- Some Noteworthy New Publications Concerning the Classical Tradition in Renaissance Italy
The Latin legacy of the Italian Renaissance has received attention in recent years, as texts hitherto known but unedited and untranslated [End Page 244] have become available. The most notable contribution to this effort has been the brilliant I Tatti Renaissance Library, published by Harvard University Press under the general editorship of James Hankins. Even as that series illuminates the presence of the Latin language as a means of creative literary and philosophical expression in the Italian Renaissance, it also opens a window more broadly onto the survival, presence, and constant mutability of the classical tradition in Renaissance Italy. Here the intention is to highlight a series of publications which merit the attention of anyone interested in these classicizing aspects of the Italian Renaissance.
First, Stephan Heilen's excellent edition of Lorenzo Buonincontri's De rebus naturalibus et divinis comes to the fore. This publication did not receive the attention it deserved when it was published in 1999, but it should enter the mainstream of Italian Renaissance Latin studies. Lorenzo Buonincontri (1410-91), an important figure in late fifteenth-century Florence's intellectual life, taught "astrology" in the mid-1470s at the Florentine university, a task he carried out so well, Paolo Cortesi wrote (in his De hominibus doctis, ed. Ferraù, 183-84) that "there was a flocking together to him from all over Italy." Among Buonincontri's students were Marsilio Ficino, Angelo Poliziano, and Paolo Toscanelli. Of the texts he taught none was more prominent than the Astronomica of Manilius, a contemporary of Virgil in Augustan Rome who wrote a limpid five-book, didactic, astronomical/astrological poem. Buonincontri tried his own hand in this genre, resulting in two different three-book poems, one dedicated to Lorenzo de' Medici, the other to Ferdinand of Aragon, the legendarily prudent ruler of late fifteenth-century Naples in whose service Buonincontri eventually found himself. Both poems bore the title De rebus naturalibus et divinis. Heilen has edited them with great acuity, and he has included a book-length introduction that is a model of clarity and precision. In it he presents thorough and detailed descriptions of the manuscript and early printed witnesses to Buonincontri's text and in one particularly interesting section (241-73) he uses them to great effect, offering a fine example of genetic criticism to piece together how the version of the text that appears in the majority tradition of witnesses emerged (one strand of which became the basis for the 1526 editio princeps of the version dedicated to Ferdinand; Heilen's own edition of the version of the version dedicated to Lorenzo represents the editio princeps of that version). Heilen has added to this major achievement a useful Concordance to the texts (the Concordantia, listed above), which offers researchers a guide to every word in the text. [End Page 245]
The same realm of late fifteenth-century Italian intellectual history is enriched by Simona Mercuri's edition of the Latini of Angelo Poliziano (1454-94). Mercuri presents a historical study, a critical edition, and a commentary, a splendid achievement overall. The book fills a real gap. A noteworthy episode in Poliziano's career occurred when he had a falling out with Lorenzo de'Medici, which occurred around the year 1480 and against the backdrop of Lorenzo's troubles in the late 1470s, which included the Pazzi conspiracy and Lorenzo's ensuing...