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Language and Learning in Renaissance Italy: Selected Articles.

This volume reprints fourteen articles by John Monfasani, with the author's additions, corrections, and indices of names and manuscripts. Grouped under three headings - Rhetoric, Lorenzo Valla, and Humanism and Religion - the essays span the years from 1983 to 1992, a decade during which Monfasani also published the anthology of texts relating to George of Trebizond George of Trebizond (trĕb`ĭzŏnd), c.1396–1486, Greek scholar, b. Crete. Settling in Venice, he taught Greek, philosophy, and rhetoric there and in Vicenza before going to Rome in 1442.  (Collectanea col·lec·ta·ne·a  
A selection of passages from one or more authors; an anthology.

[Latin collct
 Trapezuntiana, 1984) and a biography of Fernando of Cordova (1992). As the author notes in his preface, the articles gathered here arose from his research concerning George of Trebizond, and examine related topics such as treatises on rhetoric, George's nemesis Lorenzo Valla, and various germane documents from quattrocento quat·tro·cen·to  
The 15th-century period of Italian art and literature.

[Italian, short for (mil) quattrocento, one thousand four hundred : quattro, four (from Latin

The first section begins with the essay "Rhetoric and Humanism," a clear and thorough survey of a field that currently enjoys extraordinary popularity in Renaissance studies. The subsequent essays, in turn, analyze particular questions of chronology and authenticity. In "Three Notes on Renaissance Rhetoric," Monfasani demonstrates inter alia that the epistographical tract De conficiendis epistolis attributed to Valla is spurious. "Episodes of Anti-Quintilianism in the Italian Renaissance" traces a controversy that arose between Valla and George of Trebizond and continued into the next generation of humanists.

The central section of the book comprises four essays on Lorenzo Valla, whose polemical style of argumentation appears to be revived in Monfasani's critiques. In these essays, Monfasani takes to task such scholars as Hanna-Barbara Gerl, Richard Waswo, and Lisa Jardine for misreading Valla with a twentieth-century bias. The most celebrated essay is the polemical review-letter, "Was Valla an Ordinary Language Philosopher?", which has also been reprinted in the series Renaissance Essays selected from the Journal of the History of Ideas The history of ideas is a field of research in history that deals with the expression, preservation, and change of human ideas over time. The history of ideas is a sister-discipline to, or a particular approach within, intellectual history. . Monfasani's review of Gianni Zippel's edition of Valla's Repastinatio dialectice et philosophie, besides supplementing the editor's account of the work's genesis and revisions, offers some useful corrections concerning the Scholastic texts impugned by Valla (VI, 189-90).

The third section, "Humanism and Religion," consists of seven essays on various historical subjects. "A Description of the Sistine Chapel under Pope Sixtus IV Sixtus IV (July 21, 1414 – August 12, 1484), born Francesco della Rovere, was Pope from 1471 to 1484. He founded the Sistine Chapel where the team of artists he brought together introduced the Early Renaissance to Rome with the first masterpiece of the city's new " uses a passage in a Latin preface by Andreas Trapezuntius, son of George, to illuminate the early history of the famed Vatican chapel. There are two interesting essays on humanism and printing: a note on Simon Grynaeus's 1532 Basel edition of Ficino's Plato, and an account of a censorship proposal in quattrocento Rome. The detection of spurious texts - a central topic in Monfasani's own criticism - is the subject of two essays: one tracing the fortune of pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite

(flourished c. 500) Probably a Syrian monk. Under the pseudonym Dionysius the Areopagite, he wrote a series of treatises that united Neoplatonic philosophy (see Neoplatonism), Christian theology, and mystical experience.
 in the quattrocento, and another on incunabular pseudepigrapha Pseudepigrapha (s'dĭpĭ`grəfə) [Gr.,=things falsely ascribed], a collection of early Jewish and some Jewish-Christian writings composed between c.200 B.C. and c.A.D.  exposed by the Bergamasque humanist, Giovanni Calfurnio (d. 1503). "Bernardo Giustiniani and Alfonso de Palencia: Their Hands and Some New Humanist Texts and Translations" demonstrates the author's archival and paleographical expertise. The final essay, "The Fraticelli and Clerical Wealth in Quattrocento Rome," discusses refutations of tracts now lost (presumably pre·sum·a·ble  
That can be presumed or taken for granted; reasonable as a supposition: presumable causes of the disaster.
 destroyed by ecclesiastical authorities) in which heretical Franciscans argued against what they perceived as the laxity laxity /lax·i·ty/ (lak´si-te)
1. slackness or looseness; a lack of tautness, firmness, or rigidity.

2. slackness or displacement in the motion of a joint.lax´


 and luxury of prelates. (Among the opponents of the Fraticelli is Fernando of Cordova, the subject of Monfasani's 1992 monograph.) In the stifling context of orthodox repression, Monfasani's learned digression on Renaissance beggars (XIV, 189-90) offers a welcome breath of fresh air.

One is hard-pressed to fault Monfasani's scholarship. He backs up his detailed arguments concerning chronology and codicology codicology
the study of early manuscripts. — codicologist, n. — codicologic, codicological, adj.
See also: Manuscripts
 with extensive bibliographical and archival citations. HIS knowledge of classical and humanist Latin and Greek is generally unimpeachable, and a stickler will search long to detect errata er·ra·ta  
Plural of erratum.
. When Niccolo Perotti complains that a text has been misunderstood for "sexcentis annis," the generic number should not perhaps be pressed for a specific allusion to Carolingian scribes (XI, 11). I rarely caught Monfasani nodding, although in his Fraticelli essay (XIV, 188) he assigns several mules to Cardinal Niccolo Albergati at the Council of Basel, and transcribes the senseless phrase "Nichil iam superem" with a bracketed query (n. 56), when he might easily have emended e·mend  
tr.v. e·mend·ed, e·mend·ing, e·mends
To improve by critical editing: emend a faulty text.
 it to "nichil iam superest."

Such quibbles aside, students of quattrocento rhetoric and history will find an impressive wealth of insight and information in these essays, and will be grateful to the publisher for assembling them in a convenient, if expensive, volume.

DAVID MARSH Rutgers University
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Author:Marsh, David
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1997
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