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330BOOK REVIEWS La Riforma protestante nell'Italia del Cinquecento. By Salvatore Caponetto. (Turin: Claudiana. 1992. Pp. 526. Lire 54,000.) This welcome survey of a subject that justifiably has received increasing critical attention in both Europe and America is the culmination of a lifetime of research and writing. HappUy, by no means is it the final contribution from the distinguished scholar's prolific pen. It is hard to imagine a student of the Italian Reformation better prepared than Salvatore Caponetto, an emeritus professor of history in the University of Florence, to attempt its synthesis. Caponetto's career began auspiciously, in true David and GoUath fashion, when, as a neophyte in the field, his first modestly presented investigations on the influential booklet , the Beneficio di Cristo, compeUed that giant of ItaUan culture, Benedetto Croce, to retract in a printed letter to him a mistaken identification Croce had made previously concerning its author. Since that time, more than half a century ago, Caponetto's contributions have ranged over and shed light on multiple aspects of the ItaUan Reformation. He has produced fuU-length studies of such a key reformer as Aonio Paleario and edited one of his writings never pubUshed before; clarified the circumstances of the clandestine translations into the ItaUan vernacular of key works by northern reformers; investigated the progress of Reformation currents in his native SicUy and foUowed the fortunes of the leading proselytizers and converts to Geneva and other transalpine cities of refuge; discerned the appropriation of Lutheran and Erasmian concepts in the thought of such Uterary figures as Francesco Berni and Ludovico Castelvetro ; and produced a massive critical edition ofthe Beneficio, in a splendid volume containing aU its sixteenth-century versions and translations. A lifetime of research is skillfully woven into the fabric of Caponetto's La Riforma protestante.The. account begins with the Italian situation on the eve of the Reformation and the fertile ground into which Luther's message feU.Attention is paid to the spread of the new religious ideas through the book trade, the influence of Juan de Valdés, and the preaching activity of early Italian champions of the new ideas.The Beneficio, the most celebrated booklet of the Italian Reformation, comes in for its share of obUgatory attention.Various modern interpretations of this Uttle work, first pubUshed in 1543, have dubbed it, in turn, the quintessential expression ofValdesian spirituaUty, a weaving together ofpassages from the writings of northern reformers, and finaUy an expression of Benedictine-Pelagian spirituality. Much emphasis is placed on the inroads made by Protestant currents in various ItaUan centers from the Véneto and the FriuU in the north to SicUy in the south.The successes of Calvinism, among the Waldensians in Piedmont, at the court of the French Duchess Renée at Ferrara, and in the RepubUc of Lucca, which witnessed a mass exodus of its leading famUies to Geneva, receive separate chapters. So extensive is the diffusion that Caponetto, appropriating an old term coined by Giorgio Spini, dubs the phenomenon "The Calvinism of the Mediterranean," stretching from Geneva and Lyons through Genoa to Naples and the martyred Waldensian colonies in Calabria and PugUa, to Sardinia and BOOK REVIEWS331 SicUy.The great port city of Messina produced an entire "colony" of refugees to Geneva.Among them was the future translator into ItaUan of Calvin's Institutes. My criticisms are for what has been left unsaid.The book is without an introduction which might have explained choices and omissions.The discussion focusing on the principal ItaUan reformers—and generaUy it is only the leading proselytizers and celebrated victims who receive the lion's share of attention— suffers from the lack of a considered discussion of their dUemma: whether to flee in the face of persecution or dissimulate their evangeUcal beUefs behind the outward practice of Catholic ceremonies, the latter derided by Calvin as "Nicodemism." Modern scholarship (which I do not see cited here) has devoted considerable attention to these latter-day foUowers of the BibUcal Nicodemus, much of it stimulated by (without necessarily agreeing with) Carlo Ginzburg's 1970 book, Il Nicodemismo, that suggested a cohesive inteUectual movement rather than a practical, expedient response to persecution. Granted, as the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 330-331
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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