THE SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL ON THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LIBRARIANSHIP
ISSN 2217-5563
 

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Predrag Mutavdžić
Univerzitet u Beogradu
Filološki fakultet
Katedra za neohelenske studije
predrag.mutavdzic@fil.bg.ac.rs


Manuel Chrysoloras and the First Greek Humanistic Library in Florence


Summary
Manuel Chrysoloras was a distinguished Byzantine scholar, one of the several key figures deeply connected with European prehumanistic and humanistic culture, of whom unfortunately we only have merely a few things left: a handful of letters, one epistle in Latin to Uberto Decembrio and his Erotemata /grammatika/ (Grammatical questions), a handbook grammar based on questions of a student and answers of his teacher, which was widely spread all over the European continent during the 16th and 17th centuries. His written work is not sufficient to justify a great fame he had won for life and after death. There is no documentation concerning the years Chrysorolas spent in Constantinople, which preceded his arrival in Italy, but it could be supposed with great certainty that he had been brought up in the social environment that was not unfamiliar with the Latin culture and language. This educated Byzantine man of letters arrived in Florence in 1397, after having received the official invitation of Florentine chacelor Coluccio Salutati, one of the most important political and cultural figures the Italian Renaissance had created, to re-establish the stydy of Greek language and culture at the University. Chrysoloras remained in Florence for three years, intensively teaching Greek. In 1400 he moved to Pavia to spend another two years there, also teaching Greek at the University, at which he had founded Department of Greek language and Literature. During his stay in Florence he established a large private library in the house where he lived. His library, consisted of manuscripts and books written in Greek he had brought with him from Constantinople, was among the first few humanistic libraries in Florence and Northern Italy. Since Chrysoloras’s Greek library soon reached the amount of around 1800 titles, it was the largest one in Florence and the second one in terms of its significance and richness in Greek manuscripts, immediately after the Vatican Apostolic Library in Rome. After Chrysoloras’s sudden death in 1416, his library was divided into four parts and in a short time the content of each was misplaced: many books and manuscripts (codices) were put on sale, but a lot of them was lost for ever. Fortunatelly, a majority of Chrysoloras’s bilingual (Greek-Latin) codices was preserved and they are kept in the Vatican Library. A small number of his books and manuscripts is in possession of some other Italian and European libraries.

Keywords:
humanism, library, Greek language, Greek studies, Florence, Pavia, Manuel Chrysoloras, Salutati



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