Renaissance and Reformation Gasparino Barzizza
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0312


If, as the Renaissance scholar Paul Oskar Kristeller often argued, Renaissance humanism was primarily a movement designed to reform education around the language and culture of antiquity, then Gasparino Barzizza (b. 1360–d. 1431) was a humanist par excellence, even if he was not a scholar of the first order. Both a university lecturer and a private tutor in grammar, rhetoric, and moral philosophy, he lived and worked throughout northern Italy, in Bergamo, Pavia, Milan, Venice, and Padua, numbering Guarino da Verona and Vittorino da Feltre among his fellow teachers and friends, and Leon Battista Alberti (probably) among his students. A prolific writer, Barzizza’s principal works were written for the classroom, ranging from a grammar, a dictionary, and a treatise on spelling to excerpts from various classical authors and model speeches. His collection of letters reveals his eager pursuit of manuscripts, which included the Periochae of Livy once owned by Petrarch and a copy of the famous Cicero manuscript discovered in Lodi by Gerardo Landriani. Well known in his own day, Barzizza deserves to be better known in ours, although access is occasionally impeded by the publication of key secondary sources in obscure Italian journals.

Life and Works

Martellotti 1970 is the essential starting place for an overview of Barzizza’s life and works, with Magni 1937 remaining valuable although difficult to find. Girgensohn 1986 and Revest 2014 shed light on a couple of important events, while Cessi 1912 provides information about Barzizza’s children and Colombo 1969 concentrates on his time in Padua.

  • Cessi, Roberto. “Di alcune relazioni familiari di Gasparino Barzizza.” In Scritti vari di erudizione e di critica in onore di Rodolfo Renier. 737–746. Turin: Bocca, 1912.

    An overview of the Barzizza material in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, lat. 5919B, followed by a brief study of several letters that show Barzizza’s concern for the education and well-being of his sons.

  • Colombo, Cesare. “Gasparino Barzizza a Padova: Nuovi ragguagli da lettere inedite.” Quaderni per la storia della Università di Padova 2 (1969): 1–27.

    Provides information about Barzizza’s time in Padua, with a focus on his nexus of relationships, as revealed by nine previously unedited letters, for which a critical edition is provided at the end of the article.

  • Girgensohn, Dieter. “Gasparino Barzizza, cittadino padavano, onorato dalla Repubblica di Venezia (1417).” Quaderni per la storia della Università di Padova 19 (1986): 1–15.

    Provides details of Barzizza’s life and teaching during the years he spent in Padua, with a special focus on his successful effort to obtain Paduan citizenship. The article’s rich documentation includes a transcription of the document granting citizenship.

  • Magni, Domenico. “Gasparino Barzizza, una figura del primo umanesimo.” Bergomum 31 (1937): 104–118, 143–170, 205–222.

    Functions as an abbreviated monograph, examining Barzizza’s personal and professional life within the broader ambience of those with whom he came in contact. Divides his life into three periods, with the time in Padua being the centerpiece. See also Francesco Sarri’s review in Rinascita 1 (1938): 144–151.

  • Martellotti, Guido. “Gasparino Barzizza.” In Dizionario biografico degli italiani. Vol. 7. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1970.

    The best overview of Barzizza’s life and works, concise but widely cited, with a thorough bibliography that extends up through the late 1960s. Reprinted in Dante e Boccaccio e altri scrittori dall’Umanesimo al Romanticismo (Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1983), pp. 468–478.

  • Revest, Clémence. “Aux origines d’une figure majeure de la papauté renaissante: La nomination de l’humaniste Gasparino Barzizza à l’office de secrétaire apostolique, le 13 août 1414.” In Église et État, Église ou État? Les clercs et la genèse de l’État. Edited by Christine Barralis, Jean-Patrice Boudet, Fabrice Delivré, and Jean-Philippe Genet, 457–475. Le pouvoir symbolique en Occident (1300–1640) 10, Histoire ancienne et médiévale 125/10, Collection de l’École française de Rome 485/10. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2014.

    Establishes the importance of Barzizza’s nomination to the post of apostolic secretary, not for its effect on his daily activities, but as an indication of how the position was being permeated by humanist ideals and practices. Contains a transcription of the nomination letter. Copublished by École française de Rome.

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