The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives


History should have a sense of proportion—a human touch, if you please. From a biography of Petrarch (2003.8, p. 51):

In Verona, and well before the middle of June, he made his greatest find. He discovered in the library of the cathedral a volume containing the sixteen Books of Cicero’s collection of his letters to Atticus, as well as the minor collections of Cicero’s letters to his brother Quintus and to Brutus. This volume, if known at all, had been known only to men who had not realized its importance.

Greatly excited, Petrarch started at once to make a copy of these collections, for no local copyist had the competence necessary for this particular piece of work. This task, undertaken at a time when his arm was still troubling him,1 must have kept him busy for several weeks, even if he worked at it quite steadily. The finished volume was so huge and unwieldy that he could not keep it in a book-chest, but had to stand it on the floor.

This discovery was to have extraordinary results. It was to enrich the classical heritage of all later generations; it was to lead Petrarch to write to Cicero and to other classical authors; and it was to give him the idea of making a collection or collections of his own letters. It was also to be responsible for a serious injury to his left leg.2

  1. Petrarch had fallen from a horse after being chased by brigands; this accident injured his arm—though he was not, however, captured by the brigands. []
  2. Emphasis mine. []


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