In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Battista Mantovano (Battista Spagnoli)

  • Introduction
  • Editions and Translations of the Adulescentia
  • Life and Works
  • Christian Humanism
  • Mantuan and the Virgin Mary
  • Opus Aureum in Thomistas
  • Scholarship on Other Works

Renaissance and Reformation Battista Mantovano (Battista Spagnoli)
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 January 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0341


Battista Mantovano (b. 1477–d. 1516, Battista Spagnoli, also spelled Sgagnuoli and often referred to in English as Mantuan) is not considered today to be a humanist of the first rank, but he was a friend of such greater figures as Pico della Mirandola, Angelo Poliziano, Andrea Mantegna, Isabella d’Este, and Pope Leo X; indeed, his popularity is attested by the fact that by 1600, more than 600 editions of his works had been published, and he was well enough known in his own day to have been referenced in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (“Old Mantuan! Old Mantuan! Who understandeth thee not, loves thee not . . . ,” 4.2.95). Then, as now, his fame rested primarily in his collection of pastoral poetry, the Adulescentia, which was required reading in the Renaissance grammar school, but his total poetic output comes to around 55,000 verses containing some half million words. To this, prose writings such as the Parthenice, on the virgin saints of the church, and the Opus aureum in Thomistas, written to condemn the excessive devotion to St. Thomas, must also be added. Praised by Desiderius Erasmus as the Christian Virgil, he also had a noteworthy career as a cleric, functioning as a reformer and serving as prior general of the Carmelite order at his death. A good number of basic sources are found in obscure church publications or in books published decades ago, but unlike many of the other Italian humanists, a significant amount of scholarship on Mantovano is in English, which will facilitate study by those who do not read Italian comfortably. This article is dedicated to the memory of Lee Piepho, the great 20th-century expert on Mantovano, who died in 2013 after a four-year struggle with cancer.

Editions and Translations of the Adulescentia

Mantuan’s best known work is his Adulescentia, so called because it was written in his youth. This is a collection of pastoral poems in the Virgilian mode that also includes religious themes under the veil of allegory. The standard edition in the English-speaking world is Mantovano 1989, slightly updated and made accessible online in Mantovano 2009. Mantovano 1911 is valuable primarily for its introduction. Mantovano 1937 offers a Renaissance translation of all the poems, while Porter 1981 contains a modern version of the fifth eclogue only. Severi 2010 offers an edition with extensive discussion in Italian. See also Piepho 1984 (cited under Scholarship on Other Works) and Piepho 1986 and Piepho 1989 (both cited under Adulescentia).

  • Mantovano, Battista. The Eclogues of Baptista Mantuanus. Edited by Wilfred P. Mustard. Studies in the Renaissance Pastoral 1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1911.

    Contains a text of the eclogues based on the first printed edition of Mantua, 1498, along with an extensive introduction covering Mantuan’s life and works, the poems themselves, and their influence. Old, but easily accessible and still often cited.

  • Mantovano, Battista. The Eclogues of Mantuan. Translated by George Turberville. Edited by Douglas Bush. New York: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1937.

    A facsimile reproduction of the Huntington Library copy of the 1567 London edition printed by H. Bynneman, valuable for those who would like to see a translation that dates from the Renaissance of Mantuan’s most famous work.

  • Mantovano, Battista. Adulescentia: The Eclogues of Mantuan. Edited and translated by Lee Piepho. World Literature in Translation 14. New York: Garland, 1989.

    Reprints the text from Mantovano 1911, along with a literal English translation, substantive notes, and two appendixes containing information of a scholarly nature. The generally cited edition and translation of Mantuan’s most popular text.

  • Mantovano, Battista. Adulescentia: The Eclogues of Baptista Mantuanus (1498): A Hypertext Critical Edition. Edited and translated by Lee Piepho. The Philological Museum, University of Birmingham, 2009.

    A hypertext edition of Mantovano 1989, largely unchanged but with additional material in the introduction about the place of the Adulescentia in the schools, posted I, shortly before the editor was diagnosed with cancer and forced to curtail his work. Not a critical edition, notwithstanding the title.

  • Porter, William. “Eclogue Five of Mantuan (1448–1516), Candidus: On the Treatment of Poets by the Wealthy.” Allegorica 6 (1981): 7–20.

    Contains a Latin text and English translation of Mantuan’s fifth eclogue, rendered fairly literally, along with a brief introduction that focuses on how to translate Neo-Latin poetry.

  • Severi, Andrea, ed. and trans. Adolescentia. Civiltà dell’Umanesimo e del Rinascimento. Bologna, Italy: Bononia University Press, 2010.

    A magisterial critical edition of Mantuan’s eclogues, with an Italian translation and an extended critical study that includes information about the reception of the Adulescentia in later European culture. Essential for anyone who reads Italian easily.

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