Renaissance and Reformation Niccolò Perotti
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0354


Born in Sassoferrato, a small town in the Marches, in 1430, Niccolò Perotti (b. 1429–d. 1480) studied with Vittorino da Feltre, one of the most famous schoolmasters of his day. Employed first by the English humanist William Grey, Perotti next moved to the household of the Greek Cardinal Bessarion. Bessarion supported him in a church career, where he became archbishop of Siponto, then papal governor of Viterbo and Spoleto. After he returned to Rome he joined the circle of Pomponio Leto and began a collaboration with the printers Sweynheym and Pannartz, who published his Rudimenta grammatices and his commentaries to Martial and Pliny’s Natural History. When he had finished serving as papal governor of Perugia, Perotti retired to his hometown to work on his masterpiece, the Cornu copiae, an enormous commentary to Martial that served as an encyclopedic dictionary of classical culture. He died in 1480. Perotti is a good example of a midlevel humanist, a scholar who made significant contributions without rising to the level of Lorenzo Valla and Angelo Poliziano, with whom he was acquainted. But because of the interest in him centered in his home town, he has attracted more scholarly attention than many of his more accomplished peers. Under the initial stimulus of Sesto Prete, the Istituto internazionale di studi piceni has sponsored an annual conference (through 2016) on humanism in the Marches that focuses on Perotti and has led to a small mountain of publications about him—Jean-Louis Charlet alone has written more than seventy items about Perotti—including a magisterial critical edition of the Cornu copiae. The result is an embarrassment of riches that unfortunately still presents some problems to the researcher: many items are distributed only through the Istituto internazionale di studi piceni and are difficult to find, even in Italy; there is a tendency to tackle small problems that can be handled in a published conference paper, at the expense of larger issues; and the scholarship is challenging linguistically, with little in English and less in Italian than we often find with the other Italian humanists, so that serious work on Perotti requires a comfortable control of French and German as well. The bibliography that follows represents a judicious selection among what is available, with a focus on more substantive pieces and articles that connect to larger scholarly concerns.


Perotti’s two major works, his Cornu copiae and Rudimenta grammatices, are available in modern critical editions, which is by no means the case with all of the Italian humanists. Several shorter items are also available in modern versions, with a third group of writings being accessible in early modern editions. The major lacuna at this point is the letter collection, which is being edited by a team of scholars under the auspices of the Istituto internazionale di studi piceni.

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