Renaissance and Reformation Lauro Quirini
Seth Parry
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 August 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0296


Lauro Quirini (b. 1420–d. 1479) was a major Venetian humanist of the mid-15th century. He was born into a patrician family and pursued academic interests in his early life. He studied at the University of Padua, receiving doctoral degrees in arts in 1440 and law in 1448. Quirini was a recognized master in Greek and Latin, and he used his linguistic skills to spread his love of Aristotle in the original Greek. He participated in a number of controversies with fellow humanists (such as Poggio Bracciolini, Leonardo Bruni, and Lorenzo Valla) and corresponded with others. He translated a number of works into Latin from Greek and wrote a series of treatises concerning nobility. These treatises—which use Aristotelian categories to argue that nobility is an inborn attribute of the patriciate—are one of Quirini’s major legacies. In 1452, though, he relocated from Venice to Crete where his family owned lands. He remained there for the rest of his life, trading in a number of commodities. While on Crete, Quirini acted as a go-between book dealer for Cardinal Bessarion, with whom he maintained a lifelong relationship. As a result of his relocation, Quirini did not participate in Venetian domestic politics, a feature that differentiates him from other Venetian humanists, who usually pursued an active political career alongside their intellectual interests. Quirini’s second contemporary legacy is the series of letters he wrote from Crete concerning his worries about the advance of the Ottoman Empire after its conquest of Constantinople. In true humanist fashion, he particularly highlighted the impact that the fall of this ancient capital had on culture, maintaining that Turkish victories threatened the continued existence and preservation of countless antique manuscripts.

General Overviews

Although a prominent second-generation Venetian humanist, Lauro Quirini has not received a full-length biographical study. The most significant analyses of his life and work, Segarizzi 1904 and Agostini 1752, are each over a century old. Segarizzi 1904 is nevertheless an invaluable introduction and biography. Seno and Ravegnani 1977 is not a full work, but rather an intensely detailed chronology of Quirini’s life and works. Krautter, et al. 1977 is an introduction to the latest edition of the Quirini corpus and provides a fulsome account of the textual and critical history of the humanist’s production.

  • Agostini, Giovanni degli. Notizie istorico-critiche intorno la vita e le opera degli scrittori viniziani. Vol. 1. Venice: Presso Simone Occhi, 1752.

    The first biography of Quirini. An 18th-century work, but still valuable for the context it provides. See pp. 205–228.

  • Krautter, Konrad, Paul Oskar Kristeller, and Helmut Roob. “Tre trattati di Lauro Quirini sulla nobiltà.” In Lauro Quirini Umanista. Edited by Konrad Krautter, Paul Oskar Kristeller, Agostino Pertusi, Giorgio Ravegnani, Helmut Room, and Carlo Seno, 19–102. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1977.

    This article introduces, contextualizes, and analyzes three works by Lauro Quirini concerning his philosophy of nobility: a letter to Pietro Tommasi, “De nobilitate contra Poggium Florentinum,” and “De nobilitate responsio, quid iuris.” Full, edited texts of the letter and treatises are provided in addition to a chronology of the composition of the works and a critical examination of their manuscript tradition.

  • Segarizzi, Arnaldo. “Lauro Quirini: Umanista veneziano del secolo XV.” Memorie della Reale Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, 2d ser., 54 (1904): 1–28.

    A thorough biography and analysis of Quirini’s works. Segarizzi maintains that Quirini deserves a better reputation as an exemplar of Renaissance humanism, as a brilliant scholar who worked in several languages on multiple, diverse topics and actively participated in the intellectual culture of his day. Segarizzi provides extracts of Quirini’s letters in his narrative, with edited versions of several of Quirini’s works as an appendix.

  • Seno, Carlo, and Giorgio Ravegnani. “Cronologia della vita e delle opere di Lauro Quirini.” In Lauro Quirini Umanista. Edited by Konrad Krautter, Paul Oskar Kristeller, Agostino Pertusi, Giorgio Ravegnani, Helmut Room, and Carlo Seno, 9–18. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1977.

    A thorough, annotated chronology of Quirini’s life and works. Essential for a thorough understanding of the interrelationship of Quirini’s life, letters, treatises, and translations.

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