- Later Travels, and: On Discovery, and: Invectives
The three volumes reviewed here give students of the Italian Renaissance an indication of the ambitious range of the publishing project undertaken by the I Tatti Renaissance Library, under the direction of James Hankins, since two of these volumes edit and translate works by authors who hold a minor, if not unimportant, place in the world of European humanism, while the volume of Petrarch's invectives includes one of his best-known works alongside less familiar ones that have never before been translated into English. The quality of the translations, annotations, and critical apparatuses is very high in all three cases, and the translators have done an excellent job in rendering humanistic Latin into readable, idiomatic English prose.
Edward Bodnar's edition of selected works by Cyriac of Ancona treats the years 1443–49 of this amateur humanist's life, when he traveled in Greece and Asia Minor as a merchant and representative of Venetian and Genoese commercial interests. Drawing on both his correspondence and a diary that he kept, the editor has chosen his selections, by and large, in order to focus on Cyriac's antiquarian interests, which mostly centered on the recording of Greek and Latin inscriptions and the occasional citation of classical authorities on matters relating to geography, mythography, or relevant historical information. Cyriac's manuscripts have long been familiar to art historians, since they include drawings of monumental Greek architecture that record earlier states of preservation, and the volume includes reproductions of a number of these. The letters and diary fragments also show Cyriac's keen concern with the Turkish threat, recording the valiant efforts of Hungarian troops to defeat their enemies from the east. Cyriac emerges here as an interesting figure, a talented amateur caught up in the vogue for classical learning who arguably originated the discipline of modern archeology and certainly further developed the genre of humanistic travel literature. Cyriac showed an interest in [End Page 581] architecture, topography, inscriptions, coins, mythology, and literature that sheds a fascinating light on the ways in which humanistic pursuits occasionally percolated into less culturally advanced sectors of Italian society, beyond the cities that were the major centers of humanistic learning (Cyriac apparently had no formal training in Latin, though he was encouraged by his mother to acquire "good manners and letters" [x]). Styling himself a palaiophilon ("lover of antiquity") in one of his letters (265), Cyriac's talents as a Latinist were not especially strong, nor was he expert in Greek, but he was capable of dashing off forceful poems in the vernacular. In one of these, he defined his mission as "unveil[ing] the noble ancient world to the new" ("che 'l nobil mondo anticho al nuovo exvela" ), and his passion for all things ancient is everywhere apparent in this selection of his work.
The one notable absence from Bodnar's useful notes to these texts is any mention of the humanist Francesco Filelfo, who was delighted to receive epigraphic information from Cyriac on several occasions but warned him in a letter of November of 1448 that he should not be so eager to believe the inhabitants of the island of Chios when they took him to see a site that purported to be the grave of Homer (Cyriac's Letter 43). Filelfo acknowledged that others before Cyriac had mistakenly made claims to knowledge of Homer's birthplace, but he also warned him to...