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Dialogi ad Petrum Paulum Histrum.

Leonardo Bruni. Ed. Stefano Ugo Baldassarri. (Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento, Studi e testi, 35.) Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1994. xxii + 305 pp. IL 60,000. ISBN: n.a.

This critical edition of a major work by the Florentine humanist Leonardo Bruni (1370-1444) began as a tesi di laurea at the University of Florence under the direction of Professor Giuliano Tanturli. Subsequently elaborated into its present form, the study contains a review of critical opinion on the Dialogi, an account of the work's textual history, an examination of the dialogue's sources (both ancient and contemporary), a detailed description of the manuscripts containing the text, and an exhaustive classification and recension of the witnesses to the text. The text itself is accompanied by an apparatus criticus and notes on the sources, and the volume is completed with a full bibliography and indices.

The text has been edited four times in the modern period, beginning with an annus mirabilis, 1889, in which it was edited independently by three different editors, Theodore Klette, Karl Wotke, and Giuseppe Kirner. The text was later reworked by Eugenio Garin and included in his useful collection Prosatori latini del Quattrocento (1: 952). None of these editions used more than a handful of the available witnesses and none made any effort to determine their interrelationships. Baldassarri has aimed to collect all the witnesses and has subjected the manuscripts he has found to serious palaeographical, codicological and philological analysis. He has not quite succeeded in identifying all the witnesses, however. To the thirty-eight manuscripts listed by Baldassarri, there should be added another seven: Florence, BNCF Naz. 11 VIII 129 (an important copy made for Rinuccio Aretino, probably in the 1420s); Munich, Staatsbibliothek Clm 14134 (fragmentary); New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Library, Osborn MS a 17; Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, lat. 6179 and 6315; Princeton University Library, MS 107; and Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Vat. lat. 1560. There are another nine manuscripts containing only the preface: Arezzo, Biblioteca della Citta 145; Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria 2720; Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana, Strozzi 104; Florence, BNCF Naz. II 1 64; Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana H 49 inf.; Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale XIII G 33; Oxford, Bodleian Library, Canon. misc. 225; Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, lat. 5919B, and Ravenna, Biblioteca Classense 419. Nevertheless, Baldassarri's edition is a major step forward and deserves to be considered the first truly critical edition of the text. His study of the dialogue's sources is especially valuable, and adds greatly to our knowledge of the works relationships with ancient and especially contemporary texts.

The Dialogi ad Petrum Paulum Histrum are best known in the anglophone world for the role they played in Hans Baron's famous book, The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance (1955). In the Crisis and elsewhere Baron maintained that the Renaissance revival of ancient republicanism had emerged at a specific historical moment, around 1400, when Florentine humanists found a new political soul during the crisis of Florence's war with the "tyrant" of Milan, Giangaleazzo Visconti. A symptom of this change was to be found, Baron believed, in Bruni's Dialogi. Book 1, dated by Baron to 1400, contained a vigorous denunciation of Florence's great Trecento authors, Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, by a group of young classicists, led by Niccolo Niccoli, who belonged to the circle of Coluccio Salutati. In book 2, on the other hand, the same young scholars seemingly recanted the views expressed in the previous book and praised Florence and its Trecento literary tradition. Baron believed this apparent change of heart reflected the experience of the "crisis years," and that book 2 should therefore be considered an afterthought, a pentimento that had not been part of the original conception but had been added some five years later, after the "crisis," when Bruni had escaped the malign influence of Niccoli and had become a fervant admirer of Florentine republicanism. Baron thought he had found further evidence for his views in the manuscript tradition of the Dialogi, which included several codices of the text containing only the first book.

Later criticism has not been kind to this part of the "Baron thesis:" not only has Baron's redating of the Dialogi failed to find support, but his general interpretation of the work has been shown to be surprisingly superficial (see, for example, David Quint's treatment in RQ 38 [1985]: 423-45). Baldassarri's study will give no comfort to the Baronians; au contraire. He tells us in his preface that he began his work with the intent of testing Baron's hypothesis concerning the date of the work and this purpose is evident throughout the study. Baldassarri has not definitively excluded Baron's dating, but he has found nothing to support it and much that tells against it. The one-book manuscripts of the work all come from rather low down on the stemma, and give no signs of preserving a primitive redaction of the text. Bruni was an incessant reviser of his work, but all the revisions that can be identified as probably authorial are found equally in the one-book and the two-book versions of the text. Baldassarri's work with the classical sources of the dialogue, especially Cicero's De oratore, building on the work of L. B. Mortensen, shows that the two books mutually presuppose each other in their structure to such a degree that the independent composition of book 1 becomes an incredible hypothesis. And his study of the intertextual relations of the Dialogi with other contemporary texts suggests a date for it of late 1405-06. This is a date that is in line with most recent criticism, and gives new weight to Jerrold Seigel's old hypothesis that the Dialogi and the Laudatio Florentinae urbis were in part exhibition pieces intended to promote Bruni's candidacy to succeed Salutati as chancellor of Florence.

Baron's thesis about the dating of the Dialogi has never been generally accepted, but his great eminence as a scholar gave it more authority than it perhaps deserved, especially in Italy. Baldassarri's careful edition and study are as close to a decisive refutation of it as we are likely to get.

JAMES HANKINS Harvard University
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Author:Hankins, James
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1998
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