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  • Humanism and Creativity in the Renaissance: Essays in Honor of Ronald G. Witt
  • Michael J. B. Allen
Christopher S. Celenza and Kenneth Gouwens, eds. Humanism and Creativity in the Renaissance: Essays in Honor of Ronald G. Witt. Brill's Studies in Intellectual History 136. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2006. vi + 412 pp. index. illus. tbls. $150. ISBN: 90-04-14907-4.

This handsome Festschrift of fifteen essays, some of them with accompanying edited texts, is in honor of one of the most genial and distinguished historians of Italian humanism, the author of two authoritative studies of Coluccio Salutati, many scholarly articles, and, most recently, the prizewinning book In the Footsteps of the Ancients: The Origins of Humanism from Lovato to Bruni. The dedicatee is also the only past president of the RSA who has been, in triple measure, bitten by a copperhead, attacked by a swan while swimming in the swan's pond, and pushed injuriously into a ditch by a cynical dog on the day before a European sabbatical. A fine in cathedra picture opposes the title page, and there is a warm appreciation by Price Zimmermann as well as an introduction by the two editors. The essays are bundled into three broad categories that certainly speak to the wonderful range of Professor Witt's own intellectual passions.

It is fitting that part 1, "Politics and the Revival of Antiquity," should begin with James Hankins's persuasive study of Bruni and the issue of a classicizing humanism's relationship to the vernacular. Professor Hankins suggests that humanism's essentially elite cultural aspirations strove nonetheless to foster the values associated with good citizenship by making accessible the ancient texts where such values were supposedly embodied. Anthony D'Elia casts an interesting light on the Riminese humanist Pietro Parleo, and edits, for the first time, his oration defending an insubordinate captain with examples from Livy and other classical authors. Benedetto Accolti, the Florentine chancellor, is cogently presented by Robert Black in a synthetic essay that makes use of new manuscript sources, and Melissa Bullard perceptively focuses on Lorenzo de' Medici's gem collection in the light of contemporary collecting practices. Mark Jurdjevic, in an essay entitled "The Guicciardinian Moment," shows how the various political recommendations by Medici partisans on dealing with opponents after the fall of the Florentine republics in 1512 and 1530 involved a reenvisioning of aristocratic, oligarchic principles. John Headley, meanwhile, turns to the interesting links between Guillaume Budé's treatise on wealth and Thomas More's Utopia, and the light they cast on the authors' careers and, by extension, on the role of serving the polity as an intellectual.

Part 2, "Humanism, Religion and Moral Philosophy," opens with Timothy Kircher's careful examination of the affinities between Alberti's Intercenales and Boccaccio's Decameron, works suffused with irony and skepticism, despite the Latinitas of the one and the Toscano of the other. Next, John Monfasani contributes a notable piece on George Amiroutzes, a Byzantine from Trebizond who entered the service of Mehmed the Conqueror, and wrote a dialogue on faith that seems to be based on an actual encounter between George and the sultan. Not only has the author recovered the final lost portion of the Greek text, he has effectively [End Page 1166] identified the author of the incomplete Latin version as Acciaiuoli. Father Mahoney skillfully examines the nature and role of metaphysical hierarchy in Ficino, with its epistemological implications, while Charles Fantazzi looks at the Parisian sojourn of Vives from 1509 to 1514, and shows how the various inaugural lectures he composed at the time adumbrate positions later explored in depth in his De disciplinis. Finally, in an essay abounding in memorable curiosa, Anthony Grafton examines how sixteenth-century intellectuals, including Luther, Melanchthon, Della Porta, Erasmus, and Montaigne, sought some level of control, however unsuccessfully, over their dreams, particularly their prophetic dreams.

Part 3, "Erudition and Innovation," has four essays. Paul Grendler gives us a timely appraisal of the 1859 masterpiece by the Prussian historian, Georg Voigt, The Revival of Classical Antiquity. David Lines reexamines the relationship between the universities and the Italian humanists, and argues, arrestingly, for the often receptive role of scholastic...


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