Census of Petrarch Manuscripts in the United States


Note: A version of this Introduction accompanied the printed Census in 1986.

Any consideration of Petrarch manuscripts in the United States must begin with the work of two eminent American scholars, Ernest Hatch Wilkins (1880 - 1966) and Berthold L. Ullman (1882 - 1965). They were the first men to make a systematic examination of Petrarch manuscripts, Wilkins in 1947 of the manuscripts containing the Canzoniere and the Triumphs, and Ullman in 1962 of the manuscripts containing material by or about Petrarch; their pioneering work fully illustrates the vital link between all areas of Petrarch studies and the manuscripts which have preserved the author’s writings. In his study "Manuscripts of the Canzoniere and the Triumphs in American Libraries", Wilkins listed 31 manuscripts containing the Canzoniere and the Triumphs, or one of these works separately.1 The main bulk of manuscripts, 27 of them, had appeared in the De Ricci Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada, and thus were known to have been held in American collections since 1935. Some years later, Ullman was able to avail himself of the unpublished supplement of the De Ricci Census, and he identified yet another ten manuscripts.2 In 1974, M. Jasenas and A. Bernardo added two more to the list,3 and three more have surfaced recently,4 so that the total number of manuscripts in the United States containing complete texts of either the Canzoniere or the Triumphs or a combination of both is now 46. The totals are given below:

Canzoniere & Triumphs: 20 MSS
Triumphs & Canzoniere: 3 MSS
Triumphs: 15 MSS
Canzoniere: 8 MSS

The manuscripts containing the Canzoniere and the Triumphs constitute well over one third of all the Petrarch manuscripts in the United States. All but two, nos. 18 and 86, are in public or semi-public libraries; it should be noted however that the whereabouts of nos. 129-131 is either unknown or the manuscripts are in the hands of dealers. Other manuscripts have changed hands, from private to public libraries: nos. 18, 71, 75, 96 and 111. Wilkins took into consideration only the manuscripts which contained complete versions of the Canzoniere and the Triumphs. If we were to include excerpts or texts which are in some way incomplete, the preponderance of the vernacular poetry in Petrarch manuscripts in the United States would be quite evident. Of particular interest would be Iacopo di Poggio Bracciolini’s commentary on the Triumph of Fame (nos. 29 and 50), the anonymous commentary on sonnet 95 from the Canzoniere (no. 58), and the emblem book (no. 7) in which painted medallions carry a moralizing caption taken from the Canzoniere and Triumphs as well as from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Psalms; there are also the extensive quoting from Petrarch’s vernacular poetry in the marginal gloss of Roberto Caracciolo’s Sermones quadragesimales de poenitentia (no. 11), the mutilated copy of the Canzoniere (no. 13) in which only four incomplete canzoni have survived, or the manuscripts (nos. 35, 68, 80, 103 and 104) in which only single poems appear in a collection of poetry by various authors or in a miscellaneous codex. Wilkins collected data on Petrarch manuscripts with the expressed purpose of investigating the order of the poems in the Canzoniere and of the capitoli in the Triumphs. Although he opted not to repeat information already given by De Ricci regarding the size of the manuscripts, the writing material, binding and provenance, he did provide summary descriptions of the contents of each manuscript which added greatly to those of De Ricci and he pointed out particularly interesting features about illumination, marginalia and ownership.

Even though the single most prevalent texts to appear in American Petrarch manuscripts were and continue to be the Canzoniere and the Triumphs, and even though the Wilkins census was in and of itself thorough and informative, a full assessment of Petrarch manuscripts in the United States was not possible until the census of B. L. Ullman in 1962. At the suggestion of Giuseppe Billanovich, the key figure in the world-wide effort to identify Petrarch manuscripts, Ullman began his search for manuscripts not only of the Canzoniere and the Triumphs but also of others related, even remotely, to Petrarch’s writings and life, as Ullman himself remarked in the introduction to his census,I include not only manuscripts of the sixteenth century or earlier that contain even a single short poem or letter of Petrarch’s in any language, but also those which have been linked in any way with Petrarch, such as lives of Petrarch, letters to him, works that have wrongly been attributed to him, books that have falsely been credited to his library. Imitations, however, have not been included.5

Ullman’s proposal represented the first real step towards a complete inventory of Petrarch manuscripts in the United States. Ullman’s most difficult problem was logistical: vast distances had to be covered in order to examine manuscripts in twenty-five libraries across the United States. He was able to see personally only about one third of the 99 manuscripts listed in his census, and he had to rely heavily on the information provided by such diverse sources as De Ricci (Census and Supplement), Wilkins, librarians and friends, all of whom possessed varying degrees of expertise. It is to Ullman’s credit that he was able to collect as much information as he did about each manuscript’s location, contents, date and place of origin, material, main illumination and provenance. His census has become the precursor of an impressive series of census catalogues of Petrarch manuscripts in libraries throughout the world: France (E. Pellegrin, who also compiled the supplement to M. Vattasso’s catalogue of Petrarch manuscripts in the Vatican Library), Switzerland (O. Besomi), West Germany (A. Sottili), British Isles (N. Mann) and the Biblioteca Civica di Trieste (S. Zamponi), all of which are being followed by other catalogues projected for the Censimento dei codici petrarcheschi.6

Attention was drawn to the Ullman census, as well as to the studies by Wilkins, in 1974 during the celebration of the six hundredth anniversary of the death of Petrarch. In conjunction with the World Petrarch Congress and the exhibition of Petrarch manuscripts sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Pierpont Morgan Library, A. Bernardo and M. Jasenas conducted a survey of Petrarch manuscripts in the United States which was intended to serve as an updating and revision of the Ullman census. The results of their efforts appeared in Petrarch in America: A Survey of Petrarch Manuscripts, edited by Jasenas, which was also to serve the double function of being a census and exhibit catalogue. Bernardo and Jasenas located all the manuscripts in the Ullman census except for those listed by Ullman as unknown (Ullman nos. 93-96; in the present Census nos. 129-131), they gave the present location for six manuscripts which had changed hands, and they identified eleven new manuscripts containing Petrarch material. As of 1974 the total number of Petrarch manuscripts in the United States had grown to 107. Bernardo and Jasenas followed Ullman’s procedure of giving brief descriptions of the manuscripts, with rather scant information about present location, main contents, date, material, number of folios, dimensions, major illumination and provenance.

Twenty years have passed since the Ullman census and ten years since the survey by Jasenas and Bernardo, and the intervening years bear witness to the continued interest in Petrarch manuscripts in the United States and to the active collecting of them. Acquisitions have increased over the years so that the total number of Petrarch manuscripts which I have been able to locate has now reached 135. It should be noted, however, that we are still unable to account for nos. 129-131 which Ullman had also listed as unknown; four manuscripts were last reported in the hands of dealers (nos. 132-135); the Petrarch text which was part of no. 128 is no longer in the manuscript; and, no. 67 is now missing. Manuscripts nos. 18, 35, 83, 95, 96 and 111 (also listed in Jasenas, Petrarch in America, p. 6) have changed hands, and except for no. 18 all have gone from private to public collections. No 127 which was privately owned by Frances T.P. Plimpton was bequeathed to the Wellesley College Library in 1975 by the heirs of Plimpton. There are twenty manuscripts in the present Census which have not been listed previously, of which at least half were acquired after the year 1960.7 Recent acquisitions span the entire country from New Haven to Los Angeles; since 1960, Petrarch manuscripts have been added to the libraries of Yale University (no. 81, acquired in 1965), the Folger Shakespeare Library (no. 118, in 1960), University of Kansas (no. 62, in 1969), University of Texas at Austin (no. 2, in 1969), and recently in California, University of California at Berkeley (nos. 10 and 11, in 1966 and 1985), University of California at Los Angeles (no. 63, in 1978; no. 64, in 1980; no. 65, in 1984), and the J. Paul Getty Museum (no. 68, in 1983). Even limiting ourselves solely to these ten most recent manuscripts, we find a wide range of material of interest to the Petrarch scholar as well as to humanistic and Renaissance studies. Alongside the Collatio inter Scipionem, Alexandrum, Hanibalem et Pyrrum, discovered by Ullman, we are now able to record the existence of the young Petrarch’s metric epistle, "Ursa peregrinis modo ...", in the fourteenth and fifteenthߚcentury miscellany (no. 10) in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. Petrarch’s circle of friends, followers and kindred souls also continues to expand as we locate and identify the writings, published and unpublished, of Pietro da Moglio, Pietro da Parma (no. 10), Donato degli Albanzani (no. 68) and Giovanni Quatrario of Sulmona (no. 65).

In the present Census it is proposed to give a precise and detailed account of the manuscripts in the libraries across the United States which contain material either written by or about Petrarch, translations of his works and books owned by him. Included are manuscripts and printed books containing manuscript material which date from Petrarch’s lifetime until the year 1600:8 some manuscripts, those owned by Petrarch, pre-date this period, as for example the earliest codex which was Petrarch’s first copy of Horace, now in the Pierpont Morgan Library (no. 90); for the other manuscripts which wrongly were thought to have been in Petrarch’s library, see no. 115 and the Linterno manuscripts. The cutoff date of the year 1600 has been extended in some cases when the material has been deemed noteworthy, as for example in nos. 2, 30, 53, 58-60, 62, 103, 116-118.

The problems faced by Ullman are no less vexing for those of us who follow in his footsteps: the distances remain vast, more libraries own Petrarch manuscripts, the distribution is more widespread and the number of manuscripts has increased considerably. I have been able to examine personally all the manuscripts except for nos. 18, 25, 86-88, 115 and 128-135: nos. 18 and 86-88 are in private hands; nos. 128-135 are listed as either unknown or as the property of dealers; information about nos. 25 and 115 was furnished by friends and colleagues. Just as had been the case with the Ullman census and the Bernardo-Jasenas survey, the present census was begun at the invitation of Giuseppe Billanovich; it was he who over seven years ago encouraged me to embark on the project and he unfailingly has provided advice and assistance. Following the first stage of work, the extensive inquiry by mail in order to confirm the location of manuscripts, the actual work of cataloguing was begun at the Cornell University Library in the winter of 1978. At frequent but irregular intervals thereafter, other libraries were visited and manuscripts examined, and it was possible to return to some libraries and check manuscripts for a second and third time. The scope of the present census has been extended and the descriptions expanded so as to provide not only an updating of previous censuses, but also to compile a full catalogue of Petrarch manuscripts in the United States.

1. First published in Modern Philology, XLV (1947), 23-35, with a list of 28 manuscripts, and later updated with the addition of three more manuscripts and with the same title in The Making of the "Canzoniere" and Other Petrarchan Studies (Rome, 1951), 205-26. With their present Census number, the 31 manuscripts listed by Wilkins are: 1, 4-6, 16, 19, 20, 36, 42-48, 55, 86, 89, 91, 93, 94, 96, 98, 111, 120-122, 125, 129-131.
2. Petrarch Manuscripts in the United States (Censimento dei codici petrarcheschi, 1) (Padova, 1964), and also in Italia medioevale e umanistica, V (1962), 443-475. The manuscript numbers are: 8, 17, 18, 22, 24, 26, 61, 71, 75, 132.
3. Petrarch in America: A Survey of Petrarch Manuscripts (New York - Washington, D. C., 1974), 5-6. The manuscript numbers are: 56 and 82.
4. The manuscript numbers are: 63, 64 and 127.
5. In Italia medioevale e umanistica, V (1962), 443.
6. All the census catalogues, which were issued under separate cover, were also published in Italia medioevale e umanistica: E. Pellegrin, "Manuscrits de Pétrarque dans les bibliothèques de France", IMU, IV (1961), 341-431, VI (1963), 271-364, VII (1964), 405-522, and "Manuscrits de Pétrarque à la Bibliothèque Vaticane. Supplément au catalogue de Vattasso", IMU, XVIII (1975), 73-138, XIX (1976), 493-97; O. Besomi, "Codici petrarcheschi nelle biblioteche svizzere", IMU, VIII (1965), 369-429; A. Sottili, "I codici del Petrarca nella Germania Occidentale", IMU, X (1967), 411-91, XI (1968), 345-448, XII (1969), 335-476, XIII (1970), 281-467, XIV, (1971), 313-402, XV (1972), 361-423, XVIII (1975), 1-72, XIX (1976), 429-92, and the indices in XX (1977), 413-94; N. Mann, "Petrarch Manuscripts in the British Isles", IMU, XVIII (1975), 139-527; S. Zamponi, I manoscritti petrarcheschi della Biblioteca Civica di Trieste. Storia e Catalogo. 1984, pp. VIII-187. See also Giuseppe Billanovich’s article on the project: "Il censimento dei codici petrarcheschi", in Il Petrarca ad Arquà: Atti del convegno di studi nel VI centenario (1370-74), Arquà Petrarca, 6-8 novembre 1970 (Padova, 1975), 271-4; and also in the same volume, O. Besomi, "Altri codici Petrarcheschi nelle biblioteche svizzere", 275-77, and E. Pellegrin, "Manuscrits de Pétrarque dans les bibliothèques de France, Supplement", 291-92.
7. The twenty manuscripts are: nos. 2, 7, 10, 11, 15, 25, 31, 34, 59, 62, 63, 64, 65, 68, 81, 101, 105, 117, 118, 119.
8. Manuscripts written in incunables and early printed books are: nos. 15, 115 and 119. For the present time, these few examples must serve as a modest beginning for a future census of annotated Petrarch incunables and early printed books; cfr. G. Frasso, "Per un censimento di incunaboli e cinquecentine postillate dei Rer. vulg. fragm. e dei Triumphi", Aevum, LVI (1982), 253-62.

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