Renaissance Humanism, from the Middle Ages to Modern Times [1° ed.] 1472451546, 9781472451545

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Renaissance Humanism, from the Middle Ages to Modern Times [1° ed.]
 1472451546, 9781472451545

Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
I The Renaissance as the concluding phase of the Middle Ages
II Italian humanism and European culture
III Erasmus and the philosophers
IV Erasmus, the Roman Academy, and Ciceronianism: Battista Casali’s invective
V The Ciceronian controversy
VI Renaissance Ciceronianism and Christianity
VII Criticism of Biblical humanists in Quattrocento Italy
VIII Angelo Poliziano, Aldo Manuzio, Theodore Gaza, George of Trebizond and Chapter 90 of the Miscellaneorum Centuria Prima (with an edition and translation)
IX The puzzling dates of Paolo Cortesi
X Niccolò Perotti’s date of birth and his preface to De Generibus Metrorum
XI Marsilio Ficino and Eusebius of Caesarea’s Praeparatio Evangelica
XII Prisca Theologia in the Plato-Aristotle controversy before Ficino
XIII Two fifteenth-century ‘Platonic academies’: Bessarion’s and Ficino’s
XIV Quality control in Renaissance translations: a note of Pietro Balbi to Cardinal Oliviero Carafa
XV Toward the genesis of the Kristeller thesis of Renaissance humanism: four bibliographical notes
XVI Kristeller and manuscripts
XVII Paul Oskar Kristeller †
Addenda et corrigenda
Index manuscriptorum
Index nominum et rerum

Citation preview

Also in the Variorum Collected Studies Series:

JOHN MONFASANI Greek Scholars between East and West in the Fifteenth Century

JOHN MONFASANI Greeks and Latins in Renaissance Italy Studies on Humanism and Philosophy in the 15th Century

JOHN MONFASANI Language and Learning in Renaissance Italy Selected Articles

RAYMOND B. WADDINGTON Pietro Aretino: Subverting the System in Renaissance Italy

CHARLES G. NAUERT Humanism and Renaissance Civilization

ROBERT BLACK Studies in Renaissance Humanism and Politics Florence and Arezzo

JAMES M. WEISS Humanist Biography in Renaissance Italy and Reformation Germany Friendship and Rhetoric

PATRICIA H. LABALME Saints, Women and Humanists in Renaissance Venice

F. EDWARD CRANZ Reorientations of Western Thought from Antiquity to the Renaissance

PAUL F. GRENDLER Renaissance Education Between Religion and Politics

JAMES J. MURPHY Latin Rhetoric and Education in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

MARGARET L. KING Humanism, Venice, and Women Essays on the Italian Renaissance


Renaissance Humanism, from the Middle Ages to Modem Times

John Monfasani

John M onfasani

Renaissance Humanism, from the Middle Ages to Modem Times

I I Routledge Taylor & Francis Group LO N DO N AN D NEW YORK

First published 2015 by Ashgate Publishing Published 2016 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon 0X 14 4RN 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA Routledge is an imprint o f the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business This edition © 2015 John Monfasani John Monfasani has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows: 2015939469

ISBN 9781472451545 (hbk)


In Memory of Charles B. Schmitt

CONTENTS Acknowledgements Preface

x xi

T h e R e n a is s a n c e


The Renaissance as the concluding phase of the Middle Ages


Bullettino dell’Istituto Storico Italianoper il Medio Evo 108, 2006 R e n a is s a n c e H u m a n is m


Italian humanism and European culture


Originally published as ‘Umanesimo italiano e cultura europea II Rinascimento italiano e I Europa. I. Storia e storigorafia, ed. M. Fantoni. Vincenza: Fondazione Cassamarca - Angelo Colla Editore, 2005, pp. 49-70


Erasmus and the philosophers


Erasmus o f Rotterdam Society Yearbook 32, 2012, pp. 47-68


Erasmus, the Roman Academy, and Ciceronianism: Battista Casali’s invective


Erasmus o f Rotterdam Society Yearbook 17, 1997, pp. 19-54


The Ciceronian controversy


The Cambridge History o f Literary Criticism. Vol. 3: The Renaissance, ed. Glyn P. Norton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999


Renaissance Ciceronianism and Christianity Humanisme et eglise en Italie et en France meridionale (XVs siecle - milieu du XVIe siecle), Collection de VEcole frangaise de Rome 330, 2004


viii VII

CONTENTS Criticism of Biblical humanists in Quattrocento Italy


Biblical Humanism and Scholasticism in the Age o f Erasmus, ed. E. Rummel. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2008, pp. 15-38


Angelo Poliziano, Aldo Manuzio, Theodore Gaza, George of Trebizond and Chapter 90 of the Miscellaneorum Centuria Prima (with an edition and translation)


Interpretations o f Renaissance Humanism, ed. A. Mazzocco, Leiden: Brill, 2006, pp. 243-65


The puzzling dates of Paolo Cortesi


Humanistica per Cesare Vasoli, eds F. Meroi and E. Scapparone. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2003


Niccolo Perotti’s date of birth and his preface to De Generibus Metrorum


Bruniana & Campanelliana: Ricerche filosofiche e materiali storico-testuali 11, 2005


Marsilio Ficino and Eusebius of Caesarea’s Praeparatio Evangelica


Rinascimento 49, 2009


Prisca Theologia in the Plato-Aristotle controversy before Ficino


The Rebirth o f Platonic Philosophy, eds J. Hankins and F. Meroi. Florence: Olschki, 2013

XIII Two fifteenth-century ‘Platonic academies’: Bessarion’s and Ficino’s


On Renaissance Academies: Proceedings o f the international conference From the Roman Academy to the Danish Academy in Rome. Dali Accademia Romana all Accademia di Danimarca a Roma ’. The Danish Academy in Rome, 11-13 October 2006, ed. M. Pade (= Analecta Romana Instituti Danici. Supplementum 42). Rome: Edizioni Quasar, 2011

XIV Quality control in Renaissance translations: a note of Pietro Balbi to Cardinal Oliviero Carafa Roma e il Papato nel Medioevo. Studi in onore di Massimo Miglio. Vol. 2: Primi e tardi umanesimi: uomini, immagini, testi, ed. A. Modigliani. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2012




sk a r


K r is t e l l e r

Toward the genesis of the Kristeller thesis of Renaissance humanism: four bibliographical notes


Renaissance Quarterly 53, 2000


Kristeller and manuscripts


Kristeller Reconsidered: Essays on His Life and Scholarship, ed. J. Monfasani. New York: Italica Press, 2006

XVII Paul Oskar Kristeller t


Gnomon 73, 2001

Addenda et corrigenda


Index manuscriptorum


Index nominum et rerum


This volume contains xii + 322 pages

Publisher’s note The articles in this volume, as in all others in the Variorum Collected Studies Series, have not been given a new, continuous pagination. In order to avoid confusion, and to facilitate their use where these same studies have been referred to elsewhere, the original pagination has been maintained wherever possible. Article II is a translation with a new pagination, and articles III, IV, VII and VIII have been reset, with the original page numbers in square brackets within the text. These four reset articles have been indexed using the original pagination. Each article has been given a Roman number in order o f appearance, as listed in the Contents. This number is repeated on each page and is quoted in the index entries. Asterisks in the margins indicate further information in the Addenda et corrigenda section.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following institutions, journals and publishers for their kind permission to reproduce the papers included in this volume: Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medioevo (for essay I); Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden (III, IV, VII, VIII); Cambridge University Press (V); L’ecole Fran£aise de Rome (VI); Leo S. Olschki Editore, Florence (IX, XII); Istituto Editoriali e Poligrafici Intemazionali, Pisa and Rome (X); Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento, Florence (XI); Edizioni Quasar and The Danish Academy in Rome (XIII); Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, Rome (XIV); University of Chicago Press (XV); Italica Press, NY (XVI); and Verlag C.H. Beck, Munich (XVII). Every effort has been made to trace all the copyright holders, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangement at the first opportunity.

PREFACE This volume ends with some articles of mine on Paul Oskar Kristeller. But this end was really the beginning since the articles reach back in time to when I had written nothing and did not even have the faintest idea of what scholarship was. Kristeller taught me, just as he had taught so many others, either directly in class or indirectly, through his exemplary books and articles. So it pleases me to think that by gathering together these articles I might contribute in a small way to keeping fresh the memory of the great master of us all in Renaissance studies. I am not so sure, however, that Kristeller would have approved of the first article in the volume since he believed that the Renaissance had its own very specific physiognomy. But then again, so do I. The real issue is how the Renaissance relates to what is commonly called the Middle Ages. This is not the place to argue the thesis of the article, but a cruel irony intervenes. For if the thesis of the article were to become widely accepted, I fear that the destruction of the mythology that prompted departments in different fields to have a Renaissance as well as a medieval specialist would result in the loss of the Renaissance specialist as redundant. In America at least, it is hard to convince colleagues and administrators that a period of constant economic, political, cultural, and religious change in different linguistic and geographic areas that went on for more than a millenium and was central to the creation of Western culture merits the attention of more than a single specialist. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle remarks that he honors his friends, but truth first. So, in that spirit, I shall trust that in the long run the truth will benefit Renaissance studies as well. The remaining articles in the volume were produced at different times for different reasons. Almost half emerged from my desire to confront a particular issue or to work out the implications of a particular text that, almost invariably, I encountered while working on something else. These articles, I hope, will appeal to interests wider than those that engendered them in the first place. The other half of the articles, such as that on humanism and science or that on the biblical criticism of the humanists, were commissioned. Nonetheless, the more I worked on these topics, the more engrossed I became in them, probably because they allowed me to ask questions I already had but had not previously studied. I am therefore grateful to the editors who requested me to write on these subjects. Indeed, I wish to thank the editors of all my articles



for their useful advice that saved me from not a few errors (in alphabetical order): Kathy Eden, Marcello Fantoni, Patrick Gilli, James Hankins, Angelo Mazzocco, Anna Modigliani, Glyn Norton, Marianne Pade, Jane Phillipps, and Erika Rummel. Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to several institutions. Two are Roman, the Danish Academy in Rome and the Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medioevo, where I first delivered articles in this volume. Two are Florentine: Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, and the Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento, where I also first delivered articles found in this volume. To the National Humanities Center in the Research Triangle, NC, I am grateful for the year-long fellowship I enjoyed in 2011-12, during which time I wrote one of the articles (‘Erasmus and the Philosophers’), and also to The University at Albany, The State University of New York, whose ongoing support in various forms over the years has allowed me to pursue my research. Please find a listing of corrigenda/addenda at the end of the volume. Some typos and small errors are corrected in the articles themselves. I also modified the explanation of the list of humanists in the appendix to Essay IV. JOHN MONFASANI Easter, 2015 Loudonville, New York

I The Renaissance as the Concluding Phase o f the Middle Ages

Jakob Burckhardt’s Kultur der 'Renaissance in Italien of 1860 was the culmination of a five hundred year historiographical tradition estab­ lishing the Renaissance as the beginning o f modernity. Into Burckhardt’s book flowed ideas and even words that were first voiced by Renaissance humanists, Protestant reformers, Enlightenment philosophes, rationalist historians, Romantic authors and historians, and not least of all G. W. E Hegel. Even Georg Voigt’s Die Wiederbelebung des classischen Altertums (The Revival o f Classical Antiquity), a book of a very different stamp from Burckhardt’s, published in Berlin just a year earlier, anticipated Burckhardt’s theme of Renaissance individualism vs. medieval corporateness1. But it took Burckhardt’s narrative genius to pull all these strands together in the first true masterpiece of Kulturgeschichte. Burckhardt’s central insight, as he put it at the start of Part 2 on «The Development of the Individual, was that the Italians of the Renaissance were «the firstborn among the sons of modern Europe»2.

1 See W. K. Ferguson, The Renaissance in Historical Thought, Cambridge, MA, 1948, pp. 159-162. Whereas in the first edition, Voigt saw as the goal o f this classical revival the recapitulation o f antiquity and the “Christian-Romantic life,” in the much expand­ ed final edition (2 vols., ed. M. Lehnerdt, Berlin 1893), he sharpened the paganChristian contrast (vol. 1, p. 4): «Als den Kern dieser Entwickelung betrachtete man friih schon die Aufnahme des Rein-Menschlichen in Geist und Gemiith, wie es die Hellenen und Romer der alten Zeit gepflegt, der Humanitat, im Gegensatze zu den Anschauungen des Christenthums und der Kirche.» («Quite early on was the assump­ tion of the purely human in spirit and sentiment — o f humanity, as the Greeks and Romans o f old cultivated it — treated as the cbre o f this movement in opposition to the oudook o f Christianity and the Church.») 2 The Civilisation o f the Renaissance in Italy: An Essay, tr. S. G. C. Middlemore, first published in 1878; I used the New York 1954 edition; see p. 100. Middlemore trans-

I 166 Burckhardt thus defined the modern conception of the Renaissance as the beginning of modernity. The Renaissance was, in essence, the AntiMedieval3. Modern scholarship has since shown Burckhardt to have been wrong on every essential point of his argument4. Nonetheless, not only vulgar notions of the Renaissance and Middle Ages, but also scholarly assumptions on the Renaissance and Middle Ages still reflect Burckhardt’s influence. More recently, the misapplied term “Early Modern” has only made the situation worse. My purpose here is to pro­ pose a different chronological scheme as a way out of what I see as an impossible thicket of historical and intellectual confusion. A master of the narrative sources, Burckhardt was usually right in his details. But the details hardly mattered since his was an anecdotal presentation that proved little. Since 1860 his supporters and critics have contended about his generalizations, not his facts. Wallace K. Ferguson has capably analyzed both groups up to almost the mid-

fered the adjective ‘modern* from the previous sentence since Burckhardt spoke here of «present-day* Europe» («jetzigen Europas»); see Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien. Ein Versuch, 2nd edition of 1869, ed. M. Wegner, Wiirttenberg 1950, p. 111. 3 Not that Burckhardt scorned the Middle Ages. On the contrary, from 1844 to 1891, i. e., for almost his whole career, he demonstrably lectured on aspects of the Middle Ages; see H. Heilbling, Das Mittelalter im Geschichtsbild Jacob Burckbardts, «Bullettino dell’Istituto storico italiano per il Medio Evo», 100 (1995-1996), pp. 193­ 212. That Burckhardt immersed himself in the study o f art and that this study was closely linked to his understanding o f the Middle Ages and Renaissance is well known; but now see also Relire Burckhardt: cycle de conferences organises au musee du Louvre par le Service culturel du 25 novembre au 16 decembre 1996 sous la direction de Matthias Waschek, Paris 1997. 4 The despots, whom Burckhardt saw as the originating cause o f Renaissance individualism (see Part 1. The State as Work o f Art; and Part 2. The Development o f the Individual), were quite medieval in their behavior and beliefs; not does his thesis explain the utterly central role of republics in Renaissance culture. On a more general level see now John Jeffries Martin, Myths o f Renaissance Individualism, Hampshire —New York 2004, pp. 208-224. Burckhardt*s portrayal of the humanists in Part 3, The Revival o f Antiquity, as immoral neo-pagans is fantasy and completely misses their rootedness in medieval cultural and social traditions. Burckhardt had no understanding o f medieval scholasticism and science nor,, for that matter, o f Renaissance philosophy and science. Consequently, his Part 4, The Discovery o f the World and o f Man, became essentially art exercise in literary history. His Part 5, Society and Festivals, is brilliant in conception, but a failure in execution, amounting to a farrago o f aperfus and anecdotes. In the last part of his book (6. Morality and Religion) Burckhardt determinedly illustrated his pre­ conceived notions o f immorality, paganism, and superstition, and thereby failed to gain an accurate understanding o f the religiosity and religious traditions o f Italy. 5 See note 1 above. Ferguson’s own historical approach was to view the period c.



twentieth century5.Full-throated Burckardtians are scarce on the ground today, but Burckhardt’s insistence on the modernity of the Renaissance is alive and well, evidenced by its iteration in two recent prize-winning books6. Medievalist critics have countered with three basic strategies. One has been to appropriate Burckhardt’s Renaissance for the Middle Ages, finding the origins of the Renaissance in medieval religion7, medieval science8, medieval legal traditions9, or

1300 - c. 1600 as a period of transition. See his Europe in Transition, 1300-1520, Boston 1962, p. viii: «While still o f the opinion that a complete discussion o f the transition from medieval to modern civilization would have to be carried through to the end of the sixteenth century or beyond, I was thus forced to the conclusion that the years around 1520 might well serve as the terminus ad quern for the present work.» See also his The Interpretation o f the Renaissance: Suggestionsfo r a Synthesis, «Journal of the History o f Ideas», 12 (1951), pp. 483-495. 6 See William Kerrigan and Gordon Braden, The Idea o f the Renaissance, Baltimore, 1989; and Christopher Celenza, The Lost Italian Renaissance, Baltimore 2004. The for­ mer assert, p. xi: «It is our contention in this book that the inherited idea o f the Renaissance, though it has (at least in literary circles) fallen without uproar into near obsolescence, does propel us into a story that matters today: Burchardt’s story, the his­ tory of early modern individualism»; and on p. 4: «We agree with Gombrich that what Burckhardt initiated in historiography is ‘a succession of attempts to salvage the Hegelian assumption without accepting Hegelian metaphysics/ but we disagree with his dismayed conclusion that this kind of thing has to stop.» Celenza explains, p. xii: «Burckhart advanced this interpretation of the Italian Renaissance in 1860 and it grad­ ually became the dominant one. However, despite the strength o f Burckhardt’s inter­ pretation o f the Renaissance, neither he nor subsequent scholars had access to the complete range o f sources to study the period . . . What remained of Burckhardt’s interpretation was the idea that the Renaissance marked the beginning o f modernity. What was lacking was a comprehensive collection o f sources.» 7 The oddest was Konrad Burdach’s argument concerning Cola di Rienzo and Franciscan mysticism. For an instance of its popularity see my Toward the Genesis o f the Kristeller Thesis o f Renaissance Humanism: Tour Bibliographical Notes, «Renaissance Quarterly)), 53 (2000), pp. 1156—1173: pp. 1161-1163. I can only second Ferguson’s words in Renaissance in Historical Thought cit., p. 306: «A foreigner not attuned to his [Burdach’s] mental processes may find it difficult to understand either the meaning of his work or its undoubted vogue among younger German historians ...» An interest­ ing discussion o f the historiographical background to Burdach is Cesare Vasoli, Due momenti della discussione sul RJnascimento del Burckhardt: Emile Gebhart e Konrad Burdach, in Rinasdmento: mito e concetto, edd. R. Ragghianti - A. Savorelli, Pisa 2003, pp. 213-254. 8 Even if mistaken in its contention about the origins o f the Scientific Revolution in fourteenth-century Scholasticism, P. Duhem’s Le systeme du monde: Histoire des doctrines cosmologiques de Platon a Copemic, 5 vols., Paris 1913-1917, still merits our respect for its exploration and insightful discussion of many ignored texts. 9 E. g., see W. Ullmann, Medieval Foundations o f Renaissance Humanism, Ithaca, NY, 1977. Ullmann’s presuppositions required him to seize upon Hans Baron’s hyperbolic

I 168 something else medieval, and thereby transforming the medievals into “the firstborn among the sons of modern Europe.” A second strate­ gy, which I fully endorse, is best exemplified by Charles Homer Haskins’ The Renaissance o f the 12^ Century, which demonstrated the medieval cultural efflorescence without denying the Italian Renais­ sance10. Erwin Panofsky’s Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art, even if a bit patronizing of the medievals, is in this tradition11. A third stratagem has been, directly or indirectly, to deprecate the Renaissance, George Sarton and Lynn Thorndike in the history of the science being the best known coryphei of the “revolt of the medievalists”12. Etienne Gilson encapsulated this attitude from the perspective of a Christian medievalist in the memorable sentence: «La Renaissance ... n’est pas le moyen age plus l’homme, mais le moyen age moins Dieu»13. Lately, this third stratagem has taken the form of the ‘long Middle Ages,’ as most famously enunciated by Jacques Le Goff, who views the Renaissance, as an «evenement brillant mais superficiel» in the face of phenomena of duree longue, such as the continuation of plague from 1347 to 1720 and the belief in the thaumaturgic powers of the French

thesis concerning civic humanism. 10 Cambridge, MA, 1927. I used the Cleveland-New York 1963 edition, p. vi: «The Italian Renaissance was preceded by a similar, if less wide-reaching movements; indeed it came out o f the Middle Ages so gradually that historians are not agreed when it began, and some would go so far as to abolish the name, and perhaps even the fact, o f a renaissance in the Quattrocento.)) Note that Haskins did not himself endorse the latter view, but called the medieval renaissances «less wide-reaching.» 11 Stockholm 1960. Panofsky’s theme o f «the union of classical form and clas­ sical content» achieved,in the Renaissance was in his own way brilliantly and contem­ poraneously developed by E. Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, New Haven 1958 (2nd ed.: New York 1968). A no less brilliant third scholar associated with the Warburg Institute, Ernst Gombrich, In Search o f Cultural History, in his Ideals