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Paola Tomè

I am an independent researcher in Medieval and Humanistic Latin Literature at the Department of Humanistic Studies of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and since 1990 I have been teaching Classics (Ancient Greek, Latin, Ancient and Medieval History) at an Italian public high school. I am currently working on two main fields of research: the study of the sources of Giovanni Tortelli’s (ca. 1400-1466) Orthographia and the historical and contextualised recognition of the bibliographical heritage of some Treviso’s libraries, now destroyed or missing (such as the library of the Girolamini of Santa Maddalena, of the Certosini of Montello and of the Canonici Lateranensi of SS. Quaranta Martiri). The Mellon-funded Visiting Research Fellowship allowed me to spend seven weeks in the United Kingdom: three in Warwick, where I had the opportunity to meet scholars of the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance and to undertake research in the local University Library, and four weeks in Oxford, where I spent my time reading manuscripts in Bodleian and in several other libraries such as the Taylorian and the library of Balliol College. In Oxford, I was also able to establish links with scholars such as Martin McLaughlin and Nigel Wilson.

Plan and Topics of research

a) My first field of research is humanistic lexicography; at the moment I am pursuing the study of Tortelli’s role in the promotion and dissemination of Greek studies in Italy and in Europe in the fifteenth century. Tortelli, a friend of Lorenzo Valla (to whom he dedicated the Elegantiae), collaborated with Pope Nicholas V in the founding of the Vatican Library; he also supervised the search for Greek manuscripts and the work of many translators hired by the pope. His work, in most part yet to be studied, represents a crucial intersection in the role played in the dissemination of Greek culture at the time, when the knowledge of the Hellenic language in Italy and in Europe was still the preserve of a few. My research will provide the first systematic study of the Greek sources of his Orthographia, a bulky dictionary of Greek words transposed into Latin, an encyclopaedic dictionary to be used for reading and commenting on the classics. The ms. Vat. Lat. 1478, the manuscript revised by Tortelli himself, consists of more than 3,000 words and about 380 ff. (760 pages). This text was widely distributed in Europe. My work will place the Orthographia in the context of the new wave of interest in the spread of Greek studies around Western Europe during the fifteenth century. I am also revising many details regarding its manuscript transmission: I have recently discovered a manuscript of the Orthographia now kept at the Széchényi Library of Budapest, which has never been signalled before by scholars, and I shall compare this new witness with ms. Vat. Lat. 1478 and ms. Balliol College 290, which I was able to examine during my stay in Oxford.

b) Although Giovanni Tortelli’s Orthographia is my main field of research, the aim of my Fellowship was to investigate the role of some Treviso’s monasteries (especially the monastery of Canonici Lateranensi of SS. Quaranta Martiri) in influencing the humanistic environment of the town in the 15th century. In 1599 the “Congregazione dell’Indice” checked the presence of items censored by the “Catholic Index of books” in all the contemporaneous monastic libraries; the ancient catalogues stemming from this inquiry and currently preserved in several manuscript volumes at the Vatican Library, now provide a new perspective on this aspect of early modern book history. During the 13th and the 14th century, Treviso was an important centre of troubadour culture in Northern Italy and it even had its own University, before bowing down under the supremacy of Venice in 1389. Throughout the 15th century and until the battle of Agnadello (1509) marked the last moment of its glorious past, Treviso was a centre of classical studies, as is testified by its first printers. During the age of Napoleon (between 1796 and 1810), many monastic Institutions closed their own libraries and a great part of their bibliographical heritage was sold or destroyed: this happened to Treviso’s monastic libraries as well. Abbot Matteo Luigi Canonici, who lived in Treviso at the end of the 18th century, at this time bought many ancient books from the monks, who were then leaving town. When Canonici died, his vast library was sold to the Bodleian Library and it is now kept here within the Canonici Fund. My first investigation concerned the printing of about ten translations from Greek into Latin in Treviso during the 15th century; I tried to find there further information about the study of Greek at that time in the city. Unfortunately, the inventories of ancient manuscripts compiled by Napoleon’s officers contained very poor descriptions for each item. Therefore, it was impossible to undertake a thorough exploration of the bibliographical heritage of a great part of the contemporary monastic libraries. Later, however, I consulted both Coxe’s Catalogue of the Bodleian’s Canonici Fund, as well as mss. Vat. Lat. 11273, 11276, 11292 containing the inventories of the “Congregazione dell’Indice” relating to Treviso’s monasteries, and I found much relevant correspondence among the texts: in order to extend my research, during my stay in Oxford, I examined about forty of the Canonici codices.

Major achievements during my stay in Warwick and in Oxford

While at Warwick, I was able to submit a paper entitled ‘Metodo compilativo e stratificazione delle fonti nell’Orthographia di Giovanni Tortelli’ for the forthcoming issue of Humanistica Lovaniensia (2013). I was also in contact with several scholars, such as Paul Botley, David Lines and Ingrid De Smet, with whom I had the opportunity to speak about my research. In 2010, Botley had published a book devoted to the study of Greek between 1396 and 1529 in Europe and I am now in contact with him concerning the notes (recollectae) of a complete course of Greek held in the Veneto area in 1476-77 (now kept at the Bodleian Library) (see above). Many areas of mutual interests emerged during my meeting with David Lines: Tortelli was also a translator from Greek into Latin of the Aristoteles’ Academica Posterior, a translation now preserved (with Nicolò Tignosi commentary) in only one manuscript in Florence. So we also debated about the cultural atmosphere in Bologna and Florence around 1430-1445 under the tutelage of philosophers and scholars like Tignosi, Sighicelli, Volpe, Marsuppini, Filelfo, Tommaso da Sarzana (then pope Nicolò V), Lorenzo Valla and, of course, Giovanni Tortelli. Tortelli’s philosophical interests also covered the Platonic entourage, because of his interest in Psello’s demonology; unfortunately, time did not allow for me to explore this particular aspect of Tortelli’s oeuvre in any detail. With Ingrid De Smet I discussed potential new fora for the dissemination of my research, such as the forthcoming International Conference of the IANLS (Vienna 2015), and ways to stay in touch with the activities of the Centre of the Renaissance Studies in Warwick in the future. During my stay in Warwick and after my meeting with David Lines, I started to collect several materials regarding other humanists such as Tignosi, Sighicelli, Volpe and Scanella, all connected with Tortelli, in Florence and in Bologna, between 1433 and 1445: I can say that a new line of research about the philosophical and rhetorical suggestions in dimension of this entourage is now starting up and I hope to carry it on in the future.

Whilst working in the Oxford libraries I first compared the data from my examination of the Bodleian manuscripts with those already collected through the “Congregazione dell’Indice” catalogues contained in mss. Vat. Lat. 11273, 11276, and 11292. Some of these lists give quite a detailed overview, not only about the quantity and nature of the book patrimony held by each monastery (in this case those in the area of Treviso), but also the incipit or explicit of some specific codices. By comparing these data to Coxe’s catalogue of the Canonici Collection, I identified at least twenty overlaps worthy of further close inspection. At the moment we have more information about the monastic heritage of Venice or Padua; however, since the studies of L. Pesce and L. Gargan, very little has been done to investigate the great part of Treviso’s bibliographical patrimony: my research does not aim to draw up a material catalogue of all the quoted manuscripts (partly done by A.G. Watson and O. Pächt- J.J. Graham Alexander for the dated or illuminated codices), but rather to identify, reconstruct and locate at least part of the bibliographical holding of this city. I shall present the results of this work in a paper for the ‘Istituto Veneto of Lettere, Scienze e Arti’ in Venice in September 2013.

Secondly, I focused especially on two Greek manuscripts of Canonici's Collection containing the recollectae of a complete course of Greek, held in Venice in the last quarter of the 15th century. I was able to understand which texts were read, how they were explained to the students and what knowledge of the anonymous Greek teacher had, who explained the Greek authors both in Latin and in the vernacular. For the grammatical sources (especially Moscopulos’ and Chrysoloras’s Erotemata, enriched with other materials in the section regarding verbal tenses), I was able to compare the two manuscripts with the numerous first printed editions of Greek grammatical texts available in the Bodleian Library. This study will be of great value for the knowledge of the texts, of the teaching method and of the studies of Greek in Renaissance Italy and Europe. In the Canonici Collection I also discovered an unknown speech given by Augustinus Scanella in Bologna before 1450 and a new humanistic witness of the Ars grammatica by Phocas the Grammarian, which has never been signalled before.

Finally, I was able to study an important manuscript of Giovanni Tortelli’s Orthographia, now kept at the Balliol College (ms. 290); this will be of great value in the comparison of the data coming both from the Hungarian witness and ms. Vat. Lat. 1478.

Future perspectives

Apart from being able to gather such rich material for my research, I benefited greatly from my exchanges with scholars and professors such as David Lines, Paul Botley and Ingrid De Smet in Warwick and Nigel Wilson and Martin McLaughlin in Oxford. But Warwick’s postdoctoral researchers and PhD students too formed a supportive and stimulating community, and I especially benefited from meeting Eugenio Refini and Eva Del Soldato. In all, the material that I gathered and the contacts I made through my Visiting Research Fellowship in Warwick and in Oxford will be absolutely invaluable to my research and to my future career and I am very grateful to the University of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of the Renaissance and the Mellon Foundation for giving me this remarkable opportunity.

Paola Tomé

Paola Tomé

Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library