- Carteggi con Quadrio . . . Ripa
Fortunately, a re-evaluation of the role played by the historian and reformer Ludovico Antonio Muratori in the Italian pre-Enlightenment has not had to wait for the completion of the national edition of his correspondence, but has accompanied this ongoing editorial venture, which is now in its thirty-fifth year and still has some twenty-nine volumes to go. The editors of the most recent installment, covering somewhat more than one letter of the alphabet, have adhered scrupulously to the project's high standards and strict criteria. They have looked far and wide to add material supplementing the main body of documents that exists in the Biblioteca Estense in Modena. In the case of letters by Muratori himself, rather than simply reprinting those published by Matteo Cámpori at the beginning of the twentieth century (14 vols., 1901-22), they have corrected the transcriptions against the originals wherever possible and have added any recently discovered letters. They provide detailed introductions to each correspondent, ranging from mini-dissertations up to eight pages long (for the more important figures) to short paragraphs (for the lesser-known figures), along with explanatory footnotes. The appendices round out the collection, adding letters not to or from Muratori himself but clearly intended for his perusal.
The letters here constitute a particularly challenging portion of the series, including no fewer than seventy-one correspondents from all over Europe, referring to every period of Muratori's long career—from the early studies on poetry and good taste to the later ones on legal and political reform to the immense masterworks on medieval and modern history—during a key period in Italian and European culture: from the War of the Spanish Succession and the rise of Frederick II to the papacy of Benedict XIV. They show the difficulties of obtaining and confirming knowledge in a regime of bibliographical fragmentation and the trials of publishing in a regime of censorship, experienced not only by Muratori himself for the Annali d'Italia and other works in various states around Europe but also by Francesco Algarotti, author of a layman's manual on Newtonian philosophy, and many others. They convey a sense of the debate on witchcraft and the spread of Jansenism, as well as the attempts of intelligent Europeans to come to terms with the first classics of the French Enlightenment.
Highlights include the 169 letters exchanged with Angelo Maria Querini—antiquary, Vatican librarian, and eventually a cardinal based in Brescia and Rome. These contain much about Querini as priest and prelate, publishing his periodical bulletins to members of his diocese, with words of edification and church news, in the midst of a tireless search for information about local literary history and lore. Another highlight is the series of 114 letters by [End Page 826] Giovanni Giuseppe Ramaggini, to whom none by Muratori survive. Although a minor figure, Ramaggini spent much of his career in the retinue of various prelates in Rome and eventually as a secretary to the reforming minister Karl Firmian, who would become the Austrian plenipotentiary in Milan. His long communications to Muratori give an intensely reflective account of intellectual developments at the time, from some of which Ramaggini remained aloof, closing his mind to the more radical contributions such as La Mettrie's L'homme machine of 1748 ("such monstrous abortions of human ingenuity!" p. 258). Fewer in number but important because of the reputation of the sender are the letters by Emmanuel de Richecourt, Tuscan grand duke Francis Stephen's regent in Florence; Bernardino Ramazzini, the father of occupational medicine; Luigi Riccoboni, actor and author of a manual on theater performance; Francesco Saverio Quadrio, Jesuit author of a history of poetry; and Giambattista Recanati, author of an early anthology of women poets. Overall, we are reminded that the innovative trend of the eighteenth century did not only arrive at the conclusion suggested by Jonathan...