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Reviewed by:
  • Opere mnemotecniche
  • Hilary Gatti
Giordano Bruno . Opere mnemotecniche. Eds. Marco Matteoli, Rita Sturlese, and Nicoletta Tirinnanzi. Vol. 1. Classici 71. Milan: Adelphi Edizioni, 2004. xcviii + 840 pp. index. illus. bibl. €80. ISBN: 88-459-1924-2.

This volume is part of an important project for a new national edition of Bruno's Latin works. It follows the Opere magiche, published in 2000 and in a second edition in 2003. It includes only Bruno's first two works on the art of memory, De umbris idearum and Cantus Circaeus, while a second tome is being prepared which will contain the Sigillus sigillorum and the De compositione imaginum. The format already used for this edition is followed, consisting here of a general introduction (Nicoletta Tirinnanzi), a philological introduction (Rita Sturlese), the Latin text with critical apparatus (Sturlese) and facing Italian translation (Tirinnanzi), a substantial comment on the texts and their sources (Sturlese and Marco Matteoli), a bibliography (Matteoli), and a much-needed index of the names in the texts (Francesca Dell'Omodarme). This volume, like the Opere magiche, is dedicated to Eugenio Garin, whose contribution to the philosophical study of Bruno's works is a source of gratitude to all concerned, and whose recent death has been commemorated eloquently by Brian Copenhaver in Renaissance News and Notes. [End Page 1399]

The task of writing the introduction to this volume has been assigned to Nicoletta Tirinnanzi, who has done some excellent work on the biblical sources of the De umbris idearum, and in particular on Bruno's use, both in this text and in the Heroici furori, of the biblical Song of Songs. Although Tirinnanzi's work in this field is unquestionably of lasting importance, she is not an expert on the art of memory. The result is an excessive emphasis on the metaphysical foundations of Bruno's mnemonic art that reduces to vanitas everything which is not immediately concerned with the "supreme truths" (lvi). It remains unclear how Bruno's art of memory relates to this supersensible tendency toward the divine ideas, particularly when Bruno himself, in paragraph 7 of the section of the De umbris suggestively entitled Lo strumento, claims that by strumento he means the body. Bruno maintains that the contemplation of the intellectual species through the pure light of the mind and the mediation of the forms through the senses both find confirmation in experience and can both be accepted without falling into contradiction. He goes on to claim that the eyes must look outward, and not only inward, if one wishes to avoid the night of the soul or a living death. It is precisely in the interweaving and connecting of the images deriving from both within and without that the art of memory attains for Bruno a technical dimension of remarkable originality and interest.

Some years ago, the project for a new edition of Bruno's Latin works was initiated by Rita Sturlese with her own edition of the De umbris (1991). Sturlese was bold enough to present Bruno's memory works primarily as technical treatises. She succeeded in demonstrating how Bruno's memory wheels can actually be made to work as linguistic instruments based on the connective powers of a pictorial logic. It is much to be regretted that Sturlese's contribution (at least to this first volume of the memory works) is confined, apart from essential philological editing of Bruno's Latin texts, to a partial comment at the end of the volume. Undoubtedly her pages of intense and concentrated explication of the three parts of the Ars memoriae, which constitutes the second section of the De umbris idearum, of the obscure Aenigma et paradigma with which the De umbris finishes, and of the first dialogue of the magnificent but often ignored Cantus circaeus, are to be considered as among the most innovative contributions to Bruno studies in recent years. Marco Matteoli competently supports the efforts of Sturlese, completing the comment on these two difficult works, as well as supplying a dense bibliography.

The framework of this complex volume thus appears, in the first place, to offer what today has become a thoroughly orthodox reading of Bruno's works as primarily concerned with...


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