and Sottili 2002 shows how the letter collection can be used in scholarship about Traversari. Mercati 1939 is an often-cited work that begins with Traversari’s letter collection and works out from there to a couple of items of broader interest.

  • Bertalot, Ludwig. “Zwölf Briefe des Ambrogio Traversari.” Römische Quartalschrift 29 (1915): 91–106.

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    Presents a dozen letters to and from Traversari, to give an idea of what kinds of information can be found there. An intelligent selection, often cited. Reprinted in Studien zum italienischen und deutschen Humanismus, edited by Paul Oskar Kristeller (Rome: Storia e letteratura, 1975), Vol. 1, pp. 251–267.

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  • Favi, Anna. “Note sulla trasmissione testuale dell’epistolario di Ambrogio Traversari.” Medioevo e Rinascimento, n.s., 15.12 (2001): 89–103.

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    A thoughtful analysis of the textual tradition of Traversari’s letter collection, beginning with what can be learned from his writings about how the collection was formed and continuing through an examination of how a modern editor might proceed, given the different editorial problems that classical and humanistic texts present.

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  • Iaria, Simona. “Nuove testimonianze autografe di Ambrogio Traversari nell’Archivio di Stato di Firenze.” In Margarita amicorum: Studi di cultura europea per Agostino Sottili. Edited by Fabio Forner, Carla Maria Monti, and Paul Gerhard Smith, 585–602. Milan: Vita e Pensiero, 2005.

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    Presents two previously unknown letters of Traversari—found now in Florence, Archivio di Stato, fondo Diplomatico Camaldoli (San Salvatore), normale 6 novembre 1433 and normale 19 dicembre 1433—and argues that the letters should be included in any future critical edition of Traversari’s correspondence. Provides a transcription of the letters.

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  • Luiso, Paolo. Riordinamento dell’epistolario di Ambrogio Traversari con lettere inedite e note storico-cronologiche. 3 vols. Florence: L. Franceschini, 1898–1903.

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    An invaluable supplement to Traversari 1968a and Traversari 1968b (both cited under Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present), providing exact dates for as many of Traversari’s letters as possible, along with indices that list the letters in the new chronological order, in alphabetical order by their beginning phrases, by recipients, and by correspondents. Printed as an extract from Rivista delle biblioteche e degli archivi 8 (1898): 35–51, 148–171; 9 (1898): 74–76, 91–109, 135–143; 10 (1899): 73–79, 105–112.

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  • Mercati, Giovanni. Ultimi contributi alla storia degli umanisti. Vol. 1, Traversariana: Dieci lettere nuove del B. Ambrogio Camaldolese, e varie osservazioni sull’epistolario di lui pubblicate per il V centenario della morte, seguono alcune lettere di Andrea (Fiocchi) da Firenze, segretario apostolico. Studi e testi 90. Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1939.

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    A miscellaneous volume of material by and about Traversari, anchored in ten letters of literary, bibliographical, and religious interest, accompanied by observations on a projected new edition of Traversari’s letters, the “De sacerdotio Christi” attributed to Traversari, and Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 3908. Reprinted in 1969.

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  • Pontone, Marzia. “Lettere inedite di Ambrogio Traversari nel codice Trivulziano 1626.” Italia medioevale e umanistica 52 (2011): 71–102.

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    Focuses on Milan, Biblioteca Trivulziana, MS 1626, a 15th-century manuscript that contains letters written by Traversari to his brother Girolamo. Included in the manuscript are ten previously unpublished letters, which are presented in a critical edition; they offer insight into both personal issues and political and literary matters.

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  • Sottili, Agostino. “Epistolografia fiorentina: Ambrosio Traversari e Kaspar Schlick.” In Florenz in der Frührenaissance: Kunst-Literatur-Epistolographie in der Sphäre des Humanismus. Gedenkschrift für P. O. Kristeller zum 90. Geburtstag. Edited by Justus Müller Hofstede, 181–216. Reinbach, Germany: CMZ, 2002.

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    Examines Traversari’s relationship, as recorded in his letter collection, with Kaspar Schlick, Count of Passau and Weisskirchen and chancellor for the Holy Roman Emperor, which sheds light on his diplomatic activity as a high-ranking churchman. Exhaustively documented, to the extent that the notes often overwhelm the text.

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  • Zorzi, Niccolò. “A proposito di una lettera greca del Traversari.” Lettere italiane 49 (1997): 624–636.

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    Provides a text and translation into Italian of a letter written in Greek by Traversari, whose recipient is identified as Francesco Barbaro and whose contents are placed into the context of Traversari’s work and his network of scholarly friends and associates.

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Translations

As a scholar, Traversari is most important for the translations he made from Greek into Latin of various works in the Eastern patristic tradition. Iaria 2011 and Sottili 1966 present general information about how Traversari did this kind of work, while Martin 2013 offers general observations about its value and Cortesi 2008 provides information on the early editions of Traversari’s translations. Gain 1985, Mioni 1950, and Varalda 2004 provide meticulous analyses of Traversari’s work on individual authors. Lorini 1999 argues that Traversari is not the author of a translation attributed to him, while Way 1961 adds two translations that were previously thought to have been lost. See also Sottili 1965, Sottili 1984, Varalda 2002, Varalda 2004–2005, and Varalda 2006—all cited under Manuscripts.

  • Cortesi, Mariarosa. Repertorio delle traduzioni umanistiche a stampa (secoli XV–XVI). 2 vols. Florence: SISMEL, 2008.

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    A bibliography, based on the ongoing digital Edizione nazionale delle traduzione dei testi greci in eta` umanistica e rinascimentale (ENTG), of Renaissance printed editions of Latin translations of Greek texts, including the patristic authors that Traversari worked with, arranged alphabetically under the names of the Greek authors.

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  • Gain, Benôit. “Ambroise Traversari (1386–1439), lecteur et traducteur de Saint Basile.” Rivista di storia e letteratura religiosa 21 (1985): 56–76.

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    Seeks to refine what is found in Stinger 1977 (under Monastic Humanism), as regards the letters and homilies of St. Basil and his De vera integritate virginitatis, making the manuscript tradition more precise, clarifying references to printed editions, and underlining certain points that risk being underemphasized in Stinger’s book.

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  • Iaria, Simona. “Istanze religiose ed esigenze filologiche nelle lettere di dedica alle traduzioni di Ambrogio Traversari.” In Para/Textuelle Verhandlungen zwischen Dichtung und Philosophie in der Frühen Neuzeit. Edited by Bernhard Huss, Patrizia Marzillo, and Thomas Ricklin, 17–41. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011.

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    Examines the dedications that Traversari prepared for his translations of the Church Fathers, in which he clarifies the importance of these works within the framework of Christian antiquity and defends his decision to replace medieval literal translation with an elegant Ciceronian rendering. Contains a substantial bibliography with items on humanistic translation.

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  • Lorini, Teodoro. “Una versione latina del Peri ierosynes di Giovanni Crisostomo attribuita ad Ambrogio Traversari.” Aevum 73 (1999): 549–570.

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    Establishes through patient and thorough bibliographical work that the Latin translation of John Chrysostom’s dialogue on the priesthood was not by Traversari but in fact dates from the 9th century, although it gained greater diffusion in the 15th century as a result of Traversari’s efforts to make the Greek Church Fathers more accessible through Latin translations. Contains a critical edition of the introduction to the translation.

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  • Martin, Marcel. “Ambrogio Traversari and the Revival of Interest for Eastern Patristics in Italy in the First Half of the 15th Century: Preconditions and Direction.” Nové historické rozhľady/New Historical Perspectives 3.1 (2013): 39–50.

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    Argues that the translations of Traversari provided access to Eastern patristic texts that were valued for their insight into the proper Christian response to corruption within the church and society in general, as part of a broader effort to produce correct texts and translations of the Bible and early Christian texts within Christian humanism. In Czech.

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  • Mioni, Elpidio. “Le Vitae patrum nella traduzione di Ambrogio Traversari.” Aevum 24 (1950): 319–331.

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    A study of Traversari’s translation into Latin of John Moschus’s Spiritual Meadow, which he referred to as Lives of the Fathers, a work by one of the fathers of the Greek church, with a focus on the autograph manuscript, Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale, Conventi G, 4, 844.

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  • Sottili, Agostino. “Ambrogio Traversari, Francesco Pizolpasso, Giovanni Aurispa: Traduzioni e letture.” Romanische Forschungen 78 (1966): 42–63.

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    A meticulously researched effort to track the details of Traversari’s efforts to translate the Church Fathers by following leads in his letters and information contained in the various manuscripts that he borrowed and wrote. Contains the text of a letter of Pizolpasso’s to Aurispa that sheds light on this activity.

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  • Varalda, Paolo. “Per la conoscenza di Giovanni Climaco nell’Occidente latino fra Trecento e Quattrocento.” In Padri greci e latini a confronto (secoli XIII–XV). Edited by Mariarosa Cortesi, 38–61. Proceedings of the SISMEL conference, Florence, 19–21 October 2001. Florence: SISMEL, 2004.

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    Places Traversari’s translation of John Climacus’s Scala paradisi into the history of the diffusion of this work in the West, with an emphasis on Traversari and on the 14th-century translation by the Franciscan Angelo Clareno.

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  • Way, Agnes Clare. “The Lost Translation Made by Ambrosius Traversarius of the Orations of Gregory Nazianzene.” Renaissance News 14 (1961): 91–96.

    DOI: 10.2307/2857536Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Concludes that “the Oratio de pace prima and the Oratio de pace secunda, found in Vat. lat. 55, Regin. Lat. 1612, and Nazionale Braidense A D IX 12, are two of the orations of Gregory Nazianzene translated by Ambrosius” (i.e., Traversari, p. 95) that had been presumed lost.

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Other Works

Brown 1996 presents information on how Traversari revised a couple of key works, while Iaria 2014 and Iaria 2005 discuss the Hodoeporicon (Traversari 1985, cited under Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present), an important autobiographical text.

  • Brown, Virginia. “Ambrogio Traversari’s Revision of the Chronicon Casinense and the Dialogus de miraculis s. Benedicti: The Oldest Manuscript Rediscovered.” Mediaeval Studies 58 (1996): 327–338.

    DOI: 10.1484/J.MS.2.306876Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Announces the rediscovery of an important manuscript containing the revision of the Chronicon casinense prepared by Ambrogio Traversari in Moscow, Rossiiskaia Gosudarstvannai Biblioteka, Fond 218, N 389, which also contains his hitherto unknown revision of the Dialogi de miraculis S. Benedicti, composed by Desiderius, abbot of Montecassino, giving us a new specimen of Traversari’s literary activity.

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  • Iaria, Simona. “L’Hodoeporicon di Ambrogio Traversati: Una fonte ‘privata’ nella storiografia camaldolese.” Italia medioevale e umanistica 45 (2005): 71–96.

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    Provides an introduction to the Hodoeporicon, which has received less attention than many of Traversari’s other works, discussing its content, title, manuscript tradition, and reception. A good starting place for work on this text.

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  • Iaria, Simona. “Aspetti biografici, storici e filologici nell’Hodoeporicon di Ambrogio Traversari.” In Camaldoli e l’ordine camaldolese dalle origini alla fine del XV secolo atti del I Convegno internazionale di studi in occasione del millenario di Camaldoli (1012–2012): Monastero di Camaldoli, 31 maggio–2 giugno 2012. Edited by Cécile Caby and Pierluigi Licciardello, 439–453. Italia Benedittina 39. Cesena, Italy: Badia di Santa Maria del Monte, 2014.

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    A study of the content, literary aspects, and reception of Traversari’s Hodoeporicon, a sort of autobiography that includes information from the first two and a half years of his service as prior general of his order, including the monastic visits he made as a clerical reformer.

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