Renaissance and Reformation Pierio Valeriano
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0356


Among his humanist peers, Pierio Valeriano (b. 1477–d. 1558) stands out for the range and scope of his accomplishments. He was a renowned teacher, but he was also a prolific author whose subjects ranged from emendation of classical texts to original poetry in Latin that is still worth reading today. He is best known for two works: the Hieroglyphica, an important contribution to the study of symbols in the Renaissance, and De litteratorum infelicitate, a meditation on the misfortunes afflicting scholars that serves as a key record of the intellectual activity of his day. Valeriano was well enough known in the 16th century to have had one of his minor works translated into English, but he has long been a special object of study in his home town of Belluno, where scholarship on his life and works has flourished literally for centuries. His two main works have attracted a fair amount of attention lately, but this versatile and accomplished humanist would repay further study.

Life and Works

There is no full, synthetic modern biography of Valeriano, but a tradition of inquiry based in Belluno and extending back for more than two centuries provides a good deal of information that more recent scholars have built on. Ticozzi 1813 remains worth consulting, while Alpago-Novello 1926 and Alpago-Novello 1934 help set the direction for later inquiries. Lettere 1986 offers a brief introduction, while Lucchetta 1966 goes into more detail in several specific areas. Pellegrini 1994, Piovan 1994, and Pellegrini 2007 move things forward, with Pellegrini 1998 offering a nice overview of the findings of scholarship from the nineties. See also Gaisser 1999, cited under English Translations, and Valeriano 1966, under Modern Editions.

  • Alpago-Novello, Luigi. “Spigolature vaticane di argomento bellunese. I. Un’opera inedita ed ignorata di Pierio Valeriano.” Archivio Veneto Tridentino 9 (1926): 461–476.

    Recounts the basic facts of Valeriano’s biography, then gives a detailed bibliography of his works, including references to several that were unknown or little studied at the time, with indications of where the manuscripts containing these works can be found.

  • Alpago-Novello, Luigi. “Nuove notizie intorno a Pierio Valeriano con documenti inediti.” Archivio storico di Belluno, Feltre, e Cadore 6 (1934): 477–484, 497–504.

    Does not offer a complete biography, but focuses on a number of newly discovered pieces of information to fill out the picture found in 19- and early-20th-century scholarship, with extensive quotations from the relevant documents.

  • Lettere, Vera. “Dalle Fosse, Giovanni Pietro (Pierio Valeriano).” In Dizionario biografico degli Italiani. Vol. 32, 84–88. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1986.

    A typical DBI entry, containing a concise overview of Valeriano’s life and works, with bibliography, both primary and secondary. Now rather outdated but still worth consulting. Available online.

  • Lucchetta, Giuliano. “Contributi per una biografia di Pierio Valeriano.” Italia medioevale e umanistica 9 (1966): 461–476.

    Not a complete biography, but the result of selected investigations into the last twenty years of Valeriano’s life, the prebends he obtained, his work on behalf of other family members, and his last will and testament. An important supplement to earlier work.

  • Pellegrini, Paolo. “Nuovi contribute per la biografia di Pierio Valeriano: Per la genealogia e i benefici bellunesi di Pierio Valeriano con documenti inediti.” Italia medioevale e umanistica 37 (1994): 251–267.

    Clarifies several aspects of Valeriano’s murky genealogy, along with the administration of his various benefices, as presented initially in Lucchetta 1966. Completed by Piovan 1994.

  • Pellegrini, Paolo. “Per la biografia di Pierio Valeriano Bolzanio: Ulteriori contribute.” In La Certosa di Vedana: Storia, cultura e arte in un ambiente delle Prealpi bellunesi: Atti del colloquio, Sospirolo (Belluno), 21 Ottobre 1995. Edited by Lucilla Sandra Magoga and Francesco Marin, 183–194. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1998.

    Summarizes the biographical researches of Marco Perale, which are not always as precise as one might want, and previous work of the author’s, with suggestions of where future research might profitably be conducted.

  • Pellegrini, Paolo. “Tra Venezia e Mantova: Pierio Valeriano ed Ercole Gonzaga.” L’Ellisse 2 (2007): 127–141.

    Uses original documents to clarify the relationship between Valeriano and the Gonzaga, providing insight into his interactions with the political powers of his day.

  • Piovan, Francesco. “Nuovi contribute per la biografia di Pierio Valeriano: Schede padovane per Pierio Valeriano.” Italia medioevale e umanistica 37 (1994): 268–281.

    Presents the results of archival research on the years when Valeriano lived in Padua, resting on a number of unedited documents that are of great interest in clarifying details in the biography, especially regarding his benefices and relationships with friends and colleagues. The second half of Pellegrini 1994.

  • Ticozzi, Stefano. Storia dei letterati e degli artisti del dipartimento del Piave. Belluno, Italy: Francesco Antonio Tissi, 1813. 85–150.

    A detailed account of Valeriano’s life, with references to his major works integrated into the narrative. Notwithstanding some inaccuracies and the failure to cite sources consistently, still cited regularly two hundred years after its publication.

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