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The Italian Reformation of the Sixteenth Century and the Diffusion of Renaissance Culture: A Bibliography of the Secondary Literature (Ca. 1750-1997). (Reviews).

John Tedeschi, compiler, in association with James M. Lattis. The Italian Reformation of the Sixteenth Century and the Diffusion of Renaissance Culture: A Bibliography of the Secondary Literature (Ca. 1750-1997).

Historiographical Introduction by Massimo Firpo. (Istituto di Studi Rinascimentali Ferrara. Strumenti.) Ferrara: Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, 2000. lxiii + 1047 pp. $134. No ISBN.

The publication of this long-awaited and massive bibliography is an event to be celebrated by all students of the Italian Renaissance. It is an enormous labor that gives eloquent testimony to the place occupied by Italian thinkers in sixteenth-century European religious and intellectual history. Massimo Firpo, a leading Italian historian of the period, has written what is modestly billed as an "Historiographical Introduction" to the volume. In reality it is a dense and authoritative short discussion of the scholarship on the Italian Reformation since the sixteenth century. For American readers the subsection devoted to Delio Cantimori will be particularly useful. It constitutes an introduction to the work and the complicated intellectual milieu of the most famous Italian scholar in the field, whose studies are still the point of departure for all who are interested in the thought of Italian religious dissenters during the Reformation era.

The volume consists of 6429 entries and includes works of two and a half centuries - a monumental achievement even for a superb bibliographer like Dr. Tedeschi. He organized this immense information tightly, with many cross-references at the end of each section so that researchers can easily find their way through the book. Beginning with a listing of printed sources, the volume proceeds to sections devoted respectively to general studies, personages, places, theological and intellectual currents, and finally special topics.

The section on personages is the longest, comprising well over four-hundred pages. No Italian heretic (in Cantimori's sense of the term) fails to receive an entry. Here we have a veritable pantheon of people associated with reform currents of all kinds, from so-called spirituali to adherents of the teachings of Juan de Valdes, members of Cardinal Pole's circle, philo-Protestants, converts to Protestantism, Anabaptists, Socinians, and last but not least, Italian exiles to northern Europe. Lest this seem a mere list of names and titles of books and articles, let me stress that it is more like a course in the history of Italian reform. Dr. Tedeschi here, as throughout the volume, not only included bibliographical data but also, for most items, his short descriptions of the work listed. These descriptions function as valuable guides for the reader. At times they are veritable mini-essays that put a given work in perspective, offer judgment on its quality and theses, or add references to related works and to revi ews. Such annotations are the fruit of a lifetime of reading and reflection, and their value cannot be overstated. This is the only bibliography, in my experience, that invites careful and slow reading and study rather than being only a tool for finding given topics or authors. It breathes a deeply personal relation of the compiler and his chosen subject, and shows his unique knowledge of the field.

The section on places includes, above all, the Italian towns and cities in which reformers lived, and then localities abroad to which they fled. The largest number of entries in the second group concerns Swiss cities, especially Basel and Geneva. But beyond works on these predictable places, we find studies on almost all of Europe. Italy's smaller neighbors like Slovenia and Croatia are included, and even four contributions on North America appear. Their author, Giorgio Spini, studied the influence of Italian exiles like Vermigli on Puritan divines.

The last two sections of the volume are devoted to religious and cultural topics. Particular attention is given to works on Italian Anabaprism and Socinianism. But Dr. Tedeschi also includes many references to more "mainline" studies of the influence of Erasmus, Luther, and Calvin on Italy. The most important treatise of Italian Reformation thought, the Beneficio di Cristo, has a subsection to itself. Given its importance, the literature devoted to it is vast, and for students it is most useful to find the bibliography in one place. The same is true for works on the Inquisition.

The last topic in the volume is the toleration controversy, the compiler's interest of longstanding. Together with the ideas and culture of Renaissance Italy, many of the exiles also brought their irenicism and pleas for religious toleration to Northern Europe. It is surprising that relatively few recent works deal with this topic that has acquired new urgency.

Dr. Tedeschi's contribution is a most valuable addition to the library of every scholar of the Renaissance. Given current book-prices, its cost is reasonable. But that matter aside, it deserves our deep gratitude, and will remain a standard reference work for a long time.
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Author:Gleason, Elisabeth G.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2002
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