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Paolo Pellegrini, ed. Umanisti bellunesi fra quattro e cinquecento: Atti del Convegno di Belluno, 5 novembre 1999.

Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 200l. xiv + 294 pp. + 23 b/w pls. index, append, illus, n.p. ISBN: 88-222-5063-X.

The publication of this volume was occasioned by a decision on the part of the newly elected Committee of Management of the Civic Library of Belluno to organize a conference dedicated to the humanist Pierio Valeriano Bolzanio, a regional figure of "minor but not negligible" importance, and to certain other local learned figures who, in the 1400s and 1500s, constituted an important link between the town of Belluno (located a little over 100 rail kilometers to the north of Padua) and the rest of Europe. The occasion coincided with the publication of a catalogue of early editions--fifteenth and sixteenth centuries--now held in the Biblioteca Civica di Belluno (including many works of Bolzanio), and also with the celebration (in 1999) of "Belluno--Alpine city of the Year."

The communications (all in Italian except for one in French) include an introduction by Giuseppe Frasso outlining the essential features of the lives of the main figures dealt with in the volume: Urbano and Giovan Pietro Dalle Fosse, or, to give them their humanist names, Urbano Bolzanio and Pierio Valeriano. Urbano was born at Belluno in 1442, entered the Franciscan Convent of S. Pietro there, thus beginning a much-traveled humanist career (Venice, Padua, Florence, Greece, Asia Minot, Messina, Constantinople, and Rome), in the course of which he learned Greek and developed close contacts with the Medici, Aldus Manutius, and other important humanists or patrons. His scholarly writings include a powerful synthesis in Latin of contemporary approaches to the Greek language.

Urbano's nephew, Pierio Valeriano, was born at Belluno around the year 1477. His career of humanist, legal, and philosophical studies, teaching, and writing took him from Belluno to Venice, Padua, Olive (near Verona), Rome (1509-21), Florence, and Piacenza. His castigationes and varietates on Vergil were textually very important, and his praelectiones on Catullus were traditional in a grammatical and philological sense, but also gave proper space to more precisely literary matters. At Belluno in 1538 he was consecrated a priest by the man to whom he had dedicated his De infelicitate litteratorum (written 1528, published 1620), and in that city he completed his fifty-eight book masterpiece--the Hieroglyphica (published in Basel in 1556). He died in Padua in 1558.

In the principal contributions to the volume, important aspects of the humanism of the region are explored. Professor Manlio Pastore Stocchi, well known for his sensitive writings on, among other topics, Venetian humanism, uses the visit of two English oratores to the lectures on Catullus by Pierio Valeriano in 1522 to explore dimensions of the latter's humanism, especially as it related to Pierio's fascination for Catullus' versification, his links with Venetian intellectual interests generally, and the way in which his later works indicate the maturation of the Italian humanist paradigm, when the enthusiasms, civic hopes, and innovative spirit of the early humanists had given way to rhetorical emulation of antique forms and a taste for elegant and systematically erudite practice of Latin poetic composition. The aim of Marco Perale's essay is to explore the post-Cambrai religious, social, and political implications of the institution of the "archpriest of the Cathedral of Belluno" ("arcipretura," "arch-praetor'); created personally for Pierio 27 July 1517 by Pope Leo X Medici, and the author does this accurately and skillfully. Caterina Griffante follows this with a characteristically careful and comprehensive listing of the ninety-six incunable and cinquecentine editions published between 1474 (Calderini's commentaries on Martial) and 1599 (the local historian Giovanni Doglioni's L'Anno riformato), and held in the "fondo antico, quattro e cinquecentesco" of the Biblioteca Civica of Belluno. A brief but appropriate introduction points, among other things, to the rich holdings in the humanist works of "i due dioscuri della cultura umanistica bellunese" (41), Urbano Bolzanio and Pierio Valeriano--especially the full extracts concerning the Hieroglyphica, 84-86. The catalogue is arranged alphabetically, is supported by nineteen excellent black-and-white plates, some of which contain marginal annotations to the two humanists' works, and there are careful indices (of primary and secondary persons mentioned, of places of publication and printing, of dedicatees and possessors, and of the editions listed chronologically). There is also a bibliographical index and a list of abbreviations. It is a highly competent and eminently useful contribution, and the author's final introductory paragraph is moving.

Piero Scapecchi considers Urbano's links with Aldus Manutius and the Vercelli printer Giovanni Battista Tacuino; Vincenzo Fera follows with a learned paper on the Castigationes Virgilianae of Pierio Valeriano, in which the author sees some fusion of the textual philology of Poliziano and the "creative philology of Pontano." Anita di Stefano provides a comprehensive and successful paper on Pierio and the birth of a Catullan philological critique in the sixteenth century (including many primary-source extracts and a valuable appendix with Valeriano's "pra[e]lectiones in Catullum" on poem 8 "Miser Catulle, desinas ineptire"). Antonio Rollo contributes an erudite discussion of the Greek Grammar of Urbano Bolzano which he considers to have marked a "fundamental stage in the history of fifteenth--and sixteenth-century grammatical output" (201). His paper includes the Greek text of Costantino Lascari da Bisanzio's proemio to his own Grammar, with Italian translation and annotation. Stephane Rolet then considers (in French) the genesis and composition of the Hieroglyphica of Pierio, using the extant editions, manuscripts (extant and lost), and dedicatees, while Ernesto Riva contributes an interesting paper on medicine and symbols in the Hieroglyphica. He concludes that medicine owes much to the humanists, but suffered from their tendency to indulge in pointless literary minutiae--a fault evident also in the work of Pierio. The volume concludes with Paolo da Col's essay on the (musical) composer Cristoforo da Feltre (curate of the parish of Pederobba) and his work--he was the only one of the four musicians summoned to Belluno in May 1406 to solemnize the first mass celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Martin by the new bishop Enrico Scarampi, whose music has survived to the present; the paper is illustrated with one plate--a fragment of a Credo by Cristoforo from Clm ms. Mus. 3224--and an appendix with extracts from the Archivio Capirolare of Belluno and elsewhere relating to the composer. There is an index of the twenty-three black and white plates, names, manuscripts, printed books, and archival documents.

In sum, this is a learned and excellently produced volume, revealing that scrupulous care for detail so characteristic of the best Italian Renaissance philological studies. The local humanist output discussed has, however, wider reference and larger issues are properly raised where relevant. The reader will, nevertheless, be left with a vivid impression of the deep provincial reaches of Italian philological humanism in the period of the Renaissance and the volume will certainly enrich immensely the study of the cultural history of the Veneto in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It must in the future serve as a unique and indispensable introduction to its subject.


University of Sydney

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Author:Ward, John O.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2003
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