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A Bibliographical Introduction to the Italian Humanists
Edited by Craig Kallendorf
Italian humanism, the defining movement of the Renaissance, was a system of learning that produced a cultural renewal in Europe through the study and adoption of ancient Greco-Roman culture. Scholarly interest in the work of both major and minor Italian humanists has been a cornerstone of Renaissance studies and continues to thrive.
This page features a curated collection of annotated bibliographies on eminent humanists drawn from Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation, designed to spur further research. The following set of bibliographies is freely available to read, and other articles will be made available on a rotating basis. For more information about this collection, please click here to read editor Craig Kallendorf’s Introduction.
“Humanism was the major intellectual movement of the Renaissance. Proponents of humanism believed that a body of learning, consisting of the study and imitation of the classical culture of ancient Rome and Greece, would produce a cultural rebirth after what they saw as the decadent and “barbarous” learning of the Middle Ages.”
“Giovanni Boccaccio (b. 1313–d. 1375), along with Dante Alighieri and Francesco Petrarch, is one of the Three Crowns of Italian literature. He was acutely aware of his position as mediator between different cultures and thus he stands as an important figure in the development of a European humanist literary culture that defines the Renaissance and beyond.”
“Ermolao Barbaro the Younger (b. 1454–d. 1493), widely respected as a humanist scholar in his own day, represented well the distinctively Venetian strain of humanism, which was more oriented toward Aristotelian philosophical studies and self-effacing service to the Venetian state.”
“Pietro Bembo (b. 1470–d. 1547) served first as Latin secretary to Pope Leo X, then as a cardinal. He is best known for his role in fixing the norms of a literary version of Italian that was modelled on the poetry of Petrarch and the prose of Boccaccio.”
“Gasparo Contarini’s (1483–1542) diplomatic career as a papal ambassador culminated in his appointment as cardinal. His philosophical, political, and religious thought was influenced by different fields of scientific and humanist knowledge that he sought to bring together, mediating between erudition and wisdom.”
“Francesco Filelfo (b. 1398–d. 1481) had the worst reputation of all the Italian humanists. Even those who did not like him admitted freely that Filelfo was a great scholar, one with a better knowledge of Greek than almost any Westerner of his day.”
“Giulio Pomponio Leto (b. 1428–d. 1498) was one of the foremost figures of Italian Renaissance culture and the focal point of humanism in 15th-century Rome. His major scholarly achievement, a commentary to Virgil, was published in a pirated edition under a garbled form of his name, which his observations on the text from earning him the credit he deserved.”
“Niccolò Niccoli (b. c. 1364–d. 1437) was a scholar interested in the revival of Antiquity. He accumulated an enormous library, which he made freely available to others and used himself in an effort to secure reliable texts of ancient authors.”
“Vergerio (b. c. 1369–d. 1444) had a respectable career as translator, editor, and author while also serving some of the most powerful men of his day. He is of special interest as a humanist who also had a serious commitment to the church and as one of the key figures in the spread of Italian humanism into eastern and central Europe.”
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