Printing & Patronage: Books in Renaissance Italy, 1450-1550

Towards the end of the 15th century, Italian writer Bettino da Trezzo noted the efect that the introduction of the printing press had had upon readers. Thanks to the new method of making books, he wrote, “All those who have intelligence, and their minds inclined to study, can make themselves well educated and learned.”

Feeding much of intellectual thought during the Renaissance was the concept of humanism. It was believed by those proponents of Renaissance humanism that the classics of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations laid out the models of moral living and learning which all people should follow. With this in mind, prominent Italian families of important city-states, such as the de Medicis in Florence, began to employ humanist scholars to educate their children in the basic studies and morality. One prominent Florentine, Lorenzo de Medici, hired poet and scholar Angelo Poliziano to tutor his children, which lead to the formation of Lorenzo’s “think tank” of humanist scholars, philosophers, artists, and writers. Prominent Italian men also bestowed their patronage to printers who, in turn, produced thousands of enduring works of humanistic thought, the focus of this exhibition.

On view are original letters, illuminated manuscripts, and printed books from Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library and from Denison Library’s Rare Book Room. The writings of Angelo Poliziano are highlighted along with such intellectuals as Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Landino, Bruni, and others. The earliest printed works of Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Savonarola, Machiavelli, Guicciardini, and Ariosto also are featured. Selections of the landmark Italian Renaissance printers in the Libraries include works printed by Aldus Manutius, Nicolaus Laurentii, and Sweynheym and Pannartz, to name a few.

For further information concerning this exhibition, please contact Carrie Marsh, Special Collections Librarian, Honnold Library.