The Italian Poems of the Master Francesco Petrarcha


Francesco Petrarca (also known as Petrarch, 1304–74) was an Italian poet and scholar, often called the Father of the Renaissance. The greatest scholar of his era, Petrarch advocated the basic continuity between Christianity and the classical culture of Greece and Rome. While he wrote mainly in Latin and personally discovered many long-lost Latin manuscripts, he is best known for his Italian lyric poetry, much of it written to Laura, the idealized subject of his love who is identified by many scholars as Laure de Noves (circa 1308–48) of Avignon, France. Le cose volgari is an edition of Petrarch’s Italian poems, produced by the Venetian printer and scholar Aldo Manuzio (circa 1450–1515). In 1501, Aldo started to print so-called "libelli portatiles," editions of texts without scholarly commentary in octavo, a format that until that time was used only for prayer books. The Petrarch was published in July as the first "portable book" in Italian and is an outstanding example of Aldo’s innovative abilities. The book is printed in italic type, which Aldo invented, and which was intended to imitate the handwriting of his time. The text itself was edited by the scholar Pietro Bembo (1470–1547) using a manuscript of Petrarch. Bembo had an enormous influence on the development of Italian as a modern literary language, which he believed should be modeled on Petrarch’s writings. The famous Aldine Collection of the Berlin State Library boasts three copies of the Petrarch, one paper copy, and two illuminated and illustrated copies printed on parchment. One of the parchment copies has an armorial frontispiece representing the noble Priuli family of Venice, presented here, while the other has a portrait of Petrarch. Both of the other Berlin State Library Petrarchs are also in the World Digital Library.

Last updated: January 8, 2018