Renaissance and Reformation Polydore Vergil
by
Stella Fletcher
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 September 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 September 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0496

Introduction

As can be seen in Reference Works, at least one Overview and numerous biographical Lives and Times, the family of Polidoro Vergili had already produced a number of scholars when he was born near Urbino c. 1470. He studied at Padua (and possibly Bologna), and had been ordained by 1496, when he began to publish. His early works included Proverbiorum libellus (Venice, 1498; later retitled Adagiorum liber) and De inventoribus rerum (Venice, 1499; expanded 1521), the latter generating both edited texts (De inventoribus rerum: Texts) and scholarly analysis (De inventoribus rerum: Analysis). In 1502 Urbino was attacked by Cesare Borgia, Duke Guidobaldo da Montefeltro fled, and Virgili entered papal employment, being sent to England as sub-collector of Peter’s Pence, substituting for Cardinal Adriano Castellesi. Favored by Henry VII (r. 1485–1509), he was a natural associate of the humanists whose names are linked to that of Erasmus. During Henry’s reign Vergil—as he became known in England—was involved in Anglo-papal diplomacy, including the issue of a papal dispensation for the king’s heir, Prince Henry, to marry his brother’s widow. Among Vergil’s English benefices, the most significant was the archdeaconry of Wells, which he held from 1508. It was also before the death of Henry VII that he began work on his pioneering history of England, the Anglica historia, a work inspired by the tenets of humanist historiography and noted for its use of a wide range of sources, from the Roman world to those of the author’s own day. The history appeared in three editions during Vergil’s lifetime: Basel 1534, 1546, and 1555. For present purposes, published editions are cited under Anglica historia: Texts and the numerous commentaries are divided between Analysis, Twentieth Century and Analysis, Twenty-First Century. Meanwhile, the sub-collectorship was disputed between Vergil and Pope Julius II’s appointee Pietro Griffo, and a separate dispute over the collectorship resulted in Vergil’s imprisonment in the Tower of London in 1515, an episode in which he lost the sub-collectorship and which left him with an animus against Henry VIII’s minister Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. His later works were a Latin translation of John Chrysostom’s Comparatio regis et monachi (Basel, 1530), a Dialogus de prodigiis (Basel, 1531) and Latin Dialogi (Basel, 1545). Further observations on his published works can be found in Journals and a Collection of Papers. He paid visits to Italy in 1514, 1516–1517, and 1533–1534, and, after resigning his archdeaconry in 1546, made his final departure from England in 1553. He died in Urbino in 1555.

Reference Works

There are entries on Vergil in numerous reference works, some with an Italian emphasis, others a British one, and yet others with a focus on literature and scholarship. For present purposes, this wide range has been whittled down to Gransden 1982, a pioneering survey of historical writing in England that concludes with Vergil, and three websites that are, in reality, more likely to be consulted than any print volume. Of these, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) is designed to be the most authoritative resource and can easily lead the student into researching Vergil’s notable contemporaries. The insular emphasis of the ODNB is in evidence in the bibliography and can be balanced by comparing it with its Italian counterpart, the Dizionario biografico degli italiani, which contains a shorter biography but a more up-to-date bibliography. The way to update any British history bibliography is to consult the Bibliography of British and Irish History, the fourth resource cited here.

  • Bibliography of British and Irish History . Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols.

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    This was formerly a print publication, but is now maintained exclusively online, being updated three times a year. It is an important resource for any aspect and period of British and Irish history. Access is via the website of Brepols, the publisher. Searches can be done bibliographically or by subject, including places and persons. Alternatively, the subject tree allows users to focus on specific areas using progressively more detailed categories.

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  • Dizionario biografico degli italiani (DBI). 100 vols. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1960–2020.

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    All significant figures in Italian history are profiled in this major reference work. Unlike the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), the entire print version of which was published at once, the DBI appeared volume by volume, in alphabetical order. That means the ODNB had covered “Vergil, Polydore” before the DBI reached “Virgili, Polidoro.” The entry by Michele Lodone is in Vol. 99 and available online; its bibliography accounts for works up to 2013.

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  • Gransden, Antonia. Historical Writing in England II, c. 1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982.

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    Following on from a survey for the period c. 1550 to c. 1307 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), this volume examines the work of numerous chroniclers from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, as well as some specific authors: Ranulf Higden, Thomas Walsingham, John Rous, William Worcester, Thomas Elmham, Thomas Burton, and John Whethamsted. Gransden’s concluding chapter is devoted to the humanist historians Thomas More and Polydore Vergil.

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  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    The ODNB is the standard biographical reference work for all significant figures in English, Scottish, Welsh, and, as appropriate, Irish history, but it also includes entries on non-British figures who made notable contributions to British history. The entry on “Vergil, Polydore [Polidoro Virgili]” by William J. Connell is available online and is designed to be of use to students of English, rather than Italian, history. The bibliography goes up to 2000.

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Overview

The entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) (cited under Reference Works) is the most obvious English-language overview of Vergil’s life. In view of the fact that students are more likely to deal with the Anglica historia than with any of his other works, a historiographical overview is also relevant; that can be found in Kaufman 1985.

  • Kaufman, Peter Iver. “Polydore Vergil’s Fifteenth Century.” The Historian 47.4 (1985): 512–523.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6563.1985.tb00675.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Kaufman begins by surveying modern scholarly appreciation of Vergil, before turning to the practice of history in England before his arrival and the essential features of his method and its execution in narrative history and character sketches.

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Lives and Times

This section contains a number of biographical studies, the most relevant of which is Hay 1952, the standard English life of Vergil. A more recent, Italian life is Ruggeri 2000. Paschini 1957 contains three shorter biographical studies, one of which examines Vergil’s curial patron Adriano Castellesi. His English patron was Henry VII, who is the subject of Chrimes 1972. Henry’s story is intimately bound up with that of the king he ousted, Richard III, making Vergil’s coverage of the last Yorkist ruler in the Anglica historia a matter of interest and Ross 1981, Richard’s biography, of relevance to the present subject. Connections between the English monarchs and the Montefeltro dukes of Urbino are traced in Clough 1967, while other Anglo-Italian cultural encounters can be found in Harris 2006, which reconstructs the designs for hangings commissioned by Vergil for the cathedral at Wells. The remaining three works cited in this section all deal with the relationship between Vergil and Erasmus, which spanned the Italian and English periods of the former’s life. Ruggeri 1992 provides the correspondence they exchanged, while the more recent studies Vanautgaerden 2009 and Ruggeri 2014 work with that material.

  • Chrimes, S. B. Henry VII. London: Eyre Methuen, 1972.

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    Henry VII (r. 1485–1509) promoted the careers of Italian clerics as a way of retaining papal support for his contested claim to the English throne. Their names are anglicized in this, the standard modern biography, and some of them, including Vergil, can be traced in the corresponding biography of Henry’s successor, Henry VIII, by J. J. Scarisbrick (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1968). Part of the Yale English Monarchs series since 2011.

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  • Clough, C. H. “The Relations between the English and Urbino Courts, 1474–1508.” Studies in the Renaissance 14 (1967): 202–218.

    DOI: 10.2307/2857168Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article provides context for Vergil’s career, drawing out various connections between Urbino and England, such as he himself personified. It starts from the year in which Pope Sixtus IV made Federigo da Montefeltro duke of Urbino and King Edward IV appointed him to the highest order of English chivalry by making him a knight of the Garter, and ends at the death of Federigo’s son Guidobaldo, also a Garter knight.

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  • Harris, Oliver. “Polydore Vergil’s Hangings in the Quire of Wells Cathedral.” Somerset Archaeology and Local History 149 (2006): 71–77.

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    Vergil’s association with Wells began when he acted as proxy for Bishop Adriano Castellesi at the latter’s enthronement in 1504. He was archdeacon of Wells from 1508. The set of hangings he donated for the cathedral quire were described by John Leland in the 1540s and again by the Leicestershire antiquary William Burton (b. 1575–d. 1645) in the seventeenth century. Harris attempts to reconstruct the designs, including Vergil’s coat of arms.

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  • Hay, Denys. Polydore Vergil: Renaissance Historian and Man of Letters. Oxford: Clarendon, 1952.

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    In Vergil 1950 (cited under Anglica historia; Texts), Hay promised to publish a more extensive study of his author, for there was no existing biography, no monograph-length study of Vergil. This is it. The first chapter alone is a biographical sketch, and it contains a fair amount of speculation. Thereafter, Hay turns to the works—the Adagia, De prodigiis and other minor works, De inventoribus rerum, the Anglica historia—and their influence.

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  • Paschini, Pio. Tre illustri prelate del Rinascimento: Ermolao Barbaro, Adriano Castellesi, Giovanni Grimani. Rome: Facultas Theologica Pontificii Athenaei Lateranensis, 1957.

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    It is the middle prelate, Castellesi (b. c. 1461–d. c. 1521), collector of Peter’s Pence from 1489 and cardinal from 1503, who is of relevance here, for he was Vergil’s patron and it was in his absence that Vergil served as sub-collector. Since the publication of this volume, Castellesi’s career – and those of other Italian prelates in early Tudor England – have been summarized in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) and the Dizionario biografico degli italiani (both cited under Reference Works).

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  • Ross, Charles. Richard III. London: Eyre Methuen, 1981.

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    There was no direct connection between the king who was killed in battle in 1485 and the cleric who arrived in England in 1502, but such is Vergil’s significance as the historian of England, especially of those events within the living memory of people he met, that his name has become associated with that of Richard III. This biography is the standard life. Part of the Yale English Monarchs series since 2011.

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  • Ruggeri, Romano. Un amico di Erasmo: Polidoro Virgili. Urbino, Italy: QuattroVenti, 1992.

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    In 1498 Vergil published a volume of proverbs, which were reissued as “adages.” In 1500 Erasmus published his Adagia, prompting a dispute between the two authors. Later they became friends and correspondents, with a shared interest in John Chrysostom. This volume extracts from the Opus epistoalarum (Oxford: Clarendon, 1906–1958) of Erasmus the letters they exchanged between 1520 and 1532, with an introduction and notes by Ruggeri.

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  • Ruggeri, Romano. Polidoro Virgili: Un umanista europeo. Bergamo, Italy: Moretti & Vitali, 2000.

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    This is Ruggeri’s biography of Vergil. It was published after his edition of the Erasmus-Vergil correspondence (Ruggeri 1992), and before both his introduction to an edition of De inventoriubus rerum (Urbino, Italy: Accademia Raffaello, 2005) and his Riccardo III (Urbino, Italy: QuattroVenti, 2007), an Italian translation of the relevant portion of the 1555 Latin edition of the Anglica historia.

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  • Ruggeri, Romano. “Polidoro Virgilio, Erasmo e la Respublica litteraria.” In Erasmus and the Renaissance Republic of Letters. Edited by Stephen Ryle, 189–201. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1484/M.Disput-EB.4.00022Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This is one of twenty-one essays from a conference held at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 5–7 September 2006, to mark the centenary of the publication of the first volume of Erasmus’s letters, edited by P. S. Allen. Ruggeri 1992 placed Romano Ruggeri in a line of scholarly descent from Allen and this article offers a development of his thinking on Vergil and Erasmus.

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  • Vanautgaerden, Alexandre. “Érasme bibliographie: La querelle avec Polidoro Virgilio à propos des Adages.” In Syntagmatia: Essays on Neo-Latin Literature in Honour of Monique Mund-Dopchie and Gilbert Tournoy. Edited by Dirk Sacré and Jan Papy, 137–145. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2009.

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    This short essay offers an analysis of some of the sources edited in Ruggeri 1992. It assumes knowledge of Erasmus and his works, while introducing the less familiar figure of Vergil.

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De Inventoribus Rerum

Scholarly editions are cited under De inventoribus rerum: Texts and followed by a selection of the available analysis (De inventoribus rerum: Analysis).

Texts

In the form published in Venice in 1499, De inventoribus rerum consisted of three books and identified the origins of a wide range of natural and man-made phenomena. Vergil subsequently added a further five books on the origins of Christian institutions and practices, which were published in 1521. With over thirty Latin editions and more than 100 in total, including Thomas Langley’s heavily abbreviated English translation (1546), printed during the author’s lifetime, De inventoribus rerum was by any measure a Renaissance bestseller. It certainly sold well as long as Erasmianism was in vogue, for its treatment of the Church in Books 5–8 is squarely in that mode. At the height of the Catholic Reformation, it was condemned by the Sorbonne in 1551 and placed on the Index of prohibited books in 1564. An approved version of the text was printed in Rome in 1576. There are two modern critical editions, both of which are cited here: Vergil 1997 includes all eight books, whereas Vergil 2002 is limited to Books 1–3.

  • Vergil, Polydore. Beginnings and Discoveries: Polydore Vergil’s De inventoribus rerum; An Unabridged Translation and Edition with Introduction, Notes and Glossary. Edited by Beno Weiss and Louis C. Pérez. Biblioteca humanistica et reformatorica 56. Nieuwkoop, The Netherlands: De Graaf, 1997.

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    Weiss and Pérez include all eight books of Vergil’s text, whereas Copenhaver’s translation (Vergil 2002) is confined to the first three. The text is taken from the 1546 edition, printed in Lyon by Sebastian Gryphius (b. c. 1492–d. 1556). The subtitle clearly distinguishes it from the first English translation (London, 1546), by Thomas Langley (d. 1581), which was openly acknowledged as an abridgement and continued to be printed until the nineteenth century.

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  • Vergil, Polydore. On Discovery. Edited by Brian P. Copenhaver. I Tatti Renaissance Library 6. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.

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    The Latin text of Books 1–3 of De inventoribus rerum, collated from the editions printed between 1499 and 1553–1555, is presented in parallel with an English translation, prefaced by Vergil’s letters to Lodovico Odassio and Gian Matteo Vergil, and “On Polydore” by the German scholar Simon Grynaeus (b. 1493–d. 1541). Copenhaver’s introduction and supporting notes provide a thorough guide that should meet the needs of most students.

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Analysis

Ferguson, et al. 1944 is cited to illustrate one strand—the English-language variety—in the development of modern appreciation of De inventoribus rerum. Its recent fortunes owe even more to the work of Brian P. Copenhaver, first in his article for the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes Copenhaver 1978 and subsequently in Vergil 2002 (cited under De inventoribus rerum: Texts). Atkinson 2007 is significant as the only monograph to be inspired by Vergil’s text. It explores the contents, whereas Arnold 2013 and Arnold 2014 are both essays that make connections between Vergil as the authors of De inventoribus rerum and the cultural world in which he lived, with specific reference to the formation of ecclesiastical phenomena and how they might be re-formed. There is no escaping the fact that anglophone interest in De inventoribus rerum owes more to Vergil as author of the Anglica historia than to anything else, but its popularity in the Renaissance period was not confined by any insular considerations. Consequently, the four other articles cited here reflect that wider European interest in the text. Lestringant 2003 is painted with a broad brush and could be read early in a student’s research, whereas Charlet 2004 is useful for a more precise appreciation of where De inventoribus rerum fits among encyclopedic texts of the Italian Renaissance. Similarly, Heydenreich 2010 is more of an introduction to the author and his work, whereas Lodone 2010 is a detailed analysis of ecclesiastical topics that emerged as particular bones of contention during the Reformation period. It was on the basis of this article that Lodone was a suitable authority to contribute the entry on “Virgili, Polidoro” to the Dizionario biografico degli italiani (cited under Reference Works).

  • Arnold, Jonathan. “Polydore Vergil and Ecclesiastical Historiography in his De inventoribus rerum, IV–VIII.” In The Church on Its Past. Edited by Peter D. Clarke and Charlotte Methuen, 144–155. Studies in Church History 57. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0424208400002096Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this essay Arnold takes the opportunity offered by the Ecclesiastical History Society’s conference format, spanning the entire Christian era, to introduce Vergil’s text to a diverse audience, surveying its evolution, content, and fortunes during the author’s lifetime and after his death. Now that Studies in Church History is published by Cambridge University Press, online access is via Cambridge Core.

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  • Arnold, Jonathan. “John Colet and Polydore Vergil: Catholic Humanism and Ecclesiology.” Moreana 51.197–8 (2014): 138–165.

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    Colet was dean of St Paul’s, London, from 1505 to 1519, Vergil archdeacon of Wells from 1508 to 1546; both were critical of behavior exhibited by their clerical contemporaries. Drawing on Colet’s sermons and lectures, and on Vergil’s Adagia and De inventoribus rerum, Arnold argues that both men pinned their hopes on conciliar initiatives to reform the Church morally and spiritually; schism was not an option at the time they were writing.

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  • Atkinson, Catherine. Inventing Inventors in Renaissance Europe: Polydore Vergil’s De inventoribus rerum. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2007.

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    Atkinson’s study is the first monograph to explore the “bestseller” that was Vergil’s De inventoribus rerum (see De inventoribus rerum: Texts) and its impact in Renaissance Europe. A comprehensive analysis requires her to consider both the ancient inventors explored by Vergil in Books 1–3 and the “invention” of ecclesiastical institutions discussed in Books 4–8 and published in 1521.

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  • Charlet, Jean-Louis. “La bibliothèque et livres d’après trios témoignages humanistes: Niccolò Perotti, Francesco Mario Grapaldo, Polidoro Virgili.” In L’Europa del libro nell’età dell’Umanesimo: Atti del XIV convegno internazionale (Chianciano, Firenze, Pienza, 16–19 luglio 2002). Edited by Luisa Secchi Tarugi, 79–92. Florence: F. Cesati, 2004.

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    Vergil features in this relatively brief conference paper because he included a chapter on the invention of books, libraries, and printing in De inventoribus rerum. The Rome-based humanist Perotti (b. 1429/30–d. 1480) was secretary to Cardinal Bessarion and expressed concern about errors in printed texts. Grapaldo (b. 1462–d. 1515) was from Parma and author of the encyclopaedic De partibus aedium.

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  • Copenhaver, Brian P. “The Historiography of Discovery in the Renaissance: The Sources and Composition of Polydore Vergil’s De inventoribus rerum I–III.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 41 (1978): 192–214.

    DOI: 10.2307/750867Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Copenhaver traces the classical, patristic, and medieval historiography regarding discovery-literature and analyzes Vergil’s use of sources for his discussion of “cosmology, human origins, philosophy, astrology, geometry, weights and measures, numbers, medicine, pharmacy, magic, divination, time-keeping, books and writing, memory, the horse, metallurgy, coining, unguents, glass, sculpture, painting, agriculture, arboriculture, viniculture, animals, textiles, architecture, towns, monuments” (p. 202) and other scientific subjects. Niccolò Perotti and Giovanni Tortelli are identified as authors of similar works.

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  • Ferguson, John, John F. Fulton, and Charlotte H. Peters. Hand List of Editions of Polydore Vergil’s De inventoribus rerum. New Haven, CT: Historical Library, Yale University School of Medicine, 1944.

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    Compiled and arranged by Fulton and Peters from a bibliography left in manuscript by Ferguson (b. 1836–d. 1916).

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  • Heydenreich, Titus. “Polidoro Virgilio und seine De rerum inventoribus libri.” Studi Umanistici Piceni 30 (2010): 293–305.

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    A relatively brief article by a scholar with interests in both Italian and Spanish literature who contributed regularly to this Ancona-based series.

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  • Lestringant, Frank. “Les livres Des Inventeurs de Polydore Vergile.” In Ouvrages miscellanies et theories de la connaissance à la Renaissance. Edited by Dominique de Courcelles, 37–56. Paris: École Nationale des Chartes, 2003.

    DOI: 10.4000/books.enc.1170Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The author places De inventoribur rerum in a cultural panorama that ranges from Seneca to Lévi-Strauss, by way of Montaigne and Justus Lipsius. The subheadings “Une bibliothèque portative,” “Mythologies des inventeurs,” and “Un arsenal pour réforme” help to guide the reader through this rich assemblage of ideas.

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  • Lodone, Michele. “Traduzioni, censure, riscritture: Sul De inventoribus di Polidoro Virgili.” Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa: Classe di Lettere e Filosofia, ser. 5 2.1 (2010): 143–177.

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    From Books 4–8 on the origins of various rei christianae, Lodone selects four topics for analysis: the origin of clerical celibacy, the dishonest collection of alms by mendicant friars, the liturgy of the Mass, and the tradition of kissing the pope’s foot. In the Reformation era these passages were subjected to translation, censorship, and rewriting, by both Catholics and Protestants, including Thomas Langley and the Lutheran polemicist Matthias Flacius Illyricus.

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Anglica historia

The distinction made here between texts – Anglica historia: Texts – and analysisis logical; that between Analysis, Twentieth Century and Analysis, Twenty-First Century is entirely artificial and has no significance, not least because academic work often has a long gestation.

Texts

In 1513 Vergil completed his account of England’s history to the time of writing. That task coincided with a visit to Urbino, where one manuscript version remained until it was incorporated into the Vatican Library, becoming Urb. lat. 497 and 498. In 1533 he received permission to leave England again, and the Anglica historia was printed by Johannes Bebel in Basel the following year, in a version that ended in 1509, the year that Henry VIII, the dedicatee, succeeded to the throne. The second edition (1546) contained many revisions, and the third edition (1555) saw the text reach its fullest extent, the history being related to the 1530s. The complete text consists of twenty-four chapters: a general description of the island of Britain, its people, and its history to the Norman Conquest appear in the first eight, after which the kings from William I to Henry VIII (minus Edward V) are allocated a chapter each. The publication history of the Anglica historia resumes in the mid-nineteenth century, with the two volumes edited by Sir Henry Ellis: Vergil 1844 reflects the significance of Vergil’s 15th-century coverage by picking out his accounts of the reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV, and Richard III, while Vergil 1846 is an edition of the first eight books. That left two gaps, from William I to Henry V, and the early Tudors. Denys Hay filled the second of those with Vergil 1950, but only the most recent of the editions cited here, Vergil 2005, publishes a complete text, all the twenty-four chapters, and that in a medium well suited to such an enterprise.

  • Vergil, Polydore. Three Books of Polydore Vergil’s English History, Comprising the Reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV, and Richard III, from an Early Translation Preserved among the MSS. Of the Old Royal Library in the British Museum. Edited by Sir Henry Ellis. Camden Society, 1st ser., 29. London: Camden Society, 1844.

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    Ellis (b. 1777–d. 1869) was the British Museum’s principal librarian and a prolific author on antiquarian subjects. His singling out of those three reigns indicates Vergil’s significance as a historian of the fifteenth century and perhaps also the abiding impact of Horace Walpole’s Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III (1768). Ellis’s edition has been used by generations of Richard III enthusiasts.

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  • Vergil, Polydore. Polydore Vergil’s English History, from an Early Translation Preserved among the MSS of the Old Royal Library in the British Museum: Vol. I, Containing the First Eight Books, Comprising the Period Prior to the Norman Conquest. Edited by Sir Henry Ellis. Camden 1st ser., 36. London: Camden Society, 1846.

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    The first book contains a general description of the island of Britain and its people, its early kings, and the invasion of Julius Caesar. The others cover: Roman Britain; the departure of the Romans and the coming of the English; the English heptarchy; the unification of England and the coming of the Dacians; the kingdom of England; the kingdom of the English to the death of Canute; the Norman Conquest.

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  • Vergil, Polydore. The Anglica historia of Polydore Vergil, A.D. 1485–1537. Edited and translated by Denys Hay. Camden Society, 3rd series, 74. London: Royal Historical Society, 1950.

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    Vergil 1844 ended at 1485, leaving the Tudor portion of the Anglica historia untranslated and a clear opportunity for another scholar. That opportunity was seized by Denys Hay (b. 1915–d. 1994), who introduced his endeavor in 1949 (see Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, cited under Journals), ahead of this Camden Society volume, which contains the Latin original with Hay’s English translation. A companion volume, Hay 1952 (cited under Lives and Times), duly followed.

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  • Vergil, Polydore. Anglica historia. Edited and translated by Dana F. Sutton. Birmingham, UK: Philological Museum, University of Birmingham, 2005.

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    With Ellis’s translation ending at 1485 and Hay’s covering 1485–1537, this accessible edition is the first to present the entire text in Latin, taken from the 1555 version, with an English counterpart. Sutton provides an ample introduction. Each of the twenty-four chapters is clearly listed and additional clarity is provided by the numbering of paragraphs. The electronic format makes it easy to switch between the Latin and the English.

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Analysis, Twentieth Century

Logically, Hay 1939 and Clough 1967 should feature before modern editions of the Anglica historia, because both articles discuss the manuscript version in the Vatican Library. Another pair of works cited here, Levy 1967 and Woolf 2000, place the Anglica historia in broad contexts, Levy’s theme being historical thought in 16th-century England and Woolf’s the reading of history in the same. The remaining authors delve into the text itself and do so for a variety of purposes. Vergil being a practitioner of humanist history, Freeman 1992 explores his reading of classical authors and their resulting influence on the Anglica historia. Classical heritage, centered on Vergil’s use of the term “imperium,” is discussed in Koebner 1953, which is aimed at students of 16th-century political history but also speculates on the reason for the long delay before Vergil’s text was printed. The post-Roman era could easily suffer by comparison with the classical tradition. In terms of English history, that meant Arthur, the “once and future king” and national hero, who receives short shrift from Vergil. The resulting “battle of the books” is explored in Carley 1984. Of all the verifiable reigns covered by the Anglica historia, none has generated quite as much interest as that of Richard III, at least in proportion to its length (1483–1485). Hanham 1975 is an exceptionally useful guide to the sources for that reign; the reader can see at a glance where Vergil fits into the greater whole. The Richard III phenomenon means that the later portions of the text can be in danger of being overlooked. In a balance-redressing exercise, Cespedes 1979 works through the final chapter, which covers the first two decades of Henry VIII’s reign.

  • Carley, James P. “Polydore Vergil and John Leland on King Arthur: The Battle of the Books.” Interpretations 15.2 (1984): 86–100.

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    Arthur is dealt with briefly in Book 3 of the Anglica historica: he would have achieved more had he lived longer. The poet and antiquary John Leland (b. c. 1503–d. 1552) responded with Codrus, sive, Laus et defensio Gallofridi Arturii contra Polydorum Vergilium, augmented as Assertio inclytissimi Arturii regis Britanniae. Carley’s essay also appears in E. D. Kennedy, ed., King Arthur: A Casebook (New York: Garland, 1996), pp 185–204 [doi:10.4324/9780203953617]

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  • Cespedes, Frank V. “The Final Book of Polydore Vergil’s Anglica historia: Persecution and the Art of Writing.” Viator 10 (1979): 375–396.

    DOI: 10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.301533Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article is bookended with references to Vergil as an indirect source for Shakespeare’s history plays and argues that there is more can be made of it than that. Cespedes works through the final book of the Anglica historia, which has an “unfinished” character and has often been overlooked by scholars, as a source for the reign of Henry VIII as far as the end of his first marriage, in which Vergil acquiesced.

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  • Clough, Cecil H. “Federigo Veterani, Polydore Vergil’s Anglica historia and Baldassare Castiglione’s Epistola ad Henricum Anglicae regem.” English Historical Review 82 (1967): 772–783.

    DOI: 10.1093/ehr/LXXXXII.CCCXXV.784Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The Vatican Library’s MS Urb. lat. 498, containing Vergil’s Anglica historia, has a colophon written by Federigo Veterani, who is identified by Hay as the duke of Urbino’s librarian, but by Clough as the librarian’s eponymous kinsman, a notary. Clough agrees that the manuscript went for safekeeping to the convent of S. Chiara c. 1516 and was later restored to Vergil, and reconstructs its subsequent history.

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  • Freeman, Thomas S. “From Catiline to Richard III: The Influence of Classical Histories on Polydore Vergil’s Anglica historia.” In Reconsidering the Renaissance. Edited by Mario A. Di Cesare, 191–214. Binghamton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1992.

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    English history presented Vergil with numerous rebellions, civil wars, and conspiracies, 15th-century illustrations being Jack Cade’s rebellion in 1450, the Wars of the Roses from the 1450s, and the usurpation of Richard III in 1483. To a classically educated historian they were subjects familiar from Sallust, Seutonius, Tacitus and other ancient authors, and, as Freeman demonstrates, the influence of those authors is apparent in Vergil’s treatment of relatively recent events.

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  • Hanham, Alison. Richard III and His Early Historians, 1483–1535. Oxford: Clarendon, 1975.

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    Following analysis of sources closer to the events of 1483 and before Thomas More’s “satirical drama” is examined, Hanham’s sixth chapter is devoted to Vergil’s account of Richard III’s usurpation, his reputation as a “Tudor propagandist”, treatment of evidence, use of written sources, and influence on Richard Grafton, Edward Hall, and others. An excursus focuses on the similarities between Vergil’s text and the second continuation of the Crowland Chronicle.

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  • Hay, Denys. “The Manuscript of Polydore Vergil’s ‘Anglica historia.’” English Historical Review 54.214 (1939): 240–251.

    DOI: 10.1093/ehr/LIV.CCXIV.240Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article predates Hay’s essay in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (cited under Journals), Vergil 1950 (cited under Anglica historia: Texts) and Hay 1952 (cited under Lives and Times). It concerns two volumes in the Vatican Library: Urb. lat. 497 and 498. These contain a manuscript text of the Anglica historia that differs markedly from that which was used for the first print edition.

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  • Koebner, Richard. “‘The Imperial Crown of the Realm’: Henry VIII, Constantine the Great, and Polydore Vergil.” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 26.73 (1953): 29–52.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2281.1953.tb02124.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The title comes from the Act in Restraint of Appeals (1533): the king claimed to be emperor in his kingdom, to acknowledge no higher authority under God. Koebner traces this idea to Arthurian legends, which saw British kingship in succession to Roman emperorship. Vergil used the term “imperium,” but rejected Geoffrey of Monmouth’s claims for Arthur. Did this explain the long delay from composition to publication of the Anglica historia?

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  • Levy, F. J. Tudor Historical Thought. San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1967.

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    The section on Vergil in Levy’s second chapter, “The Advent of Humanism,” is heavily dependent on Hay 1952 (cited under Lives and Times), meaning that the value of this volume is rather in seeing Vergil in the context of historical writing in a long sixteenth century. Levy’s text is also available as a reprint published by the Renaissance Society of America (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004).

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  • Woolf, D. R. Reading History in Early Modern England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    Vergil is a relatively minor player in this exploration of book reading, ownership, borrowing, and lending in the period from the advent of print in England to the early eighteenth century. However, his significance can be appreciated in relation to native authors such as Bacon, Camden, Clarendon, Dugdale, Foxe, Holinshed, Selden, and Stow, as well as non-English ones from Livy and Sallust to Guicciardini and Sarpi.

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Analysis, Twenty-First Century

Among the more recent publications, Rexroth 2002 is essentially an overview, with an emphasis on humanist historiography, and Hertel 2010 is similarly inclusive, its emphasis being on the 16th-century literary impact of the Anglica historia. Following hard on the heels of his two studies of De inventoribus rerum, Jonathan Arnold in Arnold 2014 turns his attention to Vergil’s English history and does so by analyzing his attitude toward authority and political power. Meanwhile, Cobban 2003, Haywood 2009, and Cavill 2018 are all illustrations of what happens when a scholar selects references to his particular area of expertise, those being universities, Ireland, and the English parliament, respectively. These may well inspire other scholars to read Vergil’s text and undertake similar exercises with reference to other specialities.

  • Arnold, Jonathan. “Polydorus Italus: Analyzing Authority in Polydore Vergil’s Anglica historia.” Reformation and Renaissance Review 16 (2014): 122–137.

    DOI: 10.1179/1462245914z.00000000053Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    From the 1530s, all clerics in England were presented with the choice of being loyal to the pope or siding with Henry VIII (d. 1547), Edward VI (d. 1553), and their nationalization of the Church. Arnold draws on evidence from the Anglica historia to work out Vergil’s individual response to that challenge, his personal antipathy to the late Cardinal Wolsey proving particularly convenient in the circumstances.

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  • Cavill, Paul. “Polydore Vergil and the First English Parliament.” In Writing the History of Parliament in Tudor and Early Stuart England. Edited by Paul Cavill and Alexandra Gajda, 37–59. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719099588.003.0002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In the Anglica historia Vergil dated the first English parliament to 1116, which was during the reign of Henry I. This assertion did not come from any of his chronicle sources, which provides Cavill with the opportunity to work out why Vergil chose to make it. Responses to Vergil’s statement in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are also explored. Access is via subscription.

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  • Cobban, Alan B. “Polydore Vergil Reconsidered: The Anglica historia and the English Universities.” Viator 34 (2003): 364–391.

    DOI: 10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.300393Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    After four decades of publishing books and articles on the history of Oxford and Cambridge, Cobban works through the Anglica historia, picking out Vergil’s references to the two universities and their constituent colleges. He finds numerous errors and concludes that this tarnishes Vergil’s reputation as a historian.

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  • Haywood, Eric. “Humanism’s Priorities and Empire’s Prerogatives: Polydore Vergil’s Description of Ireland.” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 109C (2009): 195–237.

    DOI: 10.331/priac.2009.109.195Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This piece includes the description of Ireland in the Anglica historia in the original Latin and in a modern English translation. Haywood’s commentary explains how this portion of the text was constructed, how it was designed to comply with the emerging rules of humanist historiography, and how it was intended to appeal to Vergil’s Tudor patrons.

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  • Hertel, Ralf. “Nationalising History? Polydore Vergil’s Anglica historia, Shakespeare’s Richard III, and the Appropriation of the English Past.” In Exiles, Emigrés and Intermediaries: Anglo-Italian Cultural Transactions. Edited by Barbara Schaff, 47–70. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789042030695_004Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Vergil’s personal history is retold for a non-specialist readership, his place in this multiperiod volume being located between Petrarch and John Florio. Then Hertel examines Vergil’s direct or indirect influence on works such as Edward Hall’s The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (1542–1548) and Shakespeare’s history plays, and thus on the creation of an English national identity. Available via the Brill website online by subscription.

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  • Rexroth, Frank. “Polydor Vergil als Geschichtsschreiber und der englishe Beitrag zum europäischen Humanismus.” In Diffusion des Humanismus: Studien zur nationalen Geschichtesschreibung europäischer Humanisten. Edited by Johannes Helmrath, Ulrich Muhlack and Gerrit Walther, 415–435. Göttingen, Germany: Wallstein, 2002.

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    Diffusion des Humanismus consists of eighteen papers on the theme of humanist historiography in various national contexts, England being represented by Susanne Saygin on early-15th-century lives and Rexroth on Vergil. The latter sets its subject in the context of Anglo-Italian humanism, relates Vergil’s life, introduces the Anglica historia, and discusses Vergil’s skepticism about King Arthur.

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Journals

Even if interest in Vergil were limited to De inventoribus rerum and the Anglica historia, that would still generate subject matter suitable for a range of journals. None of those chosen for citation include a large number of such articles. Instead, the opportunity is taken to account for a selection of pieces published since the early twentieth century. At that stage Transactions of the Royal Historical Society was among the relatively limited options available. By date of foundation, the next journal cited here is Isis, a publication devoted to the history of science. The full spectrum of Renaissance studies is welcome in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. The early 1960s saw the creation of publications inspired by two individuals whose names have become closely associated with that of Vergil: The Ricardian and Moreana, devoted to studies of Richard III and Thomas More, respectively. With Viator the perspective is broader, encompassing the wide sweep of medieval and Renaissance culture.

Collection of Papers

If it took until 1952 for Vergil to be the subject of a monograph (Hay 1952, cited under Lives and Times), it should perhaps come as no surprise that it was not until 2000 that a suitable number of scholars could be mustered for a conference on him. As if to compensate for the centuries when the city ignored one of its own, it took place in Urbino. The papers were duly published and are cited here as Bacchielli 2003.

  • Bacchielli, Rolando, ed. Polidoro Virgili e la cultura umanistica europea: Atti del convegno internazionale di studi e celebrazioni; Urbino, 28 settembre–1 ottobre 2000. Urbino, Italy: Accademia Raffaello, 2003.

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    Connections between Vergil and Urbino are traced by Giorgio Cerboni Baiardi, Franco Negroni, and Marinella Bonvini Mazzanti. Ruth Chavasse and Beno Weiss explore humanistic and religious contexts. Olivio Galeazzi and Nicola Panichi address the minor works, Romano Ruggeri De inventoribus rerum, while John Guy, Vittorio Gabrieli, Eric Haywood, and Roy Rosenstein take their cues from the Anglica historia. The other contributors are David Rundle, Janette Dillon, and Catherine Atkinson.

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