In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Leonardo Bruni

  • Introduction
  • Life and Works
  • Manuscripts
  • Translations
  • 20th-Century Scholarship
  • Bruni and Civic Humanism
  • Education
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Rhetoric, Language, and Style
  • Political Career

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


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

Life and Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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