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LA CITTA' E IL LIBRO II/
THE CITY AND THE BOOK II
IL MANOSCRITTO, LA MINIATURA/
THE MANUSCRIPT, THE ILLUMINATION
ACCADEMIA DELLE ARTI DEL DISEGNO,
VIA ORSANMICHELE, 4 , 4-7 SETTEMBRE 2002
II. FIRENZE E LA SPAGNA/
FLORENCE AND SPAIN



APPENDICI: Elisabetta Sayiner, Brunetto in the Tesoretto (English, italiano); Catherine Harding, Visualizing Brunetto Latino's Tesoretto in Early Trecento Florence (English); Julia Bolton Holloway, Diplomacy and Literature: Alfonso el Sabio's Influence on Brunetto Latino, 'Maestro di Dante Alighieri (English); Behind the Arras: Pier delle Vigne, Alfonso el Sabio, Brunetto Latino, Dante Alighieri (English)

BRUNETTO IN THE TESORETTO

ELISABETTA SAYINER, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA


{ Brunetto’s Tesoretto is a fictional journey. During this journey the protagonist, Brunetto, meets various teachers. While Brunetto learns from his teachers, the reader also learns with him. Brunetto, however, is not only the author and the protagonist of this didactic journey; he is also its narrator. The narrational “I” is that of Brunetto the protagonist after the conclusion of the journey.

Nel testo del Tesoretto, Brunetto è il nome dell’autore, del protagonista e del narratore. Quando Brunetto dà il proprio nome anche al narratore e al protagonista del Tesoretto, lui introduce il lettore a una complessa rappresentazione di se stesso che investe sia la realtà all’interno del poema che quella all’esterno. Questo saggio intende esplorare questa realtà e le dinamiche del narratore all’interno di questa realtà.

When Brunetto gives the poem’s protagonist and narrator his own name, he intertwines the various aspects of Brunetto - namely Brunetto the historical figure and poet, Brunetto the narrator, and Brunetto the protagonist— in a complex and subtle construction. This construction attempts to introduce the reader to an artificial and multi-layered alter ego that is highly controlled and manipulated. Brunetto’s programmatic self-representation in the text determines several aspects of his literary strategy and is at the heart of the author’s poetical effort. The aim of this paper is to explore some aspects of such construction, namely Brunetto’s self-representation in the dedication, his programmatic exploitation of some autobiographical references, and his skillful rewriting of the Boethian model.

In the poem, the voice of Brunetto undergoes some changes and is most meaningful at the beginning. In the dedication to the Worthy Lord (1-114), /1 the first person voice pleads for patronage and commends the poem. At the beginning of the narrative, the narrator introduces various facts about Florentine politics and Brunetto’s exile (114-85). As the allegorical journey begins (180-282), the centrality of the narrator weakens.

Nelle varie parti del poema la voce del narratore cambia. Prima nella dedica al Valente Signore (1-114) la voce di Brunetto chiede sostegno per il poeta e raccomanda il poema. Poi all’inizio della narrazione il narratore introduce le circostanze politiche e storiche dell’esilio di Brunetto (114-85). Tuttavia quando il viaggio allegorico comincia la centralità del narratore si affievolisce. Nei duemila versi che seguono il narratore scompare e la voce dell’autore si identifica con quello delle personificazioni che Brunetto incontra.

In the two thousand lines that follow the initial passage, political issues, historical references, and individual experience fade out of the text. The voice of Brunetto as narrator becomes more and more imprecise for the reader as the protagonist’s predominance in the text is displaced by a series of teachers who disclose to Brunetto the protagonist the knowledge that the author intends to convey to his reader. Thus, the authorial voice comes to be identified, in its didactic stance, not with Brunetto’s voice but rather with the voice of his mentors. The individual voice of Brunetto, however, emerges again in the garden of Love where the emotional experience of the poet becomes exemplary. There the text recovers the narratorial “I” that both the lyric and the didactic tradition employ for representing love. /2 The poet’s identity becomes again the center of attention, because personal experience is essential to affairs of the heart.

Even in the section where Brunetto is still the center of the poem, his voice displays different aspects. In the dedication to the Worthy Lord, (1-112) Brunetto’s voice is primarily that of the historical poet pleading for patronage. /3 However, this voice carefully and programmatically begins to shape the reader’s perception of Brunetto in the Tesoretto . The dedication can be divided in two parts. The first part (1-69) praises the Worthy Lord. Line 70 hinges the two parts together and names the author. The second part (71-112) commends the poem to the patron. This distribution of text magnifies the figure of the lord and gives minimal space to Brunetto, hinting at the extra-textual power relationship in which the lord is more dominant. Literally, the dedication is an act of homage to the lord from his intellectual servant and a pledge for financial support from a powerless and impoverished exile. Covertly, however, Brunetto manipulates the text in such a way that, in the end, he presents himself as an authoritative and powerful teacher, an essential asset for the lord, and a well-deserving recipient of a substantial remuneration.

Anche nella parte del poema dove la voce di Brunetto è più costante, troviamo notevoli variazioni. Infatti nella dedica del poema la voce del poeta è molto vicina al personaggio storico anche se incomincia già a dare forma alla figura che il poeta intende presentare al lettore. La dedica può essere divisa in due parti: i versi 1-69 lodano il Signore; i versi 71-112 gli raccomandano il poema. La distribuzione del testo dà più peso alla figura del Signore e indica l’autorità e il potere del Signore al di fuori del testo. Chiaramente la dedica è un omaggio che ha l’intento di chiedere supporto finanziario. Tuttavia un’attenta letture mostra che Brunetto sovverte questa rapporto di autorità e potere all’interno del testo.

Brunetto subverts the literary meaning of the text first of all through the naming of the author. The naming appears with a forceful rhyme “Come oro fino / Io, brunetto latino” [Just like refined gold: / I, Brunetto Latino] (69-70). Noteworthy in this couplet is the beginning of the line with “Io” followed by the full name of the author that occupies the entire line, making Brunetto’s presence in the text powerfully evident to the reader.


Vatican Secret Archives Autograph Document Written During Brunetto Latino's Exile from Florence

While this rhyme sets up the definition of the lord as pure gold, it also undercuts it by juxtaposing the lord as gold to the name of the author. This contrast is the first hint of Brunetto’s argument concerning the pecuniary and transcendent value of the knowledge he is offering to the lord. This contrast also points to the difference between the lord and the author. The lord does not hold a treasure of knowledge but rather a treasure of gold, and he is defined as such. The author, on the contrary, does not hold any earthly riches but he owns a treasure of knowledge that he makes available to the lord by means of his book, namely the Tesoretto , the little treasure.

Questa cambio di prospettiva è attuato dal verso 70 dove l’autore si nomina: “Come oro fino / Io brunetto latino” (69-70). Nel primo verso la parola “fino” descrive il signore che viene identificato con l’oro stesso sia per il suo valore morale che, implicitamente,  per la sua ricchezza. Tuttavia il secondo verso intruduce l’identità del poeta con grande forza, occupando l’intero verso e creando un constrasto o alternativa con quella del Signore. Brunetto sviluppa questo senso di opposizione nel poema presentando se stesso dapprima come alla mercè del potente e ricco Signore e poi  come investito da potere, ricchezza e autorità. Il potere del poeta è quello conferitogli dalla sua sapienza e conoscenza e la sua autorità è quella conferitagli dal poema stesso. La ricchezza del poeta deriva dallo straordinario valore intellettuale e morale del poema che si traduce in valore pecuniario per la sua utilità didattica. In queto senso il poema e un “tesoretto,” cioè informazione che può essere tradotta il pratica. Per tanto il Signore possiede una ricchezza terrena e viene definito come “oro,” ma il poeta possiede la ricchezza trascendende della sapienza e della conoscenza che rende acessibile al Signore, condividendo con lui il suo piccolo tesoro.

Brunetto subverts the power relationship between the patron and the author also through the praising of the lord which follows some traditional topoi. /4 In fact, the praise of the lord continues with a set of comparisons between the lord and others that exemplify some specific virtuous characteristics (14-62). According to Brunetto, the lord’s sense and wisdom make him a new Solomon, he has the generosity of Alexander, the heroism of Achilles, Hector, Lancelot, Tristan, the oratory skills of Cicero, and the moral standards of Cato and Seneca.

Brunetto sovverte la relazione di potere tra il Signore e il poeta anche nel modo in cui loda il Signore (14-62). Lo definisce saggio come Salomone, generoso come Alessandro, eroico come Achille, Ettore, Lancellotto, Tristano. Gli attribuisce l’abilità oratoria di Cicerone e le qualità morali di Catone e Seneca. Questa lode è in molti aspetti tradizionale però è anche attentamente costruita per servire gli scopi dell’autore e per rappresentare il poeta come indispemsabile al Signore. Infatti, Achille, Ettore, Lancellotto e Tristano sono stati immortalati da poeti. Per essere Salomone o Cicero il Signore ha bisogno dell’aiuto di un esperto di legge e di retorica. Brunetto può essere tutto questo per il Signore.

Although this tribute flatters the lord, its focus is twofold: first it compliments the lord; second it sets up an authorial self-representation that will portray Brunetto as a worthy recipient of patronage and a necessary support for the lord’s leadership (113-62). In fact, Achilles, Hector, Lancelot, and Tristan owe their fame to poets. Alexander was a pupil of Aristotle, a philosopher. To be a new Solomon or a new Cicero, the lord would need help from a legal expert and a rhetorician: Brunetto can function in all these roles. Thus, the flattering introduction is an implicit promise of what the Tesoretto and his author can bring to the lord and how they can both intellectually enrich him and professionally serve him.

The author further strengthens his position by weaving into the text a biblical reference to heavenly versus earthly treasures. This reference echoes the Gospel according to Matthew, where Jesus urges his disciples not to lay up treasure on earth but in heaven: “Nolite thesaurizare vobis thesauros in terra: ubi aerego, et tinea demolitur: et ubi fures effidiunt, et furantur. Thesaurizate autem vobis thesauros in caelo, ubi neque aurego, neque tinea demolitur, et ubi fures non effodiunt, nec furantur” [ Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal] (Matthew, 6.19-20).

L’autore ulteriormente rinforza la sua posizione usando dei riferimenti biblici quando parla  dell’opposizione tra tesori terrestri e tesori celesti. Qui fa riferimento ad un passo del Vangelo (Matteo 6,19-20) in cui Gesù ammonisce di cercare le ricchezze celesti e non quelle terrestri che sono caduche. Nel suo riferimento a questo passo del Vangelo, quando Brunetto parla delle ricchezze celesti modifica il significato del passo di Matteo. Infatti Matteo indente opere di fede mentre Brunetto indende l’incorruttibile ricchezza del sapere cioè l’incorruttibile ricchezza di ciò che viene presenato nel Tesoretto.

Through this allusion to the Gospel, Brunetto invites the lord not to seek earthly treasures and praises him for despising them, but to pursue and value incorruptible treasures. The author holds the imperishable treasure of knowledge, and he is willing to share it with the lord if he appreciates it. Brunetto writes: “E a voi faccio prego / Che lo teniate caro / E chenne siete avaro” [And to you I pray / That you may hold it dear / And be sparing with it] (84-86).

In spite of Brunetto’s dismissal of earthly treasures, his preoccupation with pecuniary matters is evident in the continuous insistence on money-related metaphors. For example, the book is a “Ricco tesoro / Che vale argento e oro” [Rich Treasure / Which is worth silver and gold] (75-76), of which one should be “greedy” (86). The text is comparable to “pietre preziose” [Precious gems] (90). Brunetto’s double rhetorical strategy dismisses the value of earthly things, and it measures the value of knowledge in pecuniary terms (gold, silver, and gems), while it points out to the patron that access to this treasury of knowledge must be compensated adequately.

The idea of proper compensation is reiterated in the second reference to the Gospel. This allusion points to a passage where Matthew writes that a Christian has to affirm, like the bright light of a candle, his faith in God: “[N]eque accendunt lucernam, et ponunt eam sub modio, sed super candelabrum, ut luceat omnibus qui in domo sunt. Sic luceat lux vestra coram hominibus: ut videant opera vestra bona et glorificent Patrem vestrum, qui in caelis est” [Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light onto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven] (Matthew, 5.15-16). Brunetto, however, reinterprets this passage in didactic and practical terms to suggest that the Tesoretto is precious not only because it offers the incorruptible good of knowledge and wisdom, but also because the author’s didactic effort will make this knowledge accessible to the lord. Brunetto paraphrases the Gospel as follows:

Ben conoscho che’l bene
Assai val meno, chi’l tene
Del tutto in sé celato,
Che quel ch’é palesato,
Sì come la candela
Luce meno, chi la cela
[I know well that the good / Is worth less to him who holds it / All hidden in himself, / Than that which is revealed, / Just the way a candle / Shines less when concealed] (93-98).

Un secondo esempio in cui Brunetto usa il testo evangelico per avvalorare il suo testo poetico si trova nei versi 93-98. In questo caso Brunetto fa riferimento al passo di Matteo in cui Gesù descrive una luce sotto un moggio (Matteo 5.15-16). Gesù dice che la fede dovrebbe esserre chiara ed evidente come una candela e non nascosta come una candela sotto un moggio. Quando Brunetto fa riferimento a questo passo ancora una volta ne manipola il significato. La luce della candela non è la fede, ma la conoscenze offerta nel Tesoretto. Questa sovrapposizione tra la fede e la conoscenza di Brunetto e tra il Vangelo e il poema investe di nuovo il testo di una autorità superiore e ne indica il valore trascendente e monetario.

Once again Brunetto uses an authoritative subtext to support his pledge. At the same time, he hints to a similarity between his text and the Good itself. Brunetto’s Good, however, is not faith but the knowledge he is offering.

After the conclusion of the dedication, Brunetto’s “I” undergoes a significant change. Here Brunetto narrates how and why he undertook his journey which let to encounter his teachers. In lines 114 to 162 the reader learns about Florence, Tuscany, and its civil war. This passage locates the beginning of the narration within the frame of Florentine history, giving it a distinctively political color:

Lo tesoro comincia,
Al tempo ke fiorença
Fioria e fece frutto,
Sí ch’ell’era del tutto
La donna di toscana
[The treasure begins, / At the time when Florence / Flourished and bore fruit, / So that she was of all / The Lady of Tuscany] (113-17).

Later, Brunetto tells of his diplomatic trip to Spain and how on his way back to Italy he learns that the members of his party were exiled. Returning to Florence means for him prison and death. As the text makes the transition from the dedication to this autobiographical material, the voice of Brunetto undergoes a transformation from the historical self of the poet to primarily a first person narrator. In fact, even though this autobiographical material is historically true in many ways, this passage is the actual beginning of the narrative and merges the historical information with the fictional construction. In this transition between the dedication and the narrative Brunetto’s voice preserves its historical identity while it moves into the explicit literary model of the medieval didactic-allegorical journey, traditionally narrated in the first person. As a matter of fact, the allegory of the journey will emerge unequivocally from Florentine history and Brunetto’s exile, that is, from his personal and political experience.

Dopo la conclusione della dedica, l’”Io” di Brunetto cambia di nuovo quando incomincia a narrarre il viaggio del Tesoretto. Nei versi 114-62, il poeta incomincia a raccontare i fatti di Firenze e della Toscana, cioè della guerra civile. Dal panorama storico e politico Brunetto ci conduce alla sua storia personale e racconta del suo esilio da Firenze. La voce del narratore diventa più chiaramente una prima persona autobiografica che tipicamente si ritrova nelle narrative poetica di tipo allegorico-didattico. E’ importante notare che malgrado le informazioni su Firenze siano storicamente abbastanza corrette, l’informazione storica e autobiographica appartiene inequivocanilmente alla dimensione narrativa. Anzi, la narrazione del viaggio e gli incontri allegorici di Brunetto sbocciano direttamente ed esplicitamente dall’episodio dell’esilio.

Commonly, the model of the medieval allegorical journey used the autobiographical material to add a sense of authenticity to the narration, a perception of actuality and universality. On this issue, Segre writes:

Di solito, nei viaggi allegorico didattici medievali il materiale autobiografico dava un senso di autenticità e universalità alla narrazione. Si noti a questo riguardo Segre:

La forma pseudoautobiografica è una novità rispetto ai testi neolatini, sempre in terza persona. La prima persona, che prevarrà nei testi romanzi analoghi, è forse dedotta da quella delle visioni dell’altro mondo, che da questo tipo di presentazione traevano un effetto di reale . . . . Nei nostri testi naturalmente la prima persona non deve garantire la veridicità di quanto narrato, tant’é vero che viene subito corretta dall’opinabilità del sogno che poi rientra in una fortunata convenzione letteraria. La prima persona di questi viaggi ha un valore esemplare: io sta per tutti gli uomini, io é ognuno
[The pseudo-autobiographical format is a novelty with regard to the neo-Latin texts, always in the third person. Probably, the first person, which will prevail in similar romance texts, is borrowed from visions of the under-world, which could obtain an effect of reality with this type of presentation. In our texts, obviously, the first person does not have to guarantee the truthfulness of the narration. This is immediately corrected by the disputability of the dream, which later becomes a self-sustaining literary convention. The first person in these journeys has an exemplary value: I is every man, I is everyone] (Cesare Segre, Fuori del mondo: I modelli nella follia e nelle immagini dell’aldilà [Torino: Einaudi, 1900], p. 53).
Notably, Segre talks about pseudo-autobiography because traditionally the author used minimal and often fictional autobiographical material. Brunetto, however, introduces relatively detailed and historically accurate information about himself and Florence. This makes the autobiographical section less conventional and more pragmatic. In fact, while on the one hand, in the Tesoretto, the information about Brunetto and Florence adds authenticity to the narrative and follows the traditional allegorical-didactic model, on the other hand, it introduces in the text a forceful historical, political, and personal dimension that defines Brunetto's historical figure in the eyes of his readers.

Si noti che Segre parla di pseudoautobiografia  perchè tradizionalmente il materiale è minimo e spesso fittizio. Nel caso di Brunetto invece il materiale è corretto e relativamente esteso. Questo rende il suo materiale autobiografico meno convenzionale e più pragmatico. Infatti da una parte dà un senso di autenticità e rientra nella tradizione allegorico-didattica, ma dall’altra introduce nel testo una dimensione storica, politica e personale molto forte che ridefinisce la figura storica dell’autore nella percezione del lettore.

An example of how Brunetto programmatically manipulates his self-representation can be found in his references to Montaperti (159) which orchestrate Brunetto’s self-representation with a politically loaded stratagem. /5 In fact, Brunetto places his protagonist in Roncesvalles while he learns about his exile. Brunetto writes:

Venendo per la valle
Del piano di Roncesvalle
Incontrai uno scolaio.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ed e’ cortesemente
Mi disse immantenente
Che guelfi di fiorença,
Per mala provedença
E per força di guerra,
Eran fori di terra
E’l dannaggio era forte
Di pregione e di morte
[Coming through the valley / Of the plain of Roncesvalles, / I met a scholar / And he courteously / Told me immediately / That the Guelphs of Florence, / Through ill fortune / And through the force of war, / Were exiled from that land, / And the penalty was great / Of imprisonment and death] (145-47, 155-62).

Historians and biographers of Brunetto have not yet been able to establish how Brunetto learned of his exile. The Tesoretto tells us that its protagonist learns about it from a Bolognese scholar in Roncesvalles. We have, however, a letter written by Brunetto’s father that seems to inform him of his exile. /6 Whether we decide that Brunetto’s meeting with the scholar in Roncesvalles is truth or fiction, we still need to establish the significance of Roncesvalles in the poem. To any medieval reader the mention of Roncesvalles would send a clear message. In the Song of Roland , the troops of Charlemagne, betrayed by Roland’s stepfather Ganelon and led by Roland, were defeated and wiped out at Roncesvalles. Roland’s heroic death during the battle triggered Charlemagne’s desire for revenge and ultimately caused the Christians’ conclusive victory.

Il riferimento a Roncesvalle è un chiaro esempio di come Brunetto manipola pragmaticamente la percezione del lettore. Brunetto racconta che il suo protagonista è a Roncesvalle quando viene a sapere del suo esilio (145-47 … 155-62). Storici e biografi non hanno ancora potuto stabilire come Brunetto sia venuto a sapere del suo esilio. Il Tesoretto ci dice che è venuto a saperlo da uno scolaro di Bologna, abbiamo tuttavia una lettera scritta dal padre di Brunetto che lo informa del fatto. Indipendentemente dalla fonte da cui Brunetto abbia saputo del suo esilio, il fatto che nel poema lo viene a sapere a Roncesvalle è molto significativo. Qualunque lettore medievale sentendo di Roncesvalle immediatamente non poteva che pensare a come le truppe di Carlo Magno, tradite dal patrigno di Rolando, abbiano sconfitto e distrutto i paladini cristiani. La morte eroica di Rolando in questa battaglia, spinse Carlo Magno a cercare vendetta e in ultima analisi ha ottenere la vittoria dei cristiani.

When Brunetto places his protagonist in Roncesvalles as he learns of the battle of Montaperti and his consequent exile, he sets up a distinctive parallel between the paladins’ defeat in Roncesvalles and the Guelphs’ defeat in Montaperti, that is, between Roland then and himself now. His party, like the Crusaders, was betrayed. The fight of Guelphs against the Ghibellines was not so much a struggle over control and power in Florence but here expressed as a crusade to defend the very roots of Christianity. The aim of this strife is to reappropriate what belongs by right to the Church: the Holy Land for the paladins and the Pope’s supremacy in Italy for the Guelphs. The “emperor” (perhaps the Worthy Lord is Alfonso el Sabio, King of Castile, and elected though uncrowned, Emperor) should seek revenge and justice if he wants to be the counterpart of Charlemagne. As for Brunetto, he appears as nothing short of a Christian hero, a crusader, who suffers martyrdom at the hands of the godless enemy. Martyrdom, however, is exile from Florence; the godless enemies are the Florentine Ghibellines; the conflict that resolves his fate is not in Roncesvalles but in Montaperti. /7

Quando Brunetto mette il suo protagonista a Roncesvalle quando sente della battaglia di Montaperti e del suo esilo, chiaramente costituisce un parallelo tra i paladini a Roncesvalle e i Guelfi a Montaperti. In questa luce, Brunetto presenta i Guelfi traditi come i paladini e la lotta tra i guelfi e i ghibellini non come una lotta civile per il controllo della città ma come una crociata per difendere la cristianità e la Chiesa.

Thus, Roncesvalles becomes the pivotal center of a political commentary, a propagandistic statement, and also a mean to reframe Brunetto’s personal history. As Brunetto is not simply one of the victims of a power-ridden civil war, he is the betrayed epic hero of an unfolding crusade. If the reader accepts Brunetto’s self-representation as truthful then he will feel compelled to embrace Brunetto in his strife and support him in his disgrace.

Quindi Roncesvalle diventa il fuoco di un’interpretazione politica, di un’affermazione propagandistica e di una riscrittura della storia personale di Brunetto. Perchè Brunetto non è tanto la vittima di una guerra civile tra fazioni assetate di potere, ma è l’eroe epico di una crociata, tradito e punito ingiustamente. Se il lettore accetta la rappresentazione che Brunetto ci dà di sè, allora deve unirsi a Brunetto nella sua lotta e sostenerlo nella sua disgrazia.

After having explored how Brunetto represents himself in the dedication and in the autobiographical section, it is important to observe how he represents himself as his character moves into a more literary and allegorical setting. As the character transitions, also the narrator does and begins to loose its central role. In fact, when Brunetto the protagonist hears about his exile from Florence, overwhelmed with sorrow, gets lost in the strange wood. The loss of his path initiates his allegorical experience. Brunetto’s narrator says:

Certo lo cor mi parte
Di cotanto dolore,
Pensando il gran honore
E la riccha potenza
Che suole aver fiorenza
E io in tal corrocto,
Pensando a capo chino,
Perdei il gran cammino
[Truly my heart broke / With so much sorrow, / Thinking on the great honor / And the rich power / That Florence is used to having / Almost through the whole world, / And I, in such anguish, / Thinking with head downcast, / Lost the great highway] (180-87).

Dopo aver visto come Brunetto rappresenta se stesso nella dedica e nel segmento autobiografico. Passiamo ad osservare la sua autorappresentazione all’interno del contesto letterario e allegorico. Infatti Brunetto narratore e protagonista del passo autobiografico cambia quando la narrativa diviene più strettamente letteraria. Quando Brunetto sente del suo esilio viene preso da grande dolore e perde la via. Dal suo vagare emerge l’incontro con Natura (180-87). In questa transizione è marcata l’influenza della Consolazione della Filosofia di Boezio.

Here Brunetto evokes the Consolation of Philosophy. Elio Costa suggests that Brunetto derives from Boethius both topoi and rhetorical techniques (Brunetto 49-51). Costa believes also that the author intends to present Brunetto’s personal experience as similar to Boethius’ and therefore depicts Brunetto’s condition in Boethian terms: Brunetto, like Boethius, has suffered his punishment because of his political position, that is, both Boethius and Brunetto are virtuous politicians unjustly punished. One may add that both Brunetto and Boethius are “professional” politicians and philosophers who in a time of political misfortune turn to a didactic production. Within their works, this didactic production is for Brunetto and Boethius the outcome of the first-person protagonist’s encounter with a personification, and it explores the themes of Fortune and Virtue. Furthermore, Costa notices that the point where Brunetto is alluding to the Consolation coincides with Lady Philosophy’s invitation to abandon the muses of poetry for the muses of knowledge (Brunetto 216, n. 5). According to Costa, this suggests that Brunetto’s experience forces the protagonist to focus specifically on didactic writing rather than pursuing other poetical genres, as Brunetto may have done before his exile. /8

L’evocazio di questo testo è chiaramente riconosciuta dal Costa (Brunetto 49-51) il quale afferma che Brunetto rappresenta l’esperienza del suo protagonista in maniera del tutto simile a quella del personaggio di Boezio. Entrambi vengono ingiustamente puniti per motivi politici pur essendo uomini virtuosi. Entrambi vengono descritti come politici di professione e filosofi che si dedicano alla produzione didattica quando hanno perduto il loro potere politico. All’interno del testo Brunetto e Boezio sono protagonisti di vari incontri allegorici che esplorano tra gli altri i temi della Fortuna e della Virtù.

From this comparison between the Tesoretto and the Consolation , it emerges that both Brunetto and Boethius present their misfortune as essential to the production of the text. Exile for Brunetto, as it will be for Dante, is both a reversal of Fortune and a divine gift that leads to a unique knowledge. This knowledge renews the exile and entrusts him with an intellectual patrimony he feels compelled to share. Dante formulates this position openly while Brunetto implies it in the Tesoretto. Once shared, the experience of exile modifies not only the individual - the poet - but also, potentially, the community to which he returns. The wish to have an impact on their homeland is a constant preoccupation for both Brunetto and Dante as authors, who use political and literary means to reach out to Florence, to perpetuate their impact on their fatherland, and to bring their own presence within the wall of the city. Although physically removed from the city, Brunetto and Dante continually address their literary works and their political dealings towards the city, as if that remains an important moral, political, intellectual, and psychological stage.

Dal paragone tra Boezio e Brunetto emerge che entrambi rappresentano la loro disgrazia personale come il punto di partenza della loro esperienza didattica.  L’esilio è per Brunetto un’esperienza cardinale che gli offre una comprensione priviligeta della realtà filosofica e morale che poi l’autore condivide con il lettore nel poema.Questa esperienza non solo modifica  l’esiliato ma anche la comunità a cui ritorna. Brunetto infatti come Dante ha un continuo bisogno di essere in relazione con la città che ha abbandonato e usa la sua voce poetica per modificare la realtà da cui è rimosso. Un aspetto di questo sforzo è la riscrittura della propria rappresentazion che il poeta invia ai testimoni del suo esilio attraverso il testo poetico. Il testo poeto riporta l’esiliato nella prorio città e lo rende una presenza costante e potente. Allo stesso tempo il testo testimonia come la città rimanga il centro morale, politico, intellettuale e psicologoco per il poeta.

As Brunetto reaches out to the community of Florentines and of other influential Italians involved in the Florentine political dealings, he has multiple purposes. First he aims to establish himself as an authoritative teacher and a major intellectual figure of his time (as he represents himself in the dedication) so that he can establish himself again financially and professionally. Second, he wants his reader to see him as a martyr and a righteous man unjustly persecuted (like Roland and Boethius). So that the emperor or one of the great leaders of Europe - whom he was trying to rally against his enemies as an ambassador - would feel compelled to revenge him from his enemies. So that his Italian readership would feel compelled to embrace him and the citizens of Florence would allow him to return and restore him as a powerful and an influential member of their city. Brunetto, unlike Dante is going to be successful in shaping his fate. His literary works, especially the Trésor , gave him access to the court of Charles D’Anjou. And thanks to him, few years after the composition of the TesorettoBrunetto - admired, respected and powerful - will return to Florence.

Quando Brunetto si mette in contatto con la comunità dei fiorentini e degli italiani ha varie scopi. Vuole prima di tutto presentarsi a loro come un maestro di grande prestigio e sapienza e come una figura di primo piano nel mondo intellettuale europeo nella speranza che questo gli permetta di riacquistare stabilità economica e professionale. Inoltre vuole che il lettore lo veda come un martire e un uomo ingiustamente perseguitato nella speranza che questi e che tra questi i potenti d’Europa si sentano spinti a vendicare questa ingiustizia e a schierasi con lui e i suoi. Quindi l’efficacia e il successo del poema di Brunetto si potrebbe tradurre in un risultato pratico. Cioè i suoi lettori e i cittadini di Firenze in particolare si potrebbero sentire motivati a sostenere Brunetto, a farlo ritornare in patria e a rendergli prestigio e potere all’interno della città. Difatti Brunetto grazie alla sua autorità letteraria e filosofica (specialmente grazie al Trésor) entrerà a far parte della corte di Carlo D’Angiò e grazie a lui, pochi anni dopo la composizione del Tesoretto, Brunetto, ammirato, rispettato e potente ritornerà a Firenze.
 

NOTES

1 Julia Bolton Holloway, Il Tesoretto (The Little Treasure) (New York: Garland, 1981). All the quotations and translations from the Tesoretto are from this edition.
2 Leo Spitzer, “Notes on the Empiric ‘I’ in Medieval Authors” Traditio IV (1946) 414-22.
3 Although in the context of the Florentine Commonwealth there is no strong tradition of requests for patronage, many rulers, such as Charles V in France and Robert the Wise in Italy, increasingly supported the production of treatises on political and civic matters (See: Ruth Morse, Truth and Convention in the Middle Ages. Rhetoric, Representation, and Reality [ Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991] 214).
4 In his detailed discussion of traditional attributes and eulogies of heroes and rulers (Ernest Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990] 176-82), Curtius mentions the topos of outdoing (162) which is also pertinent to the Tesoretto : “Non avete pare / Né in pace né in guerra” [You have no equal / Either in peace or war] (4-5) and “A voi tutta la terra /. . . si convene” [To you all the earth / Is rightly suited] (6-9).
5 Costa, however, reads this episode as spiritually charged (Elio Gabriel Costa, “Brunetto Latini between Boethius and Dante: the Tesoretto and the Medieval Allegorical Tradition,” Diss.University of Toronto, 1974, 52). He first acknowledges that we have no proof that Brunetto learned of his exile in Roncesvalles. He then adds that Brunetto does not even seem to have a precise idea of the location of the site of the battle. He suggests, however, that Brunetto might have known of this location from literary and historical sources or from having traveled by the actual place. According to a legend, he adds, a chapel would mark the site where the Christian heroes were buried. To support his spiritual interpretation Costa points to a religious gloss of the battle in the Chronique de Turpin and to the battle’s appearance in church sculptures (52-53).
6 This letter was published first by G. Ch. Gebauer ( Leben un denckwürdige Thaten Herrn Richards erwählten römischen Kaisers [Leipzig: Gaspar Fritsch, 1744] 579) and then by D. Donati (“Lettere politche del XIII sec.,” Bullettino Senese di Storia Patria III [1896] 230).
7 Thor Sundby ( Della vita e delle opere di Brunetto Latini , trans. Rodolfo Renier, [Firenze: Successori Le Monnier, 1884] 9-10) and Donati (222) believe that the version presented in the Tesoretto is not historically true. Bianca Ceva, on the contrary, believes that the version of the Tesoretto is accurate, but that Brunetto may have had the same information by various sources at the same time (Brunetto Latini, l’uomo e le opere [Milano: Ricciardi, 1965] 20). Julia Bolton Holloway suggests that the letter is a scholastic exercise and that Brunetto learned of his exile from the scholar in Roncesvalles (Brunetto Latini: An Analytic Bibliography [London: Grant &Cutler, 1986] 67). Some scholars even doubt the authenticity of the letter. For example, Donati questions its authenticity because of the highly literary way it is written (228-29). In fact, he likens this letter to others written at the time and describes them as follows: “la loro forma molto artificiosa e prolissa rileva lo scopo puramente letterario e scolastico di chi le compose” [Their highly artificial and prolix form reveals the merely literary and didactic intent of these who composed them] (228). This style led Donati to believe that the letter did not have an informative purpose but was a literary exercise: “non dubito di ritenere questo documento una finzione, non solo per le ragioni stilistiche sopra accennate, ma anche perchè appare strano che una lettera del tutto privata potesse capitare nelle mani del maestro o notaio da cui fu formata la nostra raccolta” [I do not doubt that this document is fiction, not only because of the stylistic reasons I mentioned above but also because it appears strange that a completely private letter could end up in the hands of the teacher or notary who prepared this collection of letters] (229). Davidhson instead believes that Brunetto’ father wrote this letter (Robert Davidsohn, Forschungen zur älteren Geschichten von Florenz [Berlin: Mittler, 1908] IV, 149 and 153). Francesco Maggini ( La “Rettorica” italiana di Brunetto Latini [Firenze: Galetti e Cocci, 1912] 18) and Gianfranco Contini (Poeti del Duecento, vol. II [Milano: Ricciardi, 1960] 169-172) also believe in the authenticity of the letter.
8 Sundby (9) and others after him make a reference to the chronicle of Brunetto’s contemporary Ricordano Malespini (Storia fiorentina di Ricordano Malispini col seguito di Giacotto Malispini dalla edificazione di Firenze sino all’anno 1286, ridotta a miglior lezione e con annotazioni illustrata da Vincenzo Follini [Firenze: Stamperia di Niccolo Carli, 1816] 139) that Brunetto was already in Florence or in its vicinity at the time, he received the news. In fact, Malespini lists some prominent families that had to leave Florence after Montaperti. In this list appears also Brunetto and his family. It is noteworthy that Brunetto is the only individual mentioned by name. With regard to Brunetto, Malespini also stated that when the Guelphs were defeated at Montaperti Brunetto’s diplomatic mission was completed. From this, Sundby infers that by the time of the battle Brunetto had just arrived in Florence and that he left it immediately after the Guelphs’ defeat (9). Del Lungo, however, believes that this interpretation is not accurate (“Alla biografia di ser Brunetto Brunetto contributo di documenti per Isidoro del Lungo,” Della vita e delle opere di Brunetto Latini [Firenze: Successori Le Monnier, 1884] 212). For him, the reference to “Ser Brunetto Latini” is a way to indicate his family and not him personally. Peter Armour has gracefully shared with me that he considers Malaspini an unreliable source.
9 Zannoni also refers to Malespini: “Il Malaspini [sic] noverando le famiglie di questi fuggitivi per sesti, giunto a quelle del sesto della porta del Duomo nomina Ser Brunetto Latini e i suoi. E poichè, come sopra è detto, quando avvenne la rotta di monte Aperti [sic] non era ancora compiuta l’ambascieria, convien credere che Brunetto, il quale uscì di patria con gli altri Guelfi, tornato vi fosse nel tempo brevissimo, che corse da essa rotta alla partenza di loro” [Malespini, counting the families of the fugitives according to their neighborhood, having reached those of the neighborhood of the Cathedral’s Gate, names Ser Brunetto Latini and his own. And since, as I said before, when the defeat of Montaperti happened his diplomatic visit [to Spain] was not completed yet, it is suitable to believe that Brunetto, who left his homeland with the other Guelphs, had returned during the very brief time that passed between that defeat and their expatriation] (Il Tesoretto e il Favoletto [Firenze: Giuseppe Molini, 1824] XIII).
10 Zannoni points out that Brunetto may have fictionalized in the text the episode of Roncesvalles just as he fictionalized everything else. He writes:

Non dissimulo qui un passo del Tesoretto , nel quale asserisce il Latini, di aver avuto notizia della rotta di monte Aperti nel piano di Roncesvalle da uno scolaro che venia da Bologna, e di aver perduto per lo dolore di tanta disavventura il cammino, e d’essersi tenuto alla traversa d’una selva. Ma quale autorità potrà aver mai un poeta che finge di smarrirsi in una boscaglia e di ritrovare in sul vicin monte la Natura, che d’assai cose lo istruisce, a confronto d’uno storico, che visse nel medesimo tempo, che fu Guelfo, e che insieme con gli altri di sua parte uscì di Firenze?
[I do not deny here a passage on the Tesoretto in which Brunetto states that he had received the news of the defeat of Montaperti in the valley of Roncesvalles from a scholar from Bologna and also that he lost his path because of the sorrow of such a disgrace and proceeded on the right hand side of a wood. But what kind of authority could a poet ever have who pretends to get lost in a wood, find Natura on the top of a close by mountain, a figure who instructs him about quite a few things, as opposed to a historian who lived at the same time, who was a Guelph, and who together with the other members of his party had to leave Florence?] (XV).
11 Morse’s following observation on truth and convention is particularly useful to illustrate the roots of my skepticism in assuming that Brunetto’s statement that he was in Roncesvalles is the truth: “The tension between correspondence to events which had actually, verifiably, occurred and the sophisticated convention of signs for their depiction reveals certain contradictions between what authors say they do, and what they do in practice. At the simple level ‘truth’ means something at least as much like ‘exemplary’ or ‘representative’ as it does ‘what really happened as far as it can be ascertained.’ ‘Evidence’ can be moral rather than actual. ‘Accuracy’ is one of a number of competing values and may be variously defined” (Ruth Morse, Truth and Convention in the Middle Ages. Rhetoric, Representation, and Reality [ Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991] 180).
12 We have love poetry by Brunetto. This love poetry might be the poetical production Brunetto turned away from when he was exiled. Peter Armour offered a recent interpretation of Brunetto’s love song “S’eo sono distretto inamoratamente” within the frame of the issue of sodomy (“The Love of Two Florentines: Brunetto Latini and Bondie Dietaiuti,” Lectura Dantis 9 [1991]: 11-34). Otherwise Brunetto's love poetry received minimal attention and is dismissed as mediocre. Dante is the first of reader to downplay Brunetto’s lyric in the De vulgari eloquentia (I. xiii.1).

VISUALIZING BRUNETTO LATINI'S TESORETTO IN EARLY TRECENTO FLORENCE

CATHERINE HARDING, UNIVERSITY OF VANCOUVER, CANADA


{ I n the course of the thirteenth- and fourteenth centuries, writers and readers were presented with a rapid multiplication of texts that required the invention of new visual imagery: the most famous examples in the Trecento are Dante’s Commedia and Boccaccio’s Decameron . /1 Our interest is heightened further when a text is illustrated rarely, or one time only. Such is the case with the only extant illustrated manuscript of Brunetto Latini’s Tesoretto (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, Strozzi 146) from the early Trecento./2 This particular exemplar features a cycle of imagery that was carefully planned in relation to the text. The interplay of words, illustrations, and initial lettering across the pages of Strozzi 146 is rich and complex, demonstrating that late medieval Italian readers were as adept as their northern European counterparts at negotiating the page with its ‘systemic rivalries’. /3

Strozzi 146 apparently belongs to a new type of book, the so-called ‘courtly reading book,’ which emerged in Italy during the thirteenth century. /4 Petrucci describes it accordingly: made of parchment, of careful manufacture and medium-small format (height between 230 and 240 mm), without any apparatus or commentary, and written in gotica textualis by a scribe of notably professional level. /5 Strozzi 146 shares all of these features; it is 243 mm high x 168 mm. The high legibility of gotica textualis has been associated with the emergence of silent reading practices for the lay reader in late medieval Italy. /6

It should be stated at the outset, however, that our labels for the many variations in illustrated Italian books of this period are rather imprecise, particularly when a key factor, that of relative systems of value, is introduced to the discussion. For example, Luisa Miglio describes the Specchio umano or Libro del Biadaiolo by the Florentine author and grain-merchant Domenico Lenzi, datable to the late 1330s, as a ‘deluxe, bourgeois’ book, because of its rather unusual mix of illustrations with heavy opaque color, one decorated initial, lists of grain prices, poetry and prose sections in a register-book format. /7 Since Strozzi 146 only possesses pen-and-ink drawings with traces of ink wash shading, would it be described as a deluxe or medium-cost book? One source, the record of the Perugian gabella [duty paid on goods brought into the city] of 1379, indicates that ‘books of Dante and the like’ were considered to be in a category of their own compared to the pricing of ecclesiastical, law or grammar books. /8 Once illustrations were added to Strozzi 146, the shift from unadorned to adorned page would have ensured that the book was prized in a variety of ways: as a work of moral and ethical instruction, as a literary work indicative of its author Brunetto Latini, as well as being a carefully produced illustrated exemplar that could be compared with other ‘grades’ of book in the household. /9

Petrucci links the emergence of the new categories of book with a new type of book-owner: he describes merchants and artisans who ‘bought [books] for themselves, preferring works in volgare of devotional-moral, literary-fantastic, rhetorical-historical, or even a technical nature’. /10 Strozzi 146 belongs to the category of didactic, moralizing literature written in volgare. Examples such as the Tesoretto or Specchio umano prompt us to reflect on key issues, such as public versus private reading, readers who briefly skim a text or read intensively (slowly, carefully, one book over and over), /11 and the corporate or shared use of books between one or more individuals. /12 Was an illustrated book like the Specchio umano designed to be shared in public, at Lenzi’s business table in Orsanmichele? The first framed image in the Specchio shows Lenzi writing at his business table, surrounded by his wares and the instruments of his profession. /13 Surely his book must have also contributed to the ennoblement of the author’s home and attested to his level of acculturation. It seems reasonable to assume that Strozzi 146 was commissioned to be used and displayed at home, simply because it fits most clearly into the category of book we imagine a reader contemplating in the private realm. Even if the evidence from this period is limited, we must continue to search for accurate definitions of ‘courtly reading’ books, or bourgeois books, as well as identifying the relative values of illustrated books, and the diverse ways that books functioned in Trecento society.

Brunetto’s current fame is linked primarily to his contributions to pre-humanistic politics and rhetoric, and as a model of the visionary poet for his ‘pupil’ Dante. /14 According to Charles Davis, Brunetto’s writings stressed the importance of education for the general public, and rhetorical education in particular for elite males running the affairs of urban centers like Florence. /15 The Tesoretto, the encyclopedic Trésor, and its volgare translation, the Tesoro, were designed to make knowledge appealing to laypeople. /16 Brunetto’s younger contemporary, Giovanni Villani, for instance, remembered him as: ‘a great philosopher and a consummate master of rhetoric....he was the master who first taught refinement to the Florentines...’. /17 The Tesoretto is written in simple rhyming couplets, and would have been relatively easy to memorize and recite. /18 The simplicity of the rhyme may explain why literary scholars relegate the Tesoretto to the less exalted category of didactic, ‘municipal’ literature, a category coined by Dante and still upheld in anthologies of Italian Trecento literature. /19 The poem presents an explanation of the nature of celestial and terrestial features of the cosmos, the necessity for moral and ethical training, penitence and conversion in a man’s life, the significance of an ongoing search for knowledge and self-development within the context of history. /20

Scholars point to the importance of the Tesoretto because it also demonstrates Brunetto’s interest in re-working the mode of allegory common in France during the 1260s. /21 Some of the major sources that he used in the Tesoretto and Trésor/Tesoro are: the Ethics of Aristotle; Cicero’s Offices and Laelius, (On Friendship) ; the Remedia amoris of Ovid; the Liber de Regimine Civitatum of Giovanni da Viterbo; Alain of Lille’s Anticlaudianus and De Planctu Naturae ; as well as the allegorical tradition of the Roman de la Rose. /22 According to Smith, scholarly evaluations of the poem suffer because of the tendency to compare it with the larger Trésor . He is adamant that the poem is not an abridged or even ‘surrogate’ encyclopedia, as some scholars suggest. /23 Literary scholars point out that Brunetto’s vision poem is filled with contrasts and ironies, and key epistemological questions: the poet’s journey presents the gradual enlightenment of the protagonist in natural and moral philosophy, in Christian virtue, and love. /24

The poem’s conclusion will be discussed in greater detail below, but Brunetto possibly intended to conclude the work with a treatise on the liberal arts, as suggested in the poem’s last few lines which trail off inconclusively. Brunetto’s use of the palinodic form at the end of the Tesoretto seems purposeful. Late medieval authors such as Uc de Saint Circ, Fra Guittone d’Arezzo, and Dante, all made use of the palinode as a form signaling their authorial decision to ‘sing again’, to recant, to retract their earlier thoughts on a particular subject, or to reflect an unfolding process of education’. /25 Scholars stress that the palinode is a rhetorical device, rather than a true expression of an author’s experience: the form works especially well for authors interested in establishing ‘an identification between author and first-person speaker...’. /26 Smith argues that Brunetto’s poem was conceived as a didactic work for the layperson, which ‘imposes limits on the range of his poetry and allegory, but as compensation ... [offers] a vision of a genuine sense of concrete historical reality, both in the ensenhamen and in the autobiographical presence of the author, who appears before us at a particular point in time and space’. /27 No one to date has noted how the palinode and its accompanying images contributes to the vivid sense of the author/self in the poem.

This study will examine how an illustrated book like Strozzi 146 fits into our existing knowledge of late medieval reading practices in Europe. The recent study by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton and Denise Despres demonstrates that some medieval texts were designed to be ‘performative, self-reflexive, and ...dissenting’. /28 I will be arguing here that the images in Strozzi 146 convey the idea of renovatio for a late medieval reader, in a pictorial vision that is forward-looking, questioning, self-perfective and performative. My study will examine how the overall structure of the cycle works to shape the reader’s movement through this one manuscript of the Tesoretto. Restrictions of space necessitate that I am only able to present the broad thematic structure of the poem, and note how key images within each part are visualized. The physical layout of Strozzi 146 exhibits a clear sense of the links between poetic-making visionary activity and the sense of a journey through the forms in the manuscript. From prologue to palinode, the visual images clearly heighten a reader’s experience of the text.

THE MANUSCRIPT

Strozzi 146 has been dated on paleographical grounds to the early fourteenth century; the visual evidence supports approximate dates of 1310 to 1325. /29 The artist of the manuscript is anonymous (dal Poggetto is the first to call him the Master of the Tesoretto ), with no other work by this artist having survived. /30 Although the figures display expressive, convincing poses and gestures, and the compositions possess a sense of monumentality, other features of the images, such as the confused handling of perspective, or places where the horses are drawn with less assurance, might suggest the work of a scribe-artist rather than a highly-trained professional. /31 The overall production of the manuscript would have been supervised by a director of a scriptorium, or a cartolaio who acted as an intermediary between patron and craftspeople. /32 The generic term ‘designer’ is used here to designate whoever was responsible for the overall production of Strozzi 146: the individual or team responsible for the final form of the manuscript clearly knew the poem exceptionally well.

The text of Strozzi 146 occupies the same space throughout the codex, 28-29 lines each in double columns, with generous margins left at the bottom of each page. Thus, the artist’s task was simplified considerably, for the images could be drawn on the available space left on each recto or verso, ensuring that close connections were made between text and image throughout the manuscript. The images themselves are simple shaded line drawings, with occasional traces of color, and without elaborate backdrops or decorated framing elements (they are surrounded in all but one case by rough double lines done in ink). /33 As a result of the simplicity of the images, the reader is presented with the essential shape of an episode, seen against the plain, empty space of the manuscript page, as if to ensure the meditative and mnemonic potential of the images.

The images appear to model a visionary ordinatio, emphasizing in particular the body of the poet and the motif of the journey of self-knowledge and discovery. The reader is asked at various points, both in the text and in the cycle of images, to contemplate certain ‘historical’ images, such as when Latini learns of the Guelf defeat at Montaperti in 1260, an event which resulted in his exile from Florence for six years. At other times, the reader must imagine a visionary, ‘abstract’ space, as when the Poet is being taught by Lady Nature. The performativity and self-reflexivity of the medieval reading process is made apparent in the way that the artist draws our attention to the ever-present body of the poet, Brunetto Latini, who appears in nearly every frame of the image cycle. Throughout the poem, the poet assumes a distinctive and repetitive set of bodily positions that seem to underscore his inbred sense of restraint, of moderation and moral goodness. /34 Read overall, the images convey an impression of the poet who is capable of operating within the realm of action, as when he encounters the realm of the Virtues, all the while exhibiting a deep sense of constancy and reserve. The manuscript seems to proclaim Latini’s excellence of mind and nobility of outward form. However, twice in the cycle, the gestures of his hands and arms ‘open up’: first when he is speaking with Ovid about love’s remedy, and then again at the end, when he meets Ptolemy on Mount Olympus. Perhaps because the poses and gestures of his body are so similar and so repetitive, allowing the reader to identify the poet, and by extension, stimulating the reader’s own internal reactions to the various questions raised by the central issues in the poem, these moments of bodily expansion and openness help to convey the notion of internal upheaval and conversion, as part of the poem’s allegorical process.

In emphasizing the performative aspect of this manuscript, I wish to draw attention to how the text, illustration and initial letters interact in the visual layout of the page. Runte’s work on the early manuscripts of Chrétien de Troyes demonstrates how initials, as structural markers, can shape the readings of these romances’. /35 No one to date has noticed how the layout of initials on the pages of Strozzi 146 work as ‘enabling’ dividers. At times they signal a shift in the dialogue between narrator and characters in the poem, or they may underscore an important point, and otherwise help to retain the reader’s attention throughout. It should be noted how frequently the initials are used to begin lines with simple connective phrases such as ‘and so’; ‘therefore’; ‘thus’, etc.. The irregularity of the textual divisions presented by the initials reminds us of the performativity of the reading process, at a time when readers used both oral and silent forms of reading and recitation. /36 The initials are clearly an important feature of the written page, providing places for a person to pause for breath in oral recitation, or perhaps reflect in silent meditative reading at significant places in the text — in short, to assist the active, hermeneutical dialogue of reading described so vividly by scholars such as Carruthers, Saenger, and more recently, Kerby-Fulton and Despres. /37

This manuscript offers us a chance to contemplate the intricate workings of memory and tradition, of remembrance and oblivion, for, as noted above, the Tesoretto was illustrated this one time only, although there are sixteen extant copies of the poem from the fourteenth- and fifteenth centuries. /38 In this sense, then, we might describe the imagery of Strozzi 146 as ‘dissenting’, based on the probable dating of the manuscript to the second decade of the fourteenth century. Could the focus on the poet’s noble body in this manuscript have been fashioned in response to some of the negative features of Dante’s portrait of Ser Brunetto in Inferno XV of the Commedia? /39 Francesco da Barberino alludes to the Inferno in his poetry, indicating that the first part of the Commedia was beginning to circulate in the second half of 1314. /40 A recent study reminds us that memory may enable new image production – indeed, images often precipitate, shape and consolidate memory: were there competing memories of this author, notary, and statesman abroad in Florence? /41 Until we are able to date Strozzi 146 with more precision, the idea that these images represent an alternative view of Brunetto Latini designed to counter Dante’s view of him in Inferno XV, remains mere speculation.

THEMES AND IMAGES

In studying comparative examples of texts with new visual imagery from the period, we observe a common difficulty: the identification of specific models employed by artists. Gillerman, for instance, maintains that the artists of various exemplars of the Commedia looked to contemporary monumental wall painting for ‘compositional formulae, iconographical types, ... [as well as] a narrative mode derived from late antique Roman sources’, such as the images found in the Vatican Virgil. /42 Dal Poggetto suggests that the images in Strozzi 146 were based on an earlier, now-lost prototype designed by Brunetto himself before his death in 1294, noting that some of the images appear to re-work patterns found in late thirteenth-century pictorial models. /43 Manuscripts of both the Commedia and the Tesoretto share certain elements: the use of a framed panel, limited stage space, how major elements are arranged in the scenes, the constant presence of the poet/ protagonist, and the quality of the rhetorical gestures. It is possible, as dal Poggetto indicates, that Strozzi 146 influenced the Florentine canon of imagery for the Commedia. The artist/ designer of our manuscript appears to have studied both miniatures and wall paintings ranging from the 1290s to the 1320s.

Within the overall cycle of image, we can designate certain sub-sets of pictures that demarcate the main themes of the poem. The images are clustered in the following way:

I. Prologue with author portrait and Brunetto’s embassy to the King of Spain (2).
II. Main Text with the message of exile (1); the poet’s journey to and including the meeting with Lady Nature (8); the poet continues on his journey (1); the court of the cardinal virtues (2); the encounter between the Poet, Knight and Largesse, Courtesy, Loyalty, and Valor (4); the court of Love (3).
III. Palinode with the poet and his friend (1); the friend meets Death (1), Ser Brunetto’s repentance (1); the journey resumes again and the poet meets Ptolemy (1).
The idea of the journey is conveyed by the appearance and re-appearances of Ser Brunetto riding his horse, an action which occurs five times in the pictorial cycle; the poem mentions that he moves from Florence to Spain, from Roncesvalles to Montpellier, and finally, on to Mount Olympus.

Beginning with the prologue of the poem (lines 1-113), the textual unit is accompanied by two images on folios 1r and 1 v. On folio 1r we see the author-portrait of Brunetto Latini seated at his desk, inkpot and bound books lie scattered on its surface (figure 1). He passes a bound volume to another figure on the right. We sense immediately how the persons responsible for the manuscript’s visualization had to plan this first visual unit with care, following the traditional custom of employing an author portrait to assert the authorship and individuality of the text. In an important study of author-portraits within the manuscript tradition of the Roman de la Rose, Hult differentiates some of the different actions used to depict the authors of this romance: authors may be shown seated at a desk writing, following a venerable tradition based on representations of the biblical Evangelists; the author, or perhaps, a reader may be seated at a desk reading; two author/scribes may copy different manuscripts within the same frame; an author may read to a crowd; or an author may hand his book to another person. /44 Whereas some of the Rose manuscripts feature images of an author passing his book to another to underscore the continuity between Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, here the idea of Brunetto as teacher of the Florentine people is highlighted. The idea of the author transmitting his book to the people is alluded to with the inclusion of the word ‘laicus’ beside the head of the person receiving the work. /45 This individual is shown in slightly smaller scale than Ser Brunetto, grasping the bound volume in his two hands. As befits the start of the prologue, line 1 features a decorated initial ‘ { A ’, which has been partitioned into colored patterns; the body of the poem relies on alternating red and blue letters that span two lines for major divisions of the poem. Apart from the first ‘A’ there are no other textual divisions of the prologue.

The next image depicts Ser Brunetto at the court of the King of Spain, an image which resonates closely with lines 70-75 of the prologue, ‘Io, burnetto latino/.../ a voi mi raccommando/ poi vi presento e mando questo ricco tesoro/ (I, Brunetto Latini, ..., to you I beg, then I present and send to you this rich Treasure)’ (figure 2). Interestingly, the book is not visualized here: rather, the artist depicts Latini on a diplomatic mission to Alfonso X, King of Spain, who is shown with his guard of honor: Latini has dismounted and gone down on bended knee, while a page holds his horse. The artist has also depicted the two most important figures in the scene, the King and the poet, in a larger scale than the two servants, a feature that will appear in many scenes throughout the cycle.

The text proper of the poem begins at line 114, folio 2r, with a two-line height blue ‘ L ’. On this page we are witness to Ser Brunetto’s moment when he learns of his exile from Florence. He is shown riding his horse and attended by a servant carrying his belongings; he learns of the disastrous turn of events from a scholar mounted on ‘the bay mule,’ a detail mentioned in the poem (figure 3). We must assume that the scholar is of some importance, for he is shown in the same scale as Ser Brunetto. However, the two men are distinguished by their different garments, and the presence of the servant behind Ser Brunetto may help to establish his social superiority.

The first division of the text proper of the poem occurs after thirty lines, starting at the opening initial ‘L’. The next large initial is a red ‘V’ , used to draw attention to the line announcing the poet’s journey through a valley near Navarre: ‘ V enendo per la valle/ del piano di roncisvalle/ (Coming through the valley of the plain of Roncesvalles).’ The next division, a letter ‘E’, occurs overleaf on folio 2r, and marks a moment of prophecy, which will find its resolution shortly, beginning at line 163: ‘ Ed io, ponendo cura/ tornai a la natura/ c’audivi dir che tene/ ongn’uom c’al mondo vene/ (And, becoming sorrowful, I returned to the nature that I have heard is possessed by every man coming into the world),’ an interior conversation that helps to foreshadow his conversation with Lady Nature. In accordance with the poem’s use of a specific point in time and space, the designer of the cycle apparently chose to set the first three images in historical time; the reader is reminded of the contemporary events of the poet’s biography, and the forces that have set the journey of self-discovery in motion.

The poem continues on for a further sixty-eight lines unmarked, and when the next large initial, an ‘O’, is used at line 230, it helps the reader return to the narrating voice of the poet: ‘ O nd’io ponendo mente/ All’ alto convenente/ (Therefore, I, considering the lofty dignity...).’ A further fifty-two lines takes us to a large initial ‘M’, this time to mark another moment requiring emphasis in the poem, at the moment when Lady Nature turns to look at the poet in line 283: ‘ M a poi ch’ella mi vide/ La sua cera che ride/ Inver’di me si volse/ (But after she saw me she turned toward me that smiling face).’ The narrative in this part of the poem also shifts from ‘real’ time to a focus on the poet’s internal state, which is full of affect, and in this, the pictures do not convey the complexity of Ser Brunetto’s interior state. He is described in line 186 as moving through the land full of anguish, thinking with head downcast: ‘E io in tal corrocto/ pensando a capo chino/ perdei il gran cammino/ e tenni a la traversa/ d’una selva diversa/ (And I, in such anguish, thinking with head downcast, lost the great highway and took the crossroad through a strange wood),’ to enter eventually into the world of Lady Nature. These moments of emotion and traveling are conveyed through the combined force of words and images: at the bottom of the page we see Ser Brunetto riding on his horse and raising his hands as if to indicate Lady Nature, who is seated at the right, resplendent amidst a ‘great crowd of different living things’ (figure 4). The image here is full of rich details, clearly inspired by Biblical imagery of creation, some of which are not mentioned in the poem: plants, fish, birds, animals, and humans, the sun, moon and starry realm shown behind her head. By folio 3v, we can see just how closely and carefully the artist has interpreted lines 236-240: ‘Ebbi proponimento/ di fare un ardimento/ per gire in sua presenca/ con dengna reverença/ (I firmly resolved to pluck up my courage to come into her presence with proper reverence).’ The artist conveys this notion of reverence and awe before Lady Nature: the poet is shown with his arms folded across the upper part of his chest. In all, six images in this section of the manuscript show the poet displaying his body and hands in various poses of reverence and awe before his instructress; she is always shown seated in a pose of great majesty.

We find a parallel use of the gesture of arms folded across the chest in monumental paintings of the early Trecento: Barasch reminds us that Giotto made effective use of the same motif in wall paintings, as in the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple at the Arena Chapel, or the Raising of Drusiana in the Peruzzi Chapel./46 He notes the connection of this gesture with the priest’s posture when receiving the Eucharist in early Christian times. The gesture apparently persisted through the ages, for a late twelfth-century didactic poem tells us that believers used it to indicate their need for repentance, humility and forgiveness. /47 The dominant impression of Ser Brunetto in this section is one of inward dignity and reverence, certainly not the conflicted representation of the damned sodomite found in Guido da Pisa’s illustrated Commentary on Dante’s Inferno, now in the Musée Condé, Chantilly, and analyzed recently by Camille. /48

In this part of the manuscript, both individuals employ hand gestures that indicate their response to one another: Lady Nature can carefully enumerate the points of a discussion, using her ‘speaking hands’, although it may be hard to know exactly what moment of speech is being represented (figures 4-11). /49 For instance, on folio 6v, her right hand gestures upwards towards the heavens (figure 8). As she does this, the poet falls on his knees. /50 Or, as on folio 10r, she spreads her arms open expansively to indicate the vastness of the ocean, with the Pillars of Hercules at the mouth of the Mediterranean (figure 10). In the final scene of this unit, the poet adopts a pose of proskynesis to kiss the feet of his lady, to underscore lines 1171-79 in the poem which state: ‘E io gecchitamente/ ricevetti il presente/ la’ nsengna che mi diede/ poi le lasciai lo piede/ e mercé le chiamai/ ch’ella m’avesse omai./ per suo accomandato/ (And I humbly received the present, the badge she gave to me, then I kissed her feet, and cried out for the mercy that she till now had shown me through her advice)’ (figure 11). The large initial letters in the rest of the dialogue with Lady Nature appear to be used when the reader/ Poet is addressed directly, as on folio 3v, ‘ A te dico (I say to you),’ or with coordinating conjunctions, as evidenced in the frequent use of: ‘ P oi (then)’;’ B en dico veramente (truly I say)’, to move the reader on through the poem.

We are reminded of the nature of the journey with the motif of the poet riding his horse set against the blank background of the parchment page (figure 12). The artist has not indicated anything of the background, perhaps because lines 1183-89 state ‘O r va mastro burnetto/ per lo cammino stretto/ cercando di vedere/ e toccare e sapere/ ciò ch’elgli é destinato/ e non fuit guari andato/ ch’i’ fui ne la diserta / (Now goes Master Brunetto, along the narrow path, seeking to see, and touch and know, what is destined for him. And I had not gone for long when I was in a desert).’ The visual sense of the emptiness of his movement in space is strengthened by the bleak words that follow in lines 1198-1200: ‘quivi nonn’a viaggio/ quivi nonn’a persone/ quivi nonn’a magione/ (There was no travel, there were no people, there was no dwelling). Again, the larger initials help the narrative flow and mark the reader’s identification with the poet-protagonist: they are found at line 1183: ‘ O r va mastro burnetto (Now goes Master Brunetto),’ and then again in line 1205 when we learn about his interior state: ‘ E io, pensando forte...(And I thinking hard).’

The next sequence is focused on Brunetto’s presence at the court of the cardinal virtues – the artist has created a double image in which the poet’s body is noticeably absent. We must turn from 12r to 12 verso to complete the reading of the cardinal virtues: the image shows Prudence in the center of the image, flanked by Virtue and Temperance, or Measure, then overleaf, the images of Fortitude and Justice (figures 13 and 14). The poet makes continual reference to his own action of seeing, as the field of vision shifts to encompass the next object of his attention, which begins on folio 13r: the witnessing of the conversations between the Knight and the four daughters of Justice: Largesse, Courtesy, Loyalty and Valor. He states in line 1365-67: ‘Ch’io vidi largheazza/ mostrar con gran pianezza/ ad un bel cavalero/ (I saw Generosity showing with great clarity to a handsome knight).’ The initials, too, underscore the poet’s actions, as in line 1263: ‘ E io c’avea volere (And I, who had the desire);’ line 1300: ‘ P oi vidi immantenente (Then I saw suddenly);’ or line 1305, ‘ E partendomi un poco (And parting a little).’

In these four scenes the poet acts rather like the figure of St John the Evangelist in Apocalypse manuscripts: he stands in a pose of reverence, with the same gestures of folding his arms across his chest in an attitude of devotion, or with his right arm raised in a rhetorical gesture that emphasizes his dignity. /51 The Knight stands beside him and receives instruction from the four enthroned figures of the virtues, all of whom look remarkably similar and suggest the use of the same pattern sheet on the artist’s part (figures 15-18). In the case of Largesse, Courtesy, Loyalty, the poses of the bodies are remarkably similar, and their hands seem to be raised in almost identical gestures of teaching or declamation. Valor, by contrast, carries her shield and mace (figure 18). The Knight moves through a series of bodily movements: from arms open and elbows down by his side, which is used twice, or, we see his arms folded across his chest, and finally, still with his arms held down by his side, holding his right hand near his heart and the left hand open. Even the Knight seems to share in the general gravity of the encounters. /52

We then learn, that the Knight has abandoned his journey of instruction to return to fighting (here a large initial starts line 2167 when Valor instructs him to leave), whilst the Poet carries on to the next stage of his journey. Another large initial is used to signal a key shift taking place within the poet-protagonist: we learn at line 2251 that the poet has found encouragement to proceed forward on the journey after a period of doubt and confusion. This time his path takes him to the court of love: he is not shown on his horse but instead walks across a bridge (figure 19). Brownlee indicates that Latini studied the section on love and the figure of Ovid in the Roman de la Rose for the composition of his poem, yet ultimately corrected and dismissed the French model in favor of an emphasis on ethics, morality and a greater religious perspective. /53 In particular, Brunetto’s reaction to love differs from the French models: for our poet, the experience is predominantly negative. Love from the heart (‘l’amor corale,’ line 2334) is an ‘untranscendent desire for corporeal delight’. /54 In the first image of this thematic unit on love, Ser Brunetto is shown in larger scale than the other figures, as if he is viewing the field of love with its diverse occupants from a great height – as the poem states in lines 2221-14: ‘Or veggio case e torre/ L’un giace e l’altro corre/ l’un fugga e l’altro caccia/ chi sta e chi procaccia/ (Now I see houses and towers; one person lies down, the other runs; one flees, the other chases; one stays, the other procures)’, a description which is closely mimicked in the accompanying illustration. In the next folio, he is shown, again in a larger scale than the other figures, in a pose of asking questions from a group of four diminutive figures who stand before him, echoing the type of ‘question and answer’ format within the poem itself (figure 20). /55 In lines 2228-35, Ser Brunetto asks four flying cupids in passing (shown in the manuscript simply as four standing diminutive figures): ‘E trovai quattro fanti/ C’andanvan trabattendo/ E io c’ongnora attendo/ Assaper veritate de le cose passate/ pregai per cortesia/ che sostasser la via/ per dirmi il convenente/ (And I found four cupids who went flying around. And I who always wait to know the truth about things that happen prayed them for courtesy that they stop on their way to tell me what was useful)’. He learns that he is looking at the figure of Amor, together with four figures seated below, who are manifestations of the different aspects of love: Fear, Desire, Love and Hope. On folios 21r and 21v the scribe has used four large initials in close proximity, sometimes with only six lines of rhyme grouped together, as if to draw attention to the effects of these four negative aspects of love. One of the large initial letters is used to indicate a shift in the action of the poem, away from Ser Brunetto’s thoughts on love, to the last part of the sequence, namely, his meeting with Ovid (line 2357). Turning the page overleaf, we find an image of Brunetto with his arms spread wide open, apparently being instructed by Ovid. If we were in any doubt about the identity of this figure, the marginal writing next to this figure identifies him for us, ‘Ovidio filosofo che fece libri d’amore (the philosopher Ovid who wrote books of love)’ (figure 21). In response to Brunetto’s request for advice about the nature of love (lines 2363-2371), Ovid tells him to study in himself both the good and the evil effects of love. The poet/protagonist is only able to be freed from love’s domination and reoriented upon the right path after the ‘correction’ by Ovid (lines 2388-93). In this sense, Brunetto’s outstretched arms may illustrate a disturbance in his interior state, suggested in lines 2382-93: ‘Io non mutai di loco/ credendomi fuggire/ ma non potti partire/ ch’io v’era sì’nvescato/ che già da nullo lato/ potea mutar lo passo/ così fui giunto lasso/ e messo in mala parte/ ma Ovidio per arte/ mi diede maestria/ sì ch’io trovai la via/ ond’io mi traffugai (I did not move from the place though I thought to flee; But I could not depart, because I was so entangled that now in no direction could I move my steps and so I was hit, alas and put in a bad predicament. But Ovid through artistry gave me the mastery so that I found the way from which I had strayed)’.

Although the debate about love amongst Italian poets is much too complex to discuss here adequately, we should note the richness of authorial and/or artistic responses to visualizing the theme at this time in Florence, and assess where the image of Ser Brunetto contemplating the God of Love on his column fits within the visual tradition. /56 In a late thirteenth-century illustrated canzoniere (Florence, Bibl. Naz. Centrale, Banco Rari 217), we see an image of the lover on hands and knees being ridden by Cupid, who holds a bridle in one hand, and a whip in the other. The picture is juxtaposed with a canzone by Guido delle Colonne in which he bemoans a long and fruitless love-service. /57 Based probably on the verbal and visual traditions from the Lai d’Aristote which show Aristotle being ridden by his mistress Phyllis, the image shows Love as seeing and not blind. His wings are speckled with pen strokes indicating feathers, a feature that is also copied in Strozzi 146, and underscores the connection between these two manuscripts. In this image, we are presented with a narrative scene that exemplifies the dangers of love-service, and stresses the poet’s humiliation.

This type of image is quite different from what is employed in the manuscripts illustrating the work of Brunetto Latini and Francesco da Barberino. Indeed, the images created to illustrate their poetic works have a different focus: here the artists preferred to present Amor as a vision that appears to the poet/protagonist. The images also imply a protagonist/reader whose reaction to love is modified as a result of the encounter. Both poetic descriptions share some elements in common: they imagine the god of love as a handsome adolescent. Brunetto preferred to describe Love as blind, a feature represented in Strozzi 146, whereas, in the two manuscripts of the Documenti d’amore , Love is shown open-eyed, riding a galloping horse, winged, nude (with a strategically placed string of hearts), with taloned feet. /58 Barberino distinguished between three different types of love: divine love; the love permissible between humans; and love inspired by illicit sensual passions -- and the latter was not worthy of the trained mind. /59 The images in both poets’ work share one feature in common: diminutive figures are being hit by Love’s arrows, as if to remind the reader that the force of amor is continually being exercised in the world. In one image illustrating Francesco’s ideas on love, the figures being hit with arrows are carefully distinguished from one another, females left, males right, rising in age, height and social order from the edges towards the center of the composition. /60 According to Frojmoviƒ, Francesco’s ideas on love had been built upon an awareness of ideas from the Duecento Tuscan poets, Guido Guinizelli and Fra Guittone d’Arezzo. /61 In Strozzi 146, the three images on love convey an impression of the poet/protagonist’s interior and exterior journey for the reader, through the focus of Brunetto’s expressive (and prominent) body. The emphasis here is on correction and conversion to a higher form of understanding, as opposed to a contrast of differing states of love according to one’s placement in life, which we find in the thought of Francesco da Barberino.

PALINODE: THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

Literary scholars have had difficulty integrating the penultimate section of Strozzi 146 with the rest of the poem because of its supposed unfinished nature; dal Poggetto, for instance, argues that the pictorial cycle and words of the manuscript are centered on a tribute to Ovid, an idea that I wish to counter here. /62 It is usually argued that the poem drifts off, in the last two lines (2943-44) of the poem: ‘Ed e’ con belle risa/ rispuose in questa guisa/ (And he with beautiful laughter responded in this way)’. /63 Scholars suggest that the author lost interest in writing the final part of the poem, which would have been a discussion of the Liberal Arts, arguing that the Tesoretto formed a poetic introduction to the text of the Tesoro , making it unnecessary to finish the poem because it seemed to find its fulfillment in the more ambitious Trésor and Tesoro . /64 The complex question of the interrelationship between the two texts by Brunetto, as well as the connections between French and Italian manuscripts of the Trésor and Tesoro, certainly needs further scholarly investigation. Mazzotta describes the Trésor/Tesoro as ‘the counterpart of the Tesoretto. If the Tesoretto tells the parable of one’s own education, the Trésor, on the other hand, maps the coherence and organization of the sciences’. /65 The text-image relations in Strozzi 146 appear to be designed to illustrate the various phases in the poet-protagonist’s interior journey towards ever-increasing circles of knowledge (to adapt Giuseppe Mazzotta’s title), which find their fulfillment in Brunetto’s more ambitious works.

We know also that contemporary Tuscan authors were aware of different levels of readership in the composition of their works. The idea that the Tesoretto and the Trésor/Tesoro are related works, destined for readers of differing competencies and needs, finds a close parallel in the writings of the above-mentioned Francesco da Barberino, who wrote in volgare , possibly for a female audience, in his Reggimento e costumi de’donna . /66 Male readers, on the other hand, were presented with a complex configuration of volgare poetry, Latin translation and commentary, and pictures, as designed by the author in his Documenti d’Amore. It could be argued that the short didactic Tesoretto was conceived to appeal to a less erudite readership, whilst the Trésor/Tesoro were suited to a better-trained reader, who was prepared to study the complexities of a broader moral system, which included a full discussion of the Liberal Arts.

The evidence of the twenty-five pictures in Strozzi 146 suggests that the designer of this exemplar intended readers to see the cycle as a whole. The last four pictures in the book play with some of the sub-themes that the author introduced earlier in poem. For instance, the prologue raises questions about the possible identity of the poem’s recipient: did Brunetto write it for the King of Spain, the lay reader, or Brunetto’s friend? The last four images in Strozzi 146 seem to reinforce the playful sense of ambiguity present at the book’s outset.

The palinode begins on folio 22v with the line ‘ A l fino amico caro,’ and the page is completed by the image of two standing figures, with ‘Ser Burnetto’ indicated as a marginal inscription on the left and ‘l’amicho suo’ to the right (figure 22) . Brunetto hands his friend a copy of a text, which appears to be a scroll of parchment. Rouse has shown that northern European poets often exchanged scrolls, or strips of parchment sewn together, or even loose pages, as a prelude to circulating more complete versions of their work. /67 As we shall see below, the idea of friendship will re-appear again at the very end of Strozzi 146, in the manuscript’s concluding poem on friendship, Latini’s Favolello.

Art historians usually comment on the high artistic quality of the next image on folio 23r, showing the body of the poet’s friend felled by Death brandishing a sword and riding a dappled charger, a scene which helps to underscore the textual discussion of death’s immanence and inviolability in lines 2495-2505: ‘Dunque homo ke fai/ già torna tutto in guai/ la manaia non vedi/ c’ai tuttora a piedi/ or guarda il mondo tutto/ e fiori e folglie e fructo.../ di morte for non esce/ (Then, man, what are you doing? Already all is turned to woe; Do you not see the axe that you have always at your feet? Now look at the whole world: flower, leaves, fruit ... from death do not escape) (figure 23). Interestingly, as dal Poggetto notes, the artist juxtaposed these two scenes, which shows the friend alive at first, then lying dead on the ground, although the poem never specifically refers to his death. The image introduces a macabre note into the manuscript. Although thematically related to the idea of the Triumph of Death, this scene appears to be based more closely on images of the illustrated texts of the Apocalypse, particularly the fourth rider who is Death. /68

Next we see Brunetto making his confession to a Franciscan friar at Montpellier, reminding us that the journey is actually drawing the reader across France, and again on to a distant Mount Olympus in Greece to discover the secrets of the Liberal Arts (figure 24). Since Brunetto’s conversion to penitence is integral to the palinode, we can understand why the last section of the poem is usually distinguished in critical editions by the heading ‘La Penitenza,’ although this wording does not appear in Strozzi 146. The poem also includes a lengthy discussion of the seven deadly sins, including a condemnation of sodomy; this part of the poem is unillustrated.

The last visual image of the book depicts Brunetto’s encounter with the ancient astronomer Ptolemy. /69 This image and part of the text are crucial to our understanding of the entire poem. One last time, Brunetto has re-mounted his horse and continues on his journey. The poem mentions in lines 2903-10 that he has ascended Mount Olympus and seen the whole world from its summit: ‘ch’io vidi tutto l’mondo/ sì com’elgli è ritondo/ e tutta terra e mare/ e’l fuoco sopra l’aire/ ciò sono quattro elementi/ che sono sostenimenti/ di tutte creature/ secondo lor nature/ (For I saw the whole world, just as round as it is, and all the land and sea and fire above the air; these are the four elements, which are the sustenance of all creatures according to their nature). Ser Brunetto’s arms are spread wide, and he appears to pose a question to Ptolemy, while also indicating a cosmographical diagram of the four elements, placed in the upper margin of the lefthand side of the page, hovering above the mountainous peaks beyond (figure 25). This is the only scene which does not have a containing border, as if to underscore the openness of the continuing quest for self-knowledge.

The cycle of images in Strozzi 146 helps the reader to locate the body of the poet-protagonist throughout his journey, at times showing him in historical space and time, riding through the land. When he dismounts, the vivid rhetorical gestures and poses of his body convey the various emotional states of his interior being: moments when he seems calmly reflective and reverent, and the two moments when an inner state of confusion and questioning has prevailed. As we have seen, the text-image relations in Strozzi 146 offer us an intricate insight into the renovatio of Ser Brunetto, and by extension, a vision of the self for the reader that is always moving, searching, perfective and performative as the pages of the manuscript are turned.

BETWEEN FRIENDS: STROZZI 146 ENDS

Strozzi 146 also contains Brunetto’s poem on friendship, Il Favolello (Little Fable), featured on folios 28r - 29r. The poem is usually dismissed by literary scholars as ‘uninspired’. /70 In fact, all but one of the fourteenth-century exemplars of the Tesoretto include this short poem, suggesting that it had become ‘canonical’ in the Trecento to transcribe these works together. A potent image in the poem is that of Fortune’s turning wheel as compared to the changeability that occurs with the false friend, as in lines 72-80: ‘l’amico di ventura/ come rota si gira/ ch’ello mi pur guarda e mira/ come ventura corre/ e se mi vede porre/ in glorioso stato/ servemi di buon grato/ ma se caggio in angosce/ già non mi riconosce/ (the friend of fortune turns like a wheel, for he always watches me and reflects, as fortune turns. And if he sees me moving towards a state of glory, he serves me with good will. But if I fall down into anguish, now he does not know me)’. /71 The poet’s Ciceronian connections, well-documented in his more ambitious works, are present in the Favolello as well. /72 Cicero’s treatise On Friendship also mentions Fortune’s vicissitudes, in relation to the discernment of false and true friends: ‘Coluntur tamen simulatione dumtaxat ad tempus. Quod si forte, ut fit plerumque ceciderint tum intellegitur quam fuerint inopes amicorum...Non enim solum ipsa fortuna caeca est sed eos etiam plerumque efficit caecos quos complexa est (He may be flattered indeed by his followers... but whenever he falls, [and there are many instances of such a reverse of fortune], it will appear how totally destitute he stood of every genuine friend...Fortune indeed is not only blind herself but is apt to affect her favorites [with the same infirmity])’. /73

Strozzi 146, and the Favolello, end with the dedicatory lines to Brunetto’s friend, the comic-realist or jocose poet, Rustico di Filippo; Brunetto also mentions another good friend, the poet Palamidesse Belindotti in closing. /74 He talks in lines 155-60 about the loyalty that exists between these men, and ends with a final salutation: ‘Qui ti saluto ormai/ e quel tuo di Latino/ tien per amico fino/ a tutte le carrate/ che voi ora pesate/ (Here I salute you at this point, and your Latino, hold as a fine friend, worth all the cartloads of gold that you weigh).’ Thus, in the final pages of Strozzi 146 we are asked to ‘move’ again poetically, between beginnings and endings, and the idea that in completing the book and closing its pages, we too, like Rustico and Palamidesse, will consider the value of his ‘little’ treasure, the Tesoretto.

NOTES

Professor John Dixon Hunt has kindly consented to the co-publishing of this article which is also forthcoming in Word & Image, published by Taylor and Francis. Its material was first presented at the Canadian Conference of Medieval Art Historians in 2001; as always, I am grateful for the valuable comments made by John Osborne. Although any errors of interpretation remain my own, this work was greatly improved by the helpful suggestions of Lloyd Howard. My research would not have been possible without the financial support of the University of Victoria. I would like to thank the Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana for providing photographic reproductions and permission to reprint them.
The edition used here is by J. Bolton Holloway, Il Tesoretto (The Little Treasure) , New York and London, 1981 (hereafter=Tesoretto). This edition is based on Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, Strozzi 146, and does not modernize the original vernacular. The text of Il Tesoretto with modernized Italian is available in: Poeti del Duecento, ed. G. Contini, Milan and Naples, 1960, vol. 2, pp. 168-284, 869-74.

1 P. Brieger, M. Meiss, and C. Singleton, Illuminated Manuscripts of the Divine Comedy, Princeton, 1969, and more recently, M. Grazia Ciardi Dupré dal Poggetto, ‘Narrar Dante: attraverso le immagini: le primi illustrazione della Commedia’, in the exhibition catalogue Pagine di Dante , Milan, 1990, pp. 81-98; for the Decameron , see V. Branca, Boccaccio visualizzato , Milan,1999.
2 For a recent facsimile of the manuscript, see Brunetto Latini, Tesoretto , with contributions by G. Fini, F. Arduini, F. Mazzoni, I. Giovanna Rao, and J. Bolton Holloway, Florence, 2000.
3 S. Nichols, ‘Introduction: Philology in a Manuscript Culture’, Speculum , 65, 1990, p.7.
4 G. Folena, ‘Tradizione e cultura trobadorica nelle corti e nelle città venete’, in G. Arnaldi and M. Pastore Stocchi, eds., Storia della cultura veneta, vol. 1: Dalle origini al Trecento, Vicenza, 1976, pp.453-562, esp. pp.457-66, suggests that this type of book emerges in northern Italy.
5 A. Petrucci, ‘Reading and Writing Volgare’, in his Writers and Readers in Medieval Italy, ed. and trans. C. Radding, New Haven and London, 1995, p.181.
6 P. Saenger, ‘Silent Reading: Its Impact on Late Medieval Script and Society’, Viator , 14, 1982, pp.367-414, esp. p.410.
7 L. Miglio, ‘Considerazioni ed ipotesi sul libro 'borghese' italiano del Trecento. A proposito di un’edizione critica dello Specchio umano di Domenico Lenzi’, Scrittura e civiltá, 3, 1979, pp. 309-27. The manuscript is Florence, Bibl. Medicea-Laurenziana, Tempi 3.
8 Petrucci, ‘Reading and Writing Volgare’, p. 189.
9 For a list of comparative book prices in Florence around 1348, see F. Carabellese, ‘La Compagnia di Orsanmichele e il mercato dei libri in Firenze nel secolo XIV’, Archivio Storico Italiano, 5, XVI, 1895, pp. 267-73.
10 Petrucci, ‘Reading and Writing Volgare’, p.186.
11 As discussed by S. Hindman, Printing the Written Word, Ithaca and London, 1991, pp.13-15.
12 Miglio, ‘Considerazioni e ipotesi’, p.313.
13 For an illustration of Lenzi writing at his business table, see S. Partsch, Profane Buchmalerei der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft im spätmittelalterlichen Florenz. Der Specchio Umano des Getreidehändlers Domenico Lenzi , Worms, 1981, plate 1.
14 See F. Smith, Secular and Sacred Visionaries in the Late Middle Ages , New York and London, 1986, p. 132.
15 C. Davis, ‘Brunetto Latini and Dante’, in his Dante’s Italy , Philadelphia, 1984, pp. 166-97.
16 For a translation of a first-redaction Trésor based on a manuscript in Madrid, see The Book of the Treasure (Li Livres dou Tresor) , eds. P. Barrette and S. Baldwin, New York and London, 1993. The French text must be read in two sources: Li Livres dou Tresor par Brunetto Latini , ed. P. Chabaille, Paris, 1863, and Li Livres dou Tresor de Brunetto Latini , ed. F. Carmody, Berkeley, 1947. The Italian version is available in Il 'Tesoro' di Brunetto Latini volgarizzato da Bono Giamboni, ed. L. Gaiter, Bologna, 4 vols., 1877-83.
17 As discussed by Davis, ‘Brunetto Latini’, p. 168.
18 For the shift in oral to written culture in this period, see O. Holmes, Assembling the Lyric Self. Authorship from Troubadour Song to Italian Poetry Book , Minneapolis and London, 2000, pp.11-15.
19 For a discussion of letteratura municipale, see Il Trecento: dalla crisi dell’età comunale all’umanesimo, eds. C. Muscetta and A. Tartaro, Rome-Bari, 1972, vol. 2, pp. 519-566, and Letteratura didattica e la poesia popolare del duecento, ed. E. Pasquini, 2nd ed., Rome and Bari, 1975.
20 For the poem’s overall message, see the studies by E. Costa, ‘Il Tesoretto di Brunetto Latini e la tradizione allegorica medievale’, in Dante e le forme dell’allegoresi, ed. M. Picone, Ravenna, 1987, pp. 43-58, and G. Mazzotta, Dante’s Vision and the Circle of Knowledge, Princeton, 1993, pp. 15-33.
21 See G. Contini, ‘Un nodo della cultural medievale: la serie Roman de la Rose, Fiore, Divina Commedia’, in his Un’idea di Dante: saggi danteschi , Turin, 1976, pp. 245-83.
22 The Tesoro is no longer given to Bono Giamboni, according to C. Segre, La prosa del Duecento, Milan and Naples, 1959, pp. 311-12. Brunetto’s other major work is the Rettorica, a translation and adaptation of Cicero’s De inventione; see the edition by C. Segre, La rettorica, Florence, 1968.
23 As discussed by Smith, Secular and Sacred Visionaries, p. 135.
24 See, for instance, the comments by J. Bolton Holloway, Twice-Told Tales , New York, pp. 292-304.
25 Holmes, Assembling the Lyric Self, p. 29.
26 For discussions of the palinode in Italian lyric poetry, see Holmes, Assembling the Lyric Self, p. 115; for Dante’s use of this device, see A. R. Ascoli, ‘Palinode and History in the Oeuvre of Dante’, in Dante Now , ed. T. Cachey, Notre Dame and London, 1995, p.159.
27 Smith, Secular and Sacred Visionaries, p. 141.
28 K. Kerby-Fulton and D. Despres, Iconography and the Professional Reader. The Politics of Book Production in the Douce Piers Plowman , Minneapolis, 1999, p.8.
29 As suggested by B. Degenhart and A. Schmitt, Corpus der italienischen Zeichnungen 1300-1450, Teil I: Süd -und Mittelitalien, 4 vols., Berlin, 1968, vol.1, pp. 40-1; Partsch, Profane Buchmalerei, p. 92, and Maria Grazia Ciardi Dupré dal Poggetto, ‘Nuove ipotesi di lavoro scaturite dal rapporto testo-immagine nel “Tesoretto” di Brunetto Latini’, Rivista di Storia della Miniatura, 1-2, 1996-97, pp. 89-98. Most authors note the connection of imagery between Strozzi 146 and the manuscripts of Francesco da Barberino, datable to c.1314-15; for Francesco da Barberino, see his Documenti d’Amore , ed. F. Egidi, 4 vols, Rome, 1902-25.
30 Although we have no way of proving this hypothesis, dal Poggetto, ‘Nuove ipotesi’, p. 94, argues that the twenty-five images in this manuscript were based on an earlier, no longer extant exemplar from the last few years before Brunetto’s death in 1294, in part because of a desire to see the shaping hand of the poet himself on the illustration of the poem. For a recent overview of illuminators’ workshop in Florence that does not accord equal treatment to secular miniature painting, see Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence 1300-1450, eds. L. Kantner, B. Boehm et al., exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994.
31 For a similarly gifted scribe-artist, see my study of Opicinus de Canistris: ‘Opening to God: the Cosmographical Diagrams of Opicinus de Canistris’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte , 61, 1998, pp. 18-39.
32 Miglio, ‘Considerazioni e ipotesi’, pp. 309-27.
33 Dal Poggetto, ‘Nuove ipotesi’, p. 89, is critical of Degenhart and Schmitt (as cited in note 29 above), who treat these images as drawings and somehow separate from other ways of illustrating manuscripts in Italy.
34 This study is informed by the following key works on gesture in ancient and medieval art: M. Barasch, Giotto and the Language of Gesture , Cambridge, 1987; R. Brilliant, Gesture and Rank in Roman Art. The Use of Gestures to Denote Status in Roman Sculpture and Coinage, New Haven, 1963; J-Claude Schmitt, La Raison des gestes dans l’Occident médiéval , Paris, 1990.
35 H. R. Runte, ‘Initial Readers of Chrétien de Troyes’, in Continuations: Essays on Medieval French Literature and Language in Honor of John L. Grigsby , ed. N. J. Lacy and G. Torrini-Roblin, Birmingham, 1989, p. 121. For a recent exploration of the visual semantics of the page, see W. Storey, ‘Guittone’s Last Booklet: The Visual Semantic Orientations of the Trattato d’Amore ’, in his Transcriptions and Visual Poetics in the Early Italian Lyric , New York, 1993, pp. 171-192.
36 See L. Howard, Formulas of Repetition in Dante’s Commedia. Signposted Journeys across Textual Space, Montreal and Kingston, 2001, pp. 3-22.
37 See the works cited in notes 6 and 28 above; M. Carruthers, The Book of Memory , esp. pp.186-88.
38 For the manuscripts of the Tesoretto, see J. Bolton Holloway, Brunetto Latini: An Analytical Bibliography , New York, 1986, pp.16-17.
39 See, in particular, the recent volume of Dante Studies, 112, 1994, with articles by P. Armour, ‘Brunetto, the Stoic Pessimist’ (pp. 1-18); R. Kay, ‘The Sin(s) of Brunetto Latini’ (pp. 19-32); J. Najemy, ‘Brunetto Latini’s “Politica”’ (pp. 33-52); R. Witt, ‘Latini, Lovato and the Revival of Antiquity’ (pp. 53-62); and J. Boswell, ‘Dante and the Sodomites’ (pp. 63-77).
40 G. Petrocchi, ‘Virgilio’, in Enciclopedia Dantesca, eds. U. Bosco and G. Petrocchi, 6 vols., Rome, 1970-78, vol. 6, 1978, pp. 3-53.
41 See Images of Memory: On Remembering and Representation, eds. S. Küchler and W. Melion, Washington, 1991, esp. pp.1-47.
42 See Brieger, Meiss, and Singleton, Illuminated Manuscripts; D. Gillerman, ‘Dante’s Early Readers: The Evidence of Illustrated Manuscripts’, in The Divine Comedy and the Encyclopedia of Arts and Sciences , eds. G. di Scipio and A. Scaglione, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, 1988, pp.65-76; and A. Spagnesi, ‘Il Palatino 313 della Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze: alcune considerazioni sull’ illustrazione della Commedia a Firenze nel Trecento’, Rivista di Storia della Miniatura , 1-2, 1996-97, pp.131-145.
43 Although I agree with her analysis of the earlier models, it is pure speculation to believe that Brunetto had a hand in designing the program of illustrations; see Dal Poggetto, ‘Nuove ipotesi’, p. 94.
44 D. Hult, Self-Fulfilling Prophecies. Readership and Authority in the First Roman de la Rose, Cambridge, 1986, pp.74-94.
45 Ibid., p. 86, fig. 9.
46 Barasch, Language of Gesture, pp.79-87; especially figure 15.
47 Ibid., pp. 78-9.
48 M. Camille, ‘The Pose of the Queer: Dante’s Gaze, Brunetto Latini’s Body’, Queering the Middle Ages, Minnesota , 2000, pp. 57-86, with important bibliography from the perspective of queer studies.
49 See, for instance, the vivid gestures employed at a notaries’ tribunal in Perugia, illustrated in Francesco d’Assisi. Documenti e Archivi, Codici e Biblioteche. Miniature, Milan, 1989, cat. n. 58.
50 Note the similarity between this pose and that adopted by religious supplicants, as illustrated in R. Trexler, The Christian at Prayer , New York, 1987, pp. 133-164.
51 Brilliant, Gesture and Rank, p. 30, describes a similar use of the male body in Etruscan statuary.
52 For knighthood in Florence during this period, see C. Lansing, The Florentine Magnates. Lineage and Faction in a Medieval Commune , Princeton, 1991, pp. 154-63.
53 K. Brownlee, ‘The Practice of Cultural Authority: Italian Responses to French Cultural Dominance in Il Tesoretto, Il Fiore and the Commedia ’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 33, no. 3, 1997, pp. 258-269, esp p. 261.
54 Ibid., p. 260.
55 Tesoretto, p. 110-11.
56 See E. Panofsky, ‘Blind Cupid’, in his Studies in Iconology , New York, 1939, pp.95-128, and M. Corti, La felicità mentale , Turin, 1983.
57 Illustrated in V. Moleta, ‘The Illuminated Canzoniere Ms. Banco Rari 217’, La bibliofilia, 1976, pp. 1-36, fig.1. See also C. J. Campbell, The Game of Courting, Princeton, 1997, for a related image of Aristotle being ridden by his mistress (datable c.1305-15) in the Palazzo Communale, San Gimignano.
58 Partsch, Profane Buchmalerei, plate 49.
59 See E. Frojmoviƒ, Der Illustrationszyklus zu den ‘ Documenti d’Amore’ des Francesco da Barberino, diss., Munich University, 1993, and E. Jacobsen, ‘Francesco da Barberino. Man of Law and Servant of Love’, Analecta Romana , parts I and II: 15, 1986, pp.87-118, and 16, 1987, pp.75-106. Robyn Frechet has also prepared a book-length study on this author, which she kindly drew to my attention.
60 As in Biblioteca Vaticana Apostolica, Barb. lat. 4076, f. 99v, reproduced in Degenhart and Schmitt, Corpus, vol. 1, part 1, p.39.
61 As summarized in Frojmoviƒ, Documenti d’Amore, pp.35-9.
62 See dal Poggetto, ‘Nuove ipotesi’, pp. 89-90.
63 Tesoretto , pp. 146-7.
64 Ibid., p. 147.
65 G. Mazzotta, Dante’s Vision and the Circle of Knowledge, Princeton, 1993, p.30.
66 See the comments in Francesco da Barberino, Reggimento e costumi di donna , 2nd ed., ed. G. Sansone, Rome, 1995, pp. xv-cii. According to Lloyd Howard, it is likely that Francesco was writing about women for a primarily male audience, an idea that warrants further investigation.
67 R. Rouse, ‘Roll and Codex: The Transmission of the Works of Reitmar von Zweter’, in R. and M. Rouse, Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts, Notre Dame, 1991, pp. 13-29; J. Bumke, Courtly Culture. Literature and Society in the High Middle Ages, New York, 2000, p.564, provides illustrations of poets writing on scrolls of parchment.
68 Dal Poggetto, ‘Nuove ipotesi’, p. 93, notes the similarity with the work of Bartolo di Fredi at San Francesco, Lucignano. More work needs to be done on the genesis of this iconographic pattern but see the important studies by W. R. Valentiner, ‘Le Maitre du Triomphe de la Mort a Palerme’, Gazette des Beaux Arts , 18, 1937, pp.23-46, and A. Tenenti, La vie et la mort a travers l’art du XVe siécle , Paris, 1952, esp. p. 23.
69 For Ptolemy’s importance in this period, see D. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science, Chicago, 1992, esp. 204-85.
70 See the introduction to Il Tesoretto; Il Favolello, ed. F. Mazzoni, Alpignano, 1967, as well as Letteratura didactica, ed. Pasquini, pp. 79-81.
71 Poeti del Duecento, ed. Contini, pp. 233-4.
72 For Brunetto’s interest in Cicero, see especially Q. Skinner, The Foundation of Modern Political Thought, 2 vols., Cambridge, 1978, vol.1, pp. 28-34, and R. Witt, ‘Medieval Ars Dictaminis and the Beginnings of Humanism’, Renaissance Quarterly , 25, 1982, pp.1-35.
73 Cicero’s Offices, with Laelius on Friendship, Cato Maior and Select Letters , ed. J. Warrington, New York, 1966, p.194. For the Latin original, see H.E. Gould and J.L. Whiteley, Cicero, De Amicitia, Bristol, 1983, 37.
74 For Rustico di Filippo, see J. Levin, Rustico di Filippo and the Florentine Lyric Tradition, New York, Bern, and Frankfurt am Main, 1986; for Palamidesse Belindotti, see Bolton Holloway, Twice-Told Tales , esp. pp. 54, 56.


DIPLOMACY AND LITERATURE: ALFONSO EL SABIO'S INFLUENCE ON BRUNETTO LATINO, 'MAESTRO DI DANTE ALIGHIERI'

JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY


{ I n the Inferno, Dante sees giants whom he mistakes for towers (XXXI.31), and Satan, whom he mistakes for a windmill (XXXIV.5-7). Translated by Enrique de Villena, that text was in turn to influence Miguel de Cervantes and his Don Quixote, who mistook windmills for giants. This essay discusses such reciprocal literal games between Spain and Italy as partly originating in intensely serious political diplomacy between republican Florence, the Florence of the Primo Popolo, by means of her ambassador, Brunetto Latino, and the imperial candidate in Spain, Alfonso X el Sabio of Castile. The Florentine scholar and diplomat Brunetto Latino was present at the court of Alfonso X in 1260 and then in exile in northern France, before his return to Florence in 1266 or perhaps 1267. A number of scholars have asked whether Brunetto's embassy and exile might have transmitted from Alfonso to Brunetto's student Dante Alighieri a translation of The Ladder of Mahomet, a work that has striking parallels to Dante's Commedia. /1 Brunetto's literary activity in Castile and northern France, really ought to be considered in terms of a larger body of works than simply The Ladder of Mahomet. Through an examination of Brunetto's literary activity and a study of several important manuscript traditions, it should be possible to suggest at least a textual framework for the question of Arabic-Castilian literary influences on Latino's Tresor and Dante's Commedia .

In 1260, the anziani of the comune and popolo of Florence - their republican senate modeled on that of ancient Rome (SENATUS POPLUSQUE ROMANUS, SPQR) chose Brunetto Latino as ambassador to the regal and almost imperial court of Castile. Brunetto had already served his republic in drawing up peace treaties between Florence and Siena and between Florence and Arezzo; fine holograph documents exist of both these treaties. /2 The radical Florentine comune, which had ousted the landowning aristocracy from government in 1250, an event followed by the death of the opposed Ghibelline leader Frederic II in 1251, had at first experienced a decade of great energy and prosperity. Now war clouds were gathering. In 1257, Pisa was treating with Alfonso el Sabio, proposing his election as emperor, in return for his support against Lucca, Florence and Genoa. That nomination was successful; he was elected at Frankfurt in April 1257, in opposition to the already elected Richard of Cornwall. /3 Brunetto Latino was later to write his account, in his chronicle section of Li livres dou tresor: 'A division arose among the princes of Germany, for some supported the king and emperor his highness Alfonso king of Castile and of Spain, while others supported the count Richard of Cornwall, brother of the king of England'. /4

Ghibelline and aristocrat Farinata degli Uberti, exiled to Siena, was treating with Manfred of Sicily, Frederic's illegitimate son and heir, against Florence. /5 The rival city-states were playing dangerous power games learing up to the disaster that would be the battle of Montaperti. In desperation, Guelf Florence decided to dispatch two statesmen, both of them also poets. They sent Guglielmo Beroardi first to Richard of Cornwall, Alfonso's rival imperial candidate, at Worms, and then to the eight-year-old Conradin, grandchild of Frederic and nephew of Manfred in Bavaria. They sent Brunetto Latino to Alfonso el Sabio. Florence thus hoped to gain the support of all these imperial candidates against Ghibelline Siena and Manfred of Sicily. /6

Electing Alfonso as emperor was insufficient. The next part of the gamble would be the imperial candidate's coming to Italy at the head of his army, running the gauntlet of the feuding city-states and their factions, tobe crowned emperor by the pope in malarial Rome. Alfonso was wise to dally with the idea but not to swallow the bait. It is most probable that Latino's instructions as ambassador were to to the effect that Florence would aid Alfonso in his coronation journey, if he in turn would wage war against Manfred and Siena. The Guelf republic had turned emperor-maker in desperation. In this it failed. Later the Florentine Guelf bnkers were to succeed in colluding with the pope - though they were in exile and under papal interdict for the murder of the Ghibelline abbot Tesoro of Vallombrosa - in making Charles, the count of Provence and Anjou, senator of Rome (June 1265) and then king of Sicily (6 January 1266).

So important was the embassy in Florentine history that Giovanni Villani, in his Cronica di Firenze, allotted to it an entire chapter, drawing his narration from archival chancery material, some of which was likely to have been generated by Brunetto Latino himself:

In that same year, there being such a delay that the electors of the empire out of discord elected two emperors, one party (in which were three of the electors) electing King Alfonso of Spain, and the other party of the electors electing Richard Count of Cornwall and brother of the King of England; and because the realm of Bohemia was in discord, and two of them were made king, each gave their vote to his party. And for many years there was this discord of the two candidates. But the church of Rome more favoured Alfonso of Spain, because he could have come with his forces and combatted the pride and control of Manfred; for which reason the Guelfs of Florence sent him ambassadors to persuade him to come, promising him great help if he would favour the Guelf party. And the ambassador was Ser Brunetto Latino, a man of great wisdom and authority; but before he could compete the embassy, the Florentines were defeated at Montaperti, and King Manfred seized control of all Italy, and the power of the party of the church was much diminished, for which reason Alfonso of Spain abandoned the task of the empire and Richard of England did not pursue it. /7
That is the political context of Brunetto Latino's embassy in 1260 to Alfonso el Sabio. There is also a significant literary context that cannot be separated from the political. Brunetto memorialized his embassy to Alfonso in a dream-vision work he wrote, the Tesoretto , a poem that was to be a prototype for Dante's dream vision, the Commedia . In it Latino gives this account:
 
Lo tesoro comincia
Al tempo ke fiorença 
Fiora e fece frutto
Si ch'ell'era del tutto
La donna di toscana;
Ancora che lontana
Ne fosse l'una parte
Rimossa in altra parte,
Quella de' ghibellini.
Per guerra di vicini
Esso comune saggio
Mi fece suo messaggi
All'alto re di spangna
E la corona attenda,
Se dio nolglil contende.
Ché già sotto la luna
Non si truova persona
Che, per gentil lengnaggio
Né per alto barnaggio,
Che sì dengno ne fosse
Com'esto re nefosse.
The Treasure begins
At the time when Florence
Flourished and bore fruit.
So tht she was of all
The Lady of Tuscany; 
However at a distance 
One faction was exiled 
Into another region,
That of the Ghibellines.
Because of civil was, This wise republic
Made me ambassador
To the great king of Spain
Who now is king of Germany
And awaits the crown
If God does not dispute it.
There has not yet below the moon
Been found such a person
Who for noble lineage
Or great baronage
Was more worthy of it
Than this King Alfonso. /8

In the Tesoretto , in a splendid manuscript of the Laurentian Library at Florence, we find not only this text speaking of the political context of that embassy but also a joyous and delicate illumination, in sanguine, of Brunetto at the court of Alfonso in Spain. We can approximately date that embassy from archival material, for Brunetto was deeply involved in the preparatins for was, as shown in the 1260 Libro di Montaperti, some pages of which are in Brunetto's hand. His dates there are 26 February, then 20, 22, 23 and 24 July. /9 Alfonso's court was at Seville on 27 July, moving to Còrdoba on 20 September. The actual battle of Montaperti itself took place on 4 September of that year. Thus, we can even place the embassy (and the Tesoretto text and illumination of it) in the magnificent Moorish 'Hall of the Ambassadors' of the Alcazar of Seville.

It was customary for ambassadors tobe cultured and capable of writing and exchanging poetry and prose. Up until this time, Brunetto seems to have been well acquainted with texts from the axis of Rome - of Cicero, Sallust, Lucan and Livy - texts concerning the civil war and republic and the loss of civil liberties with the coming of the Caesars. His translations of speeches made by Cicero, Cato and Catiline survive in the cancelleresca script and are found in the collections of chanceryletters begun by Frederic's chancellor Pier delle Vigne, continuing through the Florentine republic's chancellor Leonardo Bruni Aretino. /10 It was in Spain that Brunetto likely first truly encounted the Greco-Arabic axis of learning and acquired translations of Aristotle's Ethics and Politics made there as well as the Alfraganus-Ptolemy Almagest . He was to translate these into French as Li livres dou tresor and later into Italian as Il tesoro , in the latter case using the Ghibelline and Sicilian-endorsed translation of the Nicomachean Ethics . He would later teach these texts to Dante, who would eventually use them for the structuring of his own great poem.

Islamic Toledo had fallen to the Christian King Alfonso VI in 1085. Spain at that time encouraged pluralism; the thirteenth-century kings Fernando III and Alfonso X of Castile retained something of the style of their forebear Alfonso VI, who was called 'king of the three religions'. To this day, Toledo is a city of mosque, synagogue and church buildings. Toledo, and Seville after its conquest in turn from the Arabs in 1248, became centres for translations from the Arabic of Islamic and Greek materials into Latin and the Romance languages. The intermediaries for these translations were often Jewish alfaquines or physician-savants (the hakim). The final form was usually shaped by foreigners at the court, who included Gerard of Cremona for the Almagest of Alfraganus, Hermann the German for the Ethics of Aristotle and Bonaventure of Siena for the Ladder of Mahomet . /12 Though it is quite probable, as Walter Goetz and Francis Carmody have argued, /13 that Brunetto did not stay in Toledo, he would have been at Alfonso's peripatetic court in either Seville or Còrdoba, or both; and he would have encountered Alfonso's translators and seen his chancery at work, a process of abiding interest to the man who (according to Demetrio Marzi) was Florence's first chancellor. /14 Alfonso's court would also have given a pluralistic parallel to the court of Frederic in Sicily. Although hated by freedom-loving Guelfs, Frederic's chancery was also their model, Brunetto copying out the letters of Frederic's chancellor, Pier delle Vigne, in order to appropriate that Ghibelline style for Guelf uses. /15

In encountering Aristotle, the Guelf republican who so consciously modeled his own style upon that of Cicero found the literary means to balance these differences in power structures. Alfonso was himself invlved with the text of Aristotle's Politics at the time, and he probably talked to Brunetto of that work. /16 Cicero was the staunch Roman repubican; Aristotle was the democratic Athenian tutor to the imperial Macedonian Alexander, and Brunetto learned how to compromise, to harmonize these opposites. Both Cicero and Aristotle were now to be Latino's literary and political role models. We find later manuscripts of the Rettorica showing, within the two curves of the letter S, the two portraits of the Roman Cicero and the Florentine Brunetto./17 We likewise find, in manuscripts of the Tresor, in its different paretidas, portraits both of Brunetto teaching his students and of Aristotle. In these Aristotle may even be garbed as an Arab complete with turban, seated upon a mosque floor, reading from a text in Arabic, and teaching it to his students; Alexander may be shown playing his schoolboy jest of having Aristotle ridden by the beautiful, golden-haaired, red-garbed Phyllis about the castle courtyard, while the laughin young prince looks down upon them both. /18

In Dante's case, exile was to mean the writing of a masterpiece. His teacher preceded him. In the Tesoretto (lines 142-62), Brunetto tells how he learned of his own exile. News travelled slowly in the Middle Ages. As he was making his way home from his failed embassy, he met a student from Bologna in the pass of Roncesvalles who gave him the news:
 
Venendo per la valle
Del piano di roncisvalle, 
Incontro un scolaio
Sour un muletto baio,
Che venia da Bolongna,
E sança dir mençogna
Molt'era savio e prode:
Ma lasio star le lode
Che sarebbero assai.
E io'l pur domandari
Novelle di toscana
In dolce lingua e piana;
Ed e cortesemente
Mi disse immantenente
Che guelfi di fiorança
Per mala provedença
E per força di guerra
Eran fuori de la terra,
E'l dannaggio era forte
Di pregione e di morte.
Coming through the valley
Of the plain of Roncesvalles,
I met a scholar
Upon a bay mule,
Who was coming from Bologna,
And, without telling lies,
He was very wise and brave:
But I leave behind the praises
That would be great indeed.
And I also asked him
For news of Tuscany
In the sweet and clear tongue;
And he curteously
Told me immediately
That the Guelfs of Florence
Through ill fortune
And through the for ce of war,
Were exiled from that land,
And the penalty was great
Of imprisonment and death.

That setting of the opening of the Tesoretto's dream vision in the valley of Roncesvalles echoes back to the Chanson de Roland and forward to the opening of Dante's Commedia where that poet, likewise deeply sorrowing, would enter a dream-vision landscape and where later, deep in hell, he would hear Roland's horn reverberate intertextually with visions of dwarfs, giants and windmills, intertextually reflecting back to John of Salisbury and forward to Miguel de Cervantes.

There is a letter from Brunetto's father, who was similarly a notary, which begins: 'Bonaccorsus Latinus of Florence to his beloved son Brunectus, notary, now at the court of the most excellent lord Alfonso, king of the Romans and of Spain, sent by the commune of Florence, greetings and loving paternal affection'. The text goes on to speak of the tears that wet and stain the pages of the letter, on the part of both writer and reader. I next narrates the account of the battle of Montaperti on Saturday, 4 September, describing how the Guelf Florentines were now under papal protection in Lucca and how exile had been proclaimed against Brunetto and others: 'putting you and other Guelfs and supporters under perpetual banishment'./19 Brunetto's brother Latinus Bonaccursi, later to be a banker and at this time possibly a student at Bologna, brought the letter from Lucca. /20

In the dream vision of the poem - part fantasy and part fact, as was also to be the case with Dante's Commedia - Brunetto then describes himself, deeply sorrowing, making his way to France. The text specifically mentions Montpellier. We also know of his presence in Arras, Paris and Bar-sur-Aube from important holograph documents (one in the Vatican, the other in Westminster Abbey), which he wrote for the Florentine Guelf government-in.exile. These letters involve negotiations with the papacy, in which the Flroentine banking families raised funds by means of the crusade tithe, to pay Charles of Anjou to fight against Manfred ofSicily. /21

Because the Florentines despaired of Alfonso's help, they had selected as their champion Charles of Anjou, brotehr of King Louis IX of France. But they had doubts about Charles' ability to understand their republican form of government. To make this lesson very clear, Brunetto set to work to write in French a book whose first part contained an encyclopedic history and geography of the world (including a bestiary), whose second part translated Aristotle's Nicomahean Ethics as well as treating of vices and virtues, and whose third part discussed the use of Ciceronian rhetoric in a republican city-state or commune. The book conluced with a 'politica' section, a complete account of how a commune elected its chief executive or 'podestà', who would take the oath to protect its liberties. It is in this final section that Latino gives the letter to Charles of Anjou inviting him to be senator of Rome, and to swear upon Rome's Capitoline Hill to uphold the consitution and freedom of Rome's republic. At the same time, Arnolfo di Cambio, architect of Florence's communal Palazzo Vecchio, sculpted the statue of Charles of Anjou as Roman senator in a toga, constitution in hand, for placement on the Capitoline. /22 It is clear that Latino in the Tresor was taking from Alfonso el Sabio the 'treasure' of wisdom, Aristotle's Ethics , and was attempting to transmit this material to Charles of Anjou, to educate him as Aristotle had educated Alexander. Alfonso was envisioned as a Greco-Arabic, democratic philosopher king; Charles was cast in the role of a Roman republican senator. The material acquired from the one was given to the other.

The literary manuscripts underscore what the plitical documents have also demonstrated: that Brunetto Latino was in Arras first and then Paris. He would have travelled to the great fair in Champagne at Bar-sur-Aube, where Flroentine bankers arranged for major financial tramsfers, especially the payments to Lucca for its protection of exiled Guelfs residing in its San Frediano district. /23 Many of the TResor manuscripts are in the Picard dialect of the Arras region - the Artois and Picardy mentioned by Chaucer in connection with his Canterbury Tales' Squire, a region that had strong associations with both England and the great Florentine bankers. The Tresor is widely dispersed throughout Europe; copies are found in the Vatican, El Escorial, St Petersburg, Oxford, Brussels, Paris, Naples and elsewhere. /24 (These are all cities with which the Flroentine bankers had dealings.) The first version is a diplomatic presentation text, written for Charles of Anjou. But Brunetto was able to make generic copies of the Tresor and present them also to other major figures the Florentines wished to influence and impress, such as Alfonso el Sabio.

Among other texts Brunetto wrote was the Tesoretto. When first editing it, I believed that the dedication was not to a monarch but a friend. There is a charming joking quality ( scherzo rather than serio) to Bruentto's texts, especially in those aspects dealing with the relationships and interactions within the texts to his readers. I now realize, from reading more widely amongst Latino's manuscripts, that his dedications were to monarchs as friends, and also to other friends as individuals whom he could educate and to whom he could dedicate his book sin the same manner as he did to monarchs, both addressed with tu as his equals. He envisioned the Republic of Letters as a place of laughter combined with wisdom. Besides the Arabic learning Brunetto acquired at Alfonso's court, the Tesoretto text also shows the influence of the Roman de la Rose, which originated in the Lorris-Meung region to the southwest of Champagne's Troyes and Bar-sur-Aube. He wrote his books on the models of both Cicero and Aristotle, for his commune, for rich bankers, for counts, for kings, for emperors, for popes. Given this evidence, it is now clear that the Tesoretto or 'little treasure' was originally written as a charming and witty diplomatic thank-you letter to Alfonso el Sabio, perhaps prefacing a translation into French or Italian of the Alfraganus-Ptolemy Almagest of of the entire Tresor (the dream vision breaks off just as Ptolemy is about to narrate to Latino all of his wisdom.) /25 The Tesoretto is preface to another text, some manuscripts stating that it is Tesoro maggiore or 'greater treasure'. There is a reference to a Tesoretto having been in the library of the Marqués de Santillan, though it no longer seems to exist in that collection. /26 We know of seventeen manuscripts of the Tesoretto, most of them in Italy. One is in Krakòw, one at Cornell, and one in Paris, but none today is in Spain; three are bound with Dante's Commedia . /27

Another Latino text that made its way to Alfonso el Sabio is a splendid translation into Italian of Aristotle's Ethics. In this instance, it is not the translation of the text from Spain by Hermann the German; instead it translates the text from Sicily by Taddeo d'Alderotti in Bologna. /28 Its exemplar may be the manuscript in chancery script written on a thirteenth-century legal palimpsest at Yale (Marston 28); the Biblioteca Nacional manuscript (10124) in Madrid is written in the Bolognan libraria script we see in other contemporary Brunetto Latino manuscripts from his workshops in France and in Italy. The first translation of Aristotle made by Latino was acquired from Alfonso, then given to Charles of Anjou. This second translation is the official Ghibelline version of Aristotle, now subverted and taken over by the Guelph writer, for it was first authorized to be taught at the University of Bologna by Frederic II's Pier delle Vigne and then sent by Manfred of Sicily to the University of Paris to be its authorized text. /29 (An error has crept into scholarship that the Tesoro simply copied an Ethics that Taddeo had already translated into Italian; Taddeo's version is in Latin.) We can tell from the manuscripts of the texts in Paris that Brunetto had access to both translations while in exile in France. /30 He had earlier made use of the official Ghibelline style, imitating and mocking it in his letter sent by the commune of Florence to the commune of Pavia on the occasion of the murder of Abbot Tesoro of Vallombrosa. /31 Many years later, Dante was to comment that Taddeo's version lect much to be desired. /32 Is one hearing him repeat a lecture comment made by his teacher, the translator of the text into Itaian, and from this does one assume that Latino preferred the text from Spain by Hermann the German to the text at Bologna by Taddeo d'Alderotti? This may well be the case.

In return for these manuscripts, Alfonso el Sabio may have sent to Brunetto Latio (or to the Florentine bankers whom he represented - Florence's Guelf government-in-exile, allies of the pope, and recognized king- and emperor-makers) the splendid Cantigas de Santa Maria now in the Biblioteca Nazionale. /33 If so, it was probably a suggestion to them that he would appreciate their further support for his imperial coronation. Already elected in 1257, Alfonso had written to the pope in 1264, making that request. /34 But Bishop Garcìa di Silves, carrying that message for the second time, was murdered by the Florentine Ghibelline Rinier dei Pazzi in December 1267. For that violence, Dante would memorialize him in the Inferno as 'Rinier Pazzo, who made such war on the roads' ( A Rinier Pazzo, che fecero alle strade tante guerra , XII.137). The Guelf had been under ecclesiastical interdict from 1258 to 1266 for their murder of Abbot Tesoro of Valombrosa, a murder used as a 'just war' excuse for the battle of Montaperti by the Florentine Ghibellines-in-exile under Farinata and the Sienese commune. Now the Ghibellines, in turn, were placed under an interdict, their murder of a bishop acting as emissary of a king-who-was-almost-emperor cancelled out the murder of a treacherous abbot, in this chess game of the politics of violence. But it is clear that neither Guelf nor Ghibelline much desired Alfonso's candidacy. Instructions to Brunetto appear to have been to maintain friendly and literary contact with the Castilian king; actual monetary support was to be for Charles of Provence and Anjou, not as emperor but as senator of Rome, king of Sicily and Jerusalem, and imperial vicar of Tuscany. Neither the popes nor Florence wanted more emperors after Frederic II.

The splendid French Tresor , now in the Escorial, is a second-redaction manuscript, containing the chronicle's continuation through the defeat of Conradin at Tagliacozzo by Charles of Anjou. It is interesting that the section on vices and virtues is much annotated in Latin in its margin, possibly by Brunetto for Alfonso. But the manuscripts that proliferate in Castilian translations are first-redaction manuscripts, concluding with Brunetto Latino's exile because of the Montaperti defeat; this may indicate the presence formerly of an earlier first-redaction Tresor in Seville. /35

After the battle of Benevento on 25 February 1266, it became rather clear to the Florentines that Charles, now senator of Rome and king of Sicily, had not intention of reading or upholing the principles of Aristotelian and Ciceronian government presented to him by Brunetto Latino in Li livres dou tresor. Brunetto served a protonotary to Jean Britaud, Charles' vicar in Tuscany, but only for a prief period from 1267 (after his return from Paris) to 1269 or possibly 1270. Then there is a strange silence. One wonders where he was. Brunetto wrote no new literary texts during this period, othr than to update the chronicle sections of the French and Italian versions of the Tresor/Tesoro . Archival documents in Bologna refer to him twice in connection with family members and bank loans in 1270. /36 He was noted as absent, or his Florentine residency in the past tense, in two documents of 1275 and 1280. He was mentioned once in 1282 at a council meeting of the Capitani, just after the institution of the Priorate. /37 From that time on, he was enormously active in Florentine affairs, constantly mentioned in council meetings and involved in diplomacy from 1283 following the Sicilian Vespers (Charles of Anjou dying in 1285) until June 1292 and acting as prior in 1287. His speeches deal with constitutional matters and diplomacy, with liberty and the freeing of slaves and with political prisoners. They have about them the flavour of both Aristotle and Cicero. /38 The minutes for those meetings refer to Brunetto as the wise man. He had begun his political career in 1254 as the notary for the Senate or anziani of Florence's Primo Popolo government. He was now the distinguished senior statesman of the Secondo Popolo. He is discussed as such at his death, again receiving an entire chapter in Giovanni Villani's Chronicle , as well as a vita in Filippo Villani's Lives of Illustrious Florentines. /39

During this last part of Brunetto's life, new version of Li livres dou tresor appear, translated into Italian as the Tesoro with historically up-dated material in chronicle style, through the reign of Charles of Anjou, including the Sicilian Vespers. These version were earlier thought to have been done by Bono Giamboni and to be Ghibelline, not Guelf. One late paper manuscript has the translation ascribed to Bono Giamboni; the earlier manuscripts and the first printed edition clearly state they are by Brunetto Latino. Nor should the weather-vane political shift be so polarized. Brunetto was not only a legal colleague of Bono Giambono but a friend. Even in the worst moments of exile, Brunetto made a point of writing poetry that included Ghibelline with Guelf. His poem Il favolello on friendship, for example, was dedicated to the Ghibelline Rusticho di Filippo, who wrote tenzoni concerning Charles of Anjou; it also mentions and praises the Guelf poet Palamidesse Belindoti, member of the banking family named in the Westminster Abbey document concerning payment of the tithe by England toward Charles of Anjou's expenses. This capacity to see both sides was typical of Brunetto, who also wrote in Il fiore dei filosafi a tenzone between Cicero and Cato, claiming its authorship in the preface to the Orazioni . Brunetto's circle of poet friends, both Ghibelline and Guelf, wrote increasingly skillful and witty tenzoni about and against Charles of Anjou. /40 It is clear that Brunetto was capable of becoming extremely critical of Charles; it is even possible that he took part in the Sicilian Vespers against him. /41 The Tresor texts that Michele Amari edited in Altre narazzione exist in a milder version (of which there are several manuscript copies, including the Ambrosian library's G 75 sup.) It also survives in a more extreme version (Magliabecchian MS VIII.1375), consisting of narration interspersed with diplomatic letters concerning the event, including the Pope's letter criticizing Charles of Anjou for bad government of his kingdom. /42 The assumption that these chronicle additions to the Italian Tesoro are Ghibelline is not valid. They are part of Guelf political propaganda, now turned against their former patron who had so bitterly disappointed them. Giovanni Villani is to repeat their material in his Guelf Cronica .

These Tesoro continuations are of great interest, since not a few of them chronicle the secret cloak-and-dagger diplomacy between the pope, the Byzantine emperor Michael Paleologus, and King Peter of Aragon through the intermediaries Gianni di Procita and a northern Italian called Accardo Latino; disguised as Franciscans, these agents travel between three rulers and instigate the Sicilian Vespers against Charles of Anjou. /43 These various accounts come replete with secret diplomatic documents. These can be partly retrieved in the Vatican Secret Archives, which mention the embassy and stress the importance of knowing Greek for this purpose. /44 Such documents can also be retrieved in Spanish archival materials, in which letters are found by Gianni di Procita and others to Alfono el Sabio, explaining that King Peter is unable to aid Alfonso in his campaign against his sons, due to preparations for the invasion of Sicily. /45 Interestingly, this facility in Greek was not in the Renaissance but in the Middle Ages. Brunetto's knowledge of Greek, acquired partly in Arabic Spain, perhaps partly even at Constantinople itself, was greater than Dante's. If these Tesoro continuations represent Brunetto Latino's own thinly disguised 'Foggy Bottom' or State Department memoirs, as I suspect, they go far to explain the presence of his manuscripts not only in Castile but also in Aragon. Translated into Catalan and Aragonese, they can be found in Barcelona and Gerona. /46 Again, these are texts designed to teach kings good government and either are the complete Tesoro or give its third part, the 'rhetoric' section of that text. In one instance, that text is actually bound with an Aragonese chronicle account of the Sicilian Vespers, though the document is admittedly late. /47 After the partial failure of the Vespers revolt and the ensuing deaths of kings Peter and Charles, the kingdoms of Naples and Aragon cultivated close ties, the Aragonese court court educating the Angevin King Robert of Naples during his imprisonment by them in Catalonia from 1288 and arranging his marriage in 1297 to Violante, the daughter of King Peter of Aragon and Constance of Swabia. One of Brunetto's sons was later ambassador to King Robert in 1314; another was associated with his court. Documents note Brunetto Latino and 'dominus Convenevole' of Prato's association concerning Pisa; Convenevole of Prato teaching Petrarch at Carpentras where a fine Tresor with an illumination of a golden-haired, scarlet-garbed Phyllis riding Aristotle, Alexander looking on, survives, and compiling for King Robert the Wise an extraordinary presentation book with illustrated allegories. /48It appears that Brunetto and the Guelf Bonaccorsi banking family and associates, while continuing to maintain friendly relations with Alfonso of Castile, next backed Charles of Anjou, then turned against him and plotted with Peter of Aragon, and that they finally worked to reconcile the Aragonese and Angevin crowns.

The reigns of both Alfonso and Charles ended in disaster. Alfonso's brother betrayed him, then Alfonso's own sons warred against their father. Pressed for money, Alfonso destroyed the delicate interracial relations in his kingdom by his use of Jews as tax gatherers. The Sicilians likewise finally rose in revolt against overtaxation, in this case against the tithe for Charles' crusades, first with his brother King Saint Louis in the disaster at Tunis and then in Charles' own preparations to capture Constantinople. Had the Florentine bankers aided Alfonso financially isntead of Charles, perhaps Spain could have maintained his culturally diverse richness. We know that the pope eventually permitted Alfonso to keep the crusade tithe for his own Spanish wars, supposedly against Muslims. /48

Certainly the Florentines, through the manuscripts Brunetto acquired when on embassy to Alfonso el Sabio, were able to commence a magnificent tradition which combined the praxis of politics and its theory in philosophy. Brunetto's manuscripts, conveying that material, were used as diplomatic presentation volumes in the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries throughout Europe. These manuscripts failed to have much of an impact on Charles of Anjou, to whom Florence gave so generously (of others' money); in their own right and in Dante's use of them, however, they reached audiences everywhere, and they especially influenced both Castile and Aragon.

One Tesoro manuscript especially needs to be noted. Written in 1287, it is a fine early text. Only the fact that it is mutilated, lacking its beginning, has led to its neglect by scholars other than Helene Wieruszowski. /49 The manuscript is of special interest because it contains Brunetto's Sommetta, formulae for notaries in letters between important dignatories. It includes a form for the pope to use in writing to Alfonso el Sabio: 'Bishop Gregory, servant of the servants of God, to the illustrious and beloved dear son, Alfonso king of Castile'. /50 Following that formula is the mode of address to King James of Aragon, King Peter having died in a fall from his horse. The text also gives Aristotle's Ethics and Brunetto's Politica - his material on how a city-state, the comune, elects the podestà, who swears to protect its constitution. the text was probably dictated byBrunetto, in his customary manner, to a chanceryapprentice. In 1287, when Dante Alighieri was twenty years old, Brunetto was shortly to be prior of Florence and was involved diplomatically when Archbishop Ruggieri and Count Ugolino of Pisa; the formulary includes the manner of address between the Pope and Archbishop Ruggieri of Pisa. /51 Roberto Weiss has discussed the relationship between poetry and chancery later in the Renaissance. /52 I believe this relationship is also here, first with themodel established by the imperial Ghibelline Pier delle Vigne in Sicily, then in Florence with Guelf republican Brunetto Latino. Verona has a fine Tresor manuscript that was a diplomatic preentation copyto a doge ofVenice; it is possible that Dante was instrumental in obtaining that manuscript and intended to make use of it diplomatically. /53 Indeed, Latino manuscripts in both French and Italian, including Bergamesco, are scattered throughout this region of Italy - in Milan, Ferrara, Verona, Bergamo, Brescia, Venice and San Daniele del Friuli. Other copies are more predictably in Rome, Naples and Palermo. Florence has multiple copies of the Tesoro in Italian, but only has Li livres dou Tresor in French in a Laurentian Ashburnham manuscript. Brunetto's texts, acquired partly from Spain, thus had a far-reaching influence in Italy and all of Europe.

Probably because of Alfonso's approval of them, these texts also had a tremendous impact upon Castilian Spain. In this instance, Spanish material, or Greco-Arabic material deriving from Spain, was returning to her in Brunetto's French and Italian translations. The French Tresor and the Italian Ethics are in the Biblioteca Escorial (L.II.3) and in the Madrid Biblioteca Nacional (10124). These are contemporary productions; in Madrid's Biblioteca del Palacio, the Italian Tesoro (II,857) is later, dated 1333 ('This book is called the great treasure, which was composed by Ser Brunetto Latino of Florence; he wrote it in the year 1333'.) Translations of these texts were made into Castilian as well as Aragonese and Catalan, as noted earlier. These proliferate throughout Spain; today there is one manuscript in Seville, four at Salamanca (which did not originate there), six at Madrid and one at El Escorial; there may well be more./54 One translation of the Tresor was made perhaps by Alfonso el Sabio, according to Ferreiro Alemparte. Manuscripts of the Academia de la Lengua (209.XV), Biblioteca del Palacio (II.3011), Biblioteca Nacional (3380), and Salamanca University (1811 and 1697) make that attribution. /55 The supposed authorship of the French Tresor in the Escorial (e.III.8) as by Alfonso X likewise indicates this. Alfonso's son Sancho commissioned a translation by Alfonso de Paredes, the physician-tutor (alfarqui) of his own son Fernando; these manuscripts are centred on Seville. /56 Besides the direct presence of Brunetto's texts and translations in Spain, there is also the indirect presence of his work and teaching through the text of Dante's Commedia, as translated by the alchemist nobleman Enrique de Villena. /57

It was Alfonso el Sabio and his work, especially his Aristotelian legal writings in the Castilian vernaculars and his Marian poetry in Galician, which probably gave Brunetto Latino the model for his own writings in the vernacular. These were first in Picard French (in order to educate Charles of Anjou both in Aristotelian democracy and in Ciceronian republicanism and thereby protect Florence's communal liberties) and then by trnaslation into his own Italian. That Alfonsine model of the production of books, both in texts and miniatures, observed by Brunetto at Alfonso's court, was to be transmitted in turn to the young Dante Alighieri and would result in Dante's Commedia. All three men knew how to organize a workshop for the production of books, one that doubled as a chancery for the production of diplomatic letters of state. Brunetto also transmitted the Islamic literary model of teacher and student; this could involve father and son, as when Aristotle wrote his Nicomachean Ethics for his child. We see the model in Petrus Alfonsi's writings, where a converted Spanish Jew used the Arabic teaching model in order to convey Islamic learning to the Latin Christian world. That is likewise Brunetto's model, in which a master dictates his lectures to his students ('and then the master said') as in the Tresor and the Tesoro. That was to be in turn Dante's model, with Virgil as fatherly schoolmaster and Dante as schoolboy. In Dante's encounter with Brunetto (Inferno XV), the text evokes Cicero by the references to Catiline and Fiesole, and Aristotle by the hail of flames from the Roman d'Alexandre. And the student looking down upon the master - Dante clothed and dignified - echoes the young Alexander looking down upon Aristotle being ridden by Phyllis. /58 We remember that Aristotle's Ethics is prefatory to his Politics ; Brunetto's use of Aristotle is similarly prefatory to centuries of Florentine politics.

It is an intriguing hypothesis that Brunetto Latino's diplomatic exchange of manuscripts with Alfonso el Sabio - including his account in the final partida of the Tresor of the election of a city governor as podestà to be above corruption - may have shaped in turn Cervantes' presentation of Sancho Panza's ideal governorship of the island. This in turn may have shaped Gonzalo's moving speech in Shakespeare's Tempest, and explain why the names there are Spanish rather than the expected Italian. The dream and the reality of these fictional and factual texts, if we can keep translating them into modern idion, not only shaped the past but may also give us models of constitutional electoral government - a tesoro or tresor - for the future.

NOTES


BEHIND THE ARRAS: PIER DELLE VIGNE, ALFONSO EL SABIO,
BRUNETTO LATINO, DANTE ALIGHIERI

JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY

[To Have Been for Presentation with Slides, Pittsburgh, September 2001]


{ I am neither an Art Historian nor an Archivist. However, I found that to understand medieval literature one has to be interdisciplinary, one must explore not only libraries but archives, not only texts but illuminations. * * *I found myself particularly charmed by the typical illumination to Brunetto Latino manuscripts of the Tesoretto , of the Tresor, of the Tesoro, showing him as a teacher before his students, for its self-referentiality to ourselves. I studied the great European manuscripts by men and by women who took their ideas from each other for their scriptorial productions: first those of men, the chain reaction of * Alfonso el Sabio, * Brunetto Latino, * Dante Alighieri; then those of women, * Hildegard von Bingen, * Birgitta of Sweden, * Catherine of Siena, * Christine de Pizan. In September 2002 we shall be holding an international congress - The City and the Book II - on these great European manuscripts some of which which will be exhibited in Florence. I found the matrix for such texts amongst the men to be international diplomacy, centred in chanceries, which women also emulated. (One delights in reading in the same Epistolarium the letters of Brunetto Latino, the letters of Catherine of Siena.) This will be my topic, the connection between the Florentine Chancellor, Brunetto Latino, and his student, who became the poet of the Divina Commedia, Dante Alighieri, through examining both legal documents and illuminated books.

Archival Latin documents can help to show that Dante's construction of the Comedy is partly from the intertextual formulae of Latino's Chancery, which Latino in turn learned from the chancery styles of Frederick II of Sicily, Alfonso el Sabio of Spain, and Charles of Anjou, and that Dante used the memory of these thirteenth-century chancery archives - that ancient form of a computer retrieval system - for his fourteenth-century poem, much as was Robert Browning to use the seventeenth-century Old Yellow Book , which the nineteenth-century poet discovered in San Lorenzo's Market, both men creating, out of often sordid criminality of the past, magnificent poetry, the dead but true archival documents undergirding the fictional, yet living, poems, the Divine Comedy , The Ring and the Book . This is the pattern behind the arras, the tapestry.

In Dante's text, in Inferno XIII, we meet a major counter figure to Brunetto Latino. It is a scene of terror, where Dante plucks a dead twig which then bleeds - one can add that it bleeds brown chancery ink - and speaks. Later, Dante gathers up the fallen leaves, the folia, restoring them to their owner. The shade who is the speaking tree is the suicide Pier Delle Vigne, Chancellor to the Emperor Frederick II of Sicily. Pier Delle Vigne as imperial logothete functioned much as had Thomas a Becket for his king and as would Thomas More to his; he ran the imperial chancery and likewise taught students how to do so. Part of his teaching method was to have exempla of his letters be copied into a collection, the Epistolarium . We find that letter collection in Florence translated into Italian and continued by Ser Brunetto Latino, to be copied out by his students, including the letter composed by Brunetto Latino himself and sent to Pavia after the Florentine murder of the Abbot Tesauro of Vallombrosa.

When Dante meets Ser Brunetto in Hell he is told who the other members are of that circle. In the following canto he then meets them as a trio of runners, Guido Guerra, Tegghaio Aldobrandi and Jacopo Rusticucci who, when living, had been major participants in Florence's Primo Popolo, her first Republic. When I entered the Florentine archives to seek material about Brunetto Latino I found document upon document about these men from the past, some written in Brunetto's own hand, others naming him, mirror-reflected in the cantos of Dante's poem, for instance documents about Guido Guerra and the sale of his castle of Romena, 6 May 1255, with Farinata degli Uberti as witness. The Guidi counts were a powerful family, mainly Ghibelline, with the exception of Guido Guerra, who was Captain of Guelph Florence after the Victory of Benevento. Romena was associated with Master Adam, whom the Ghibelline Guidi got to falsify Florence's lilied florins and whom Dante places in Hell. In Dante's Paradiso we will find his ancestor Cacciaguida bitterly regretting the sale of these Guidi castles to Florence, for Dante was himself, as an exile, to be the guest of the Ghibelline Guidi at Poppi and Romena, and to shed his Guelph Republicanism.

DOCUMENT I [ASS]. On the 20th of April, 1254, Brunetto Latino, ' Ser Burnectus Bonacorsi Latinus ', as he is termed in such documents, was the notary who drew up the peace treaty with Siena in which Jacopo Rusticcuci and Hugo Spini are named as Florence's ambassadors. The peace treaty was then signed and witnessed in the Church of Santa Reparata, ' ad sonum campanarum comunis ', to the sound of the bells of Florence, in the presence of the Anziani , the Senators, and all other officials of the city and people of Florence. It is written in fine Ciceronian Latin, not in imperial Pier Delle Vigne's mocking of papal rhetoric, but in Republican style.

That document was next, on the 11th of June, used as the basis for the Sienese signing at Montereggione, which Dante also mentions in Hell, comparing its twelve bristling towers to the twelve giants ringing Satan in the bottommost pit. That document is today still in Siena, written in Brunetto Latino's clear and lovely hand, signed with his notarial sign of a lilied column. Along with that document in Siena are many others, in which we witness the plotting and preparations for war by Siena with Farinata degli Uberti and other Florentine Ghibellines in conjunction with King Manfred of Sicily, the Emperor Frederick's bastard son.

In Inferno VI.79-80, Dante asked Ciacco the glutton about 'Farinata e'l Tegghiaio . . . Iacopo Rusticucci' and others, and in Inferno XVI.34-45, Jacopo Rusticucci tells him of his working together with Guido Guerra and Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, adding:

E io, che posto son cono loro in croce,
Iacopo Rusticucci fui . . .

'E io . . . ' 'Et ego . . . ' This is the formulaic witnessing to a comunal legal document, a political treaty. Dante so had his fictional poem be witnessed, within its text, by countless shades, shades whom he could only have met amongst the pergamene, the parchment documents of the Florentine Chancery. Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, for instance, was dead before Dante was born.

DOCUMENT II [ASF]. On 25 August 1254, Brunetto Latino drew up yet another peace treaty, this one between the Guelphs of Arezzo and Florence, which was signed on that day - to the customary ringing of bells - in the Church of San Lorenzo. We find its copy in the Capitoli di Firenze carefully written in Brunetto's hand, with his notarial sign of a lilied column.

In October and again in December of 1254, we find Brunetto Latino working on a peace treaty with Pisa, its documents involving also Genoa and Lucca. The 10th of October document is signed 'Et ego Burnectus Bonacursi Latini notarius et nunc Ancianorum scriba et comunis '. Villani, Florence's medieval historian, says that 1254 was called by the Florentines the victorious year because of their diplomacy and their miliary prowess.

Brunetto is next involved, 8 May 1257, with a peace pact with Faenza, in which he is named ' Burnecto notario fil. Bonacursi Latini sindico comunis et popule Florentie '. Then in June of 1257 Florence and Lucca formed an alliance against Pisa because Pisa had nominated Alfonso el Sabio of Castile as Roman Emperor and was against Florence. But in September of that year a peace was signed in Santa Reparata between Florence and Pisa. Next, Ghibelline Siena and Genoa allied with Manfred, Frederick II's bastard heir, against Guelph Florence, Genoa even offering Manfred the imperial throne.

On 14 October 1258, the Abbot Tesauro of Vallombrosa, suspected of Ghibelline plotting, was murdered in Florence, his head torn off by the crowd. Pavia, his home town, protested. Florence sent to that city a scathing reply, likely penned by Brunetto Latino, which mocks the Ghibellines by being written not in the Ciceronian style favoured by the Guelphs, but in the Ghibelline manner, borrowed from Frederick II's Chancellor, Pier Delle Vigne. In it Pavians are told not to lay up their 'treasure ' on earth, punning upon the Abbot's name, Tesauro, but in heaven, from Matthew 29.16-42. Such biblical punning was Pier Delle Vigne's hallmark, in his own texts and again in Dante the pun being used of his name, Pier, referring to St Peter, locking and unlocking Frederick's heart, and to his surname, Delle Vigne, as the True Vine, Christ. Brunetto adds this letter, dripping with sarcasm, with mockery, to the compilation of Vignolan diplomatic exempla and would have had his students, including Dante Alighieri, copy it out as part of their chancery training.

The murder of Tesauro caused the Pope to place Florence under an interdict, and the plotting, exiled Ghibellines, now in Siena, were victorious over her at the Battle of Montaperti in 1260, staining the Arbia red, because they used this crime as their excuse for war. Dante placed Tesauro of Pavia and Vallombrosa, whose murder took place before he was born, in Inferno XXXII, linking his figure with Bocca degli Alberti, who betrayed Florence at Montaperti to Siena by cutting off her standard bearer's arm, and Ugolino da Pisa, who was to betray his city to Florence and to devour his children.

DOCUMENT III [ Capitolo Fiorentino, Santa Maria del Fiore]. 20, 22 June 1257, Florentine and Aretine canons arrange the payment of the decima for the Pope's war against King Manfred of Sicily in Apulia.

DOCUMENTS IV, V [ASF Protocol Compagnie religiose soppresse, Cistercian Badia at Settimo]. 14 October 1259, Brunetto Latino as scribe of the Anziani writes the minutes concerning deliberations about repairs to the Rubaconte and Carraia Bridges across the Arno, and to the fish weir at the Rubaconte. ' Et ego Burnectus Latinus notarius nunc Antianorum scriba predicta domini Capitanei et Antianorum mandato publice scripsi. '

DOCUMENT VI [ASF, Libro di Montaperti ]
During this period war clouds were gathering, Guelph Florence arming herself against Ghibelline Siena. The Libro di Montaperti lists what Florentines are prepared to provide for the war effort. The handwriting of the beginning and several other pages is Brunetto's. He is listed five times in the Libro di Montaperti, the first time as ' Burnetto Bonaccursi Latini, iudici et notario, sindico ut dixit Comunis et hominum de Monte [varchi]', and as having a vexillum or banner and a pavilion or tent on the battle field. The other four times, as notary, he was guaranteeing that various Florentines would provide so many men.

But, rather than having Brunetto Latino present on the field of battle, the decision was made to send him as ambassador to * Alfonso el Sabio. * This is the Hall of the Ambassadors in the Alcazar in Seville where the two men most likely met. At the same time that his fellow poet and diplomat Guglielmo Beroardi, was sent to the other claimant to the imperial throne, Richard of Cornwall. Guelph Florence in her desperation was offering to both men her aid in gaining the imperial throne if they would come to Italy and fight against Ghibelline Manfred.

It is probable that the King of Spain and the Chancellor of Florence exchanged books at this time and later - for Alfonso was to continue to aspire to the imperial throne. * Alfonso's Las Cantigas de Santa Maria came to Florence in a splendidly illuminated volume, likewise translations of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and the Ladder of Mahomet , while Brunetto's * Tesoretto and * Li Livres dou Tresor came to Spain.

Latino's embassy had been too late. On 4 September, Guelph Florence was utterly routed at Montaperti, Brunetto Latino and his family among those against whom sentence of exile was passed. * Brunetto himself says in the Tesoretto that while he was journeying back through the Pass of Roncesvalles, a student from Bologna told him the news. His father, exiled to Lucca, penned a floridly grief-stricken letter which his brother is said to have given him. Though many Florentines stayed in Lucca's San Frediano district, Ser Brunetto first went to Montepellier in Provence, then chose to live out his exile amongst the Lombard bankers in northern France, in Arras, but he visited the great fair at Bar-sur-l'Aube, and came to know of the richly illuminated Roman de la Rose. Arras was a logical refuge for Guelph Florentines, both cities involved in the making of tapestries. Recall Hamlet's line about the 'rat behind the arras'. It was here that Brunetto likely compiled his magnum opus , the encyclopedic Li Livres dou Tresor. All these great European books, Las Cantigas de Santa Maria, Le Roman de la Rose, Li Livres dou Tresor, break from the past in being written in their vernaculars, being written for lay readers, not clerics. But, just as Alfonso chose to write in the Gallegos of Compostela for Las Cantigas de Santa Maria , so did Brunetto choose to write in the French of Charles of Anjou, later creating the Italian version following his return from exile.

From the documents that survive from this period it is clear that Latino was part of the Florentine Guelph shadow cabinet, of its government-in-exile, who were now, as Papal bankers, though still under interdict, seeking to win back their city with florins and marks sterling and with the aid of popes and imperial candidates. We have two letters penned by Brunetto Latino from this period.

*DOCUMENT VII [Vatican Secret Archives]. This letter was written to the Roman Curia from Arras about notarized events on 15 and 24 September, promising the loyalty of the exiled Florentine bankers in Arras and in Paris to the Pope's cause against Manfred. It is still in the Vatican Secret Archives.

DOCUMENT VIII [Westminster Abbey]. The second letter, written from Bar-sur-l'Aube to England, directly concerns England's payment of the Crusading tithe or decima to the Pope. The Florentines loan the money to the Bishop of Hereford. A sentence in the document says that to borrow at interest from the Florentines has papal approval, that this usury even carries with it the crusading indulgence. There is a possibility that this is the amount, two thousand marks sterling, that the Roman Curia engaged to pay to Lucca for sheltering the exiled Florentine Guelphs in the parish of San Frediano. The document is still in Westminster Abbey.

Dante Alighieri, of a family too unimportant or insufficiently Guelph to have been exiled from Florence, was born in May 1265. In June of that year, Charles of Anjou, brother to St Louis of France and whose mother was sister to King Alfonso of Spain, was made Senator of Rome. The text of Li Livres dou Tresor, which Brunetto initially wrote in Picardan French, from the Arras region, contains the text of a letter to Charles of Anjou concerning this investitute and oath to uphold the Capituli, the Constitution, while Arnolfo di Cambio, architect of the city walls and gates, of the Palazzo Vecchio and of the Duomo in Florence, sculpted * Charles of Anjou as Senator in a Roman toga, the Capituli in his hand, both text and sculpture stressing the need to observe and preserve communal liberties. On 6 January 1266 Charles of Anjou and his wife Beatrice were crowned by the Pope in the Vatican. * On 26 February the Battle of Benevento was fought, Charles of Anjou being victorious over King Manfred. We meet Manfred in Purgatorio III.103-145, displaying his battle wounds. His soldiers buried their dead king under a huge cairn. The Pope ordered his body disinterred and cast onto a river bank beyond the bounds of either his own kingdom or the papal domains. After Benevento, Ghibelline Florence compromised, electing two Jovial Friars from Bologna, one Guelph, one Ghibelline to rule them. Dante placed them in Hell, in the circle of hypocrites, as walking forever under huge copes of gilded lead. In March 1266, Ghibelline ambassadors from Florence, including Dante's relative, Buonaccorso Elisei, outlined to the Pope a restoration of the former Florentine Guelph government. In April Pope Clement finally lifted the eight year interdiction against Florence for the murder of Abbot Tesauro of Vallombrosa.

Charles of Anjou, made King of Jerusalem and Sicily by the Pope, was in Florence, May 1267. He appointed Guido Guerra Vicar of Florence, under the Frenchman Jean Britaudi as Vicar of Tuscany. Brunetto Latino, it seems, found some employement under the Angevin king, documents naming him sometimes ' protonotario ', sometimes mere ' notario '. Two of these involve Volterra around 20 August 1267. DOCUMENT IX [ASF San Gimignano Diploma] A third is written in Pistoia by Brunetto Latino as the vicar of Tuscany's 'protonotarius ', concerning San Gimignano, 6 December 1269. 25 July 1274 Brunetto was secretly negotiating peace with the Sienese on behalf of Florence. In 1275 he is noted as 'nunc absentius', now absent. In the 1280 Peace of Cardinal Latino Brunetto is named as having once lived near the Duomo Gate.

What happened during these mainly silent years, from 1270 to 1284? Was he teaching? In Florence? In Bologna (for he borrows money there for his brothers and other relatives)? Was he in Sicily? In Constantinople? In Catalonia? Was Dante his student during this time or later? The continuing production of manuscripts in the Arras region as Li Livres dou Tresor and later in Florence as Il Tesoro , may demonstrate teaching activity as Brunetto combined book production and legal teaching by having students take down his books as lectures (' And then the Master said . . . '), a typical Arabic form he likely learned from his visit to Spain. He had them also copy out the chancery letters of Pier Delle Vigne, his own father's about Montaperti, and his own about Abbot Tesauro of Vallombrosa, as models for future formulaic uses. We know that this was typical notarial training given by fathers to sons, who would be their discipuli , their disciples, and contemporary references tell us that Guido Cavalcanti, Dante Alighieri and Francesco Barberino were Brunetto's students. We know that Pier Delle Vigne similarly combined his tasks as Chancellor with those as Maestro, as Professor, a model Latino clearly followed in his literary frameworks, and likely also did so in reality. * If one looks at Siena's Buon Governo fresco one sees there such a maestro , such a magister , in his red teaching robes with his students seated before him, in one of the shops by the market place. I suspect that Brunetto's was such a store-front university, in Arras, or Florence, or wherever else he might have been, for instance, Poggibonsi, Volterra, Pistoia, or Bologna, or even in Apulia or Sicily, in the service of Charles of Anjou.

Or was his fate even worse? Was he languishing in some Angevin prison, sequestered in Naples, denied access to parchment, quills and ink? For there are almost no documents for this period, either diplomatic or literary, apart from the copying of his books in France and in Italy. And when he was to return to Florentine politics, he was to make major speeches in elegant Ciceronian cadences about the need to free all slaves and political prisoners, especially the women, and so eloquent were his speeches that the vote always went in his favour.

Brunetto Latino had been forced, in order to save Republican Florence, to seduce and woo Kings and Emperors. He loved republican Cicero, loathed imperial Aristotle, tutor to Alexander, but had to mimic the latter, creating encyclopedias for Kings and Emperors, in order to slip in teaching about republican democracy. He prefers the classic Romanesque, the rounded Bolognan libraria script, not spikey Gothic, imitating Hebrew script and Islamic architecture. Yet he taught his students, Guido Cavalcanti and Dante Alighieri, Aristotle and Avverrois, granting them this dolce stil nuovo, Gothic's 'sweet new style', wrought by the Norman-French Crusaders' contact with the Near East, by Islam's and Judaism's shared presence in the Kingdoms of Sicily and Spain.

Brunetto is sarcastic in his use of the word 'Treasure'. Li Livres dou Tresor is a bribe to Charles of Anjou. Charles of Anjou was not only greedy, desperate for money, desiring to Crusade against Christian Constantinople in order to be its wealthy Emperor, but also cruel, putting his enemies in dungeons, their right eye gouged out, right hand and leg cut off. Rather than a Senator under oath to preserve Roman - and hence - Florentine liberties, Charles was seen as a tyrant, more cruel, they said, even than Nero. In one very fine, though mutilated, manuscript in the Biblioteca Nazionale, dated between 1286-1287, Charles of Anjou's name is suppressed and his father-in-law, Raymond of Berengar's, given instead. Another, Laurentian Library 42.19, speaks of Brunetto writing the work 'for love of his enemy', rather than friend, that phrase repeated in the 1474 editio princeps. Another manuscript, again in the Biblioteca Nazionale, continues the Chronicle section of the Tresor with a scathingly bitter account of Charles of Anjou's reign, including the Sicilian Vespers revolt against him, documented with transcriptions and translations of diplomatic letters, the paper war as well as the real one, of which Charles was the centre. If we trust the evidence of this supposed eye-witness Tesoro account, Brunetto Latino was perhaps himself involved in the secret diplomacy between the Emperor Paleologus of Constantinople and King Peter of Aragon, plotting the 1282 Sicilian Vespers Easter uprising against Charles of Anjou to bring about his overthrow. His father, Bonaccursus Latinus, the notary for the Bishop of Fiesole, Filippo di Perugia, had already been to Constantinople before him. The text describes an 'Accardo' Latino and a Gianni di Procita, both disguised as Franciscans, implicated in secret missions between the Pope, the Emperor, and the King. Scholars have said this text is written by a Ghibelline. Ten Italian Tesoro manuscripts include various versions of the Sicilian Vespers. I believe, given the archival evidence, these are Brunetto's own or a protegé's chancery propaganda against a most disappointing patron. I read it as like the twice-told tale of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Casa Guidi Windows , a political about-face.

We have one reference to Brunetto Latino in 1282, shortly after the establishment of the Priorate of the Artes was established in that year. There is one undated document, its top torn off, concerning the Calimala, DOCUMENT X [ASF imprecisely dated document]. Then silence again until 1284, when he was a major figure in the League against Pisa drawn up by Genoa, Lucca, Florence and other cities. Charles of Anjou, now only King of Jerusalem and Naples, having lost Sicily, wrote to the Florentine Guelphs, 10 April 1283, requesting such action against Pisa. Brunetto Latino is the principal ambassador negotiating this ' guerra viva ' against Pisa, starving her of all necessary food imports, but secretly he and the other Florentines were also negotiating secretly with Pisa's ruler, Count Ugolino. Brunetto seems to be for Charles of Anjou's policy, yet secretly works against it. He was, after all, Chancellor Macchiavelli's prototype.

Pisa learned of this treachery in 1288 and then, in a time of terrible famine, in their desperation cast Ugolino and his progeny in prison. Guido da Montefeltro next threw the keys of the prison tower into the Arno, leaving the family to die of the hunger they had inflicted on their own city. The Chronicle of Florence, traditionally considered to have been written by Brunetto Latino during this period, speaks in one breath of the Pisan ruler's cannibalism of his own family and of the * Florentines building the ten-columned stone loggia of Orsanmichele's grain market, to feed even the enemy in time of famine.

Between January 1285 and July 1292 Brunetto made dozens of speeches before the various bodies of the Florentine communal government, concerning constitutional matters and embassies, diplomacy and law, and his speeches nearly always won unanimous votes in favour of what he counselled. The Libri Fabarum and other documents in the Florentine archives record 42 of these. Brunetto was elected one of the twelve Priors, living, like Dante after him, in the * Torre del Castagna from 15 August to 15 October 1287. Many of these documents concern gathering war clouds with Arezzo. On 11 June 1289 Dante was present at the Battle of Campaldino, at which Florence routed Arezzo, even killing her bishop on the battle field (Inferno XXII.1-5). During this time young Dante presented aged Brunetto with the Vita Nuova, filled with Islamic Avveroism, brought by Brunetto from Spain, and Provencal poetic, brought by Brunetto from Provence,accompanied by the poem, ' Messer Brunetto, questa pulzeletta '.

Dante's Commedia has self-referential images about the burning of paper, about the hair/flesh sides of parchment pages, about the scribe and the illuminator * (Dante and Oderisi) going side by side, yoked like two oxen drawing the sacred Ark, about all the scattered leaves of the universe gathered up and bound in one volume. I believe his poem is also about notaries and their legal chambers, about bankers and their ledgers, about chancellors and their chanceries, with all their spider web patterns of reciprocity, of international, pan-European, debit and credit accounts in black and red, that Dante has used in the Commedia, constructing from them a theatre of memory, a prison house of words and parchment; that he is like Melville's Bartleby, the scrivener who worked in the dead letter office, that he is like Eco's monks in their vast, apocalyptic, ephemeral library. However, from these legal and literary worlds where one is unsure whether flesh and blood can be parchment and brown ink, we do still have documents written by Brunetto Latino in his own hand - though we know of none by Dante. And these archival documents of which we have ten, signed, sealed and delivered - written by Brunetto and authenticated with his very Florentine notarial sign of a lilied column, clearly say ' Et ego Burnectus Bonaccorsi Latinus notarius ', as if they were written not seven hundred years ago but today.

Document II
25 August 1254, Peace Treaty with Arezzo ASF (Archivio di Stato di Firenze) Capitoli di Firenze, Reg. 29, fols. 189-191.
[NS] et ego Burnectus Bonacursi Latinus notarius predicta interfui et ea Rogatus publice scripsi.

Document VII 15, 24 September 1263 Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Instr. Misc. 99, from Arras.
[NS] et ego Burnectus Latinus Notarius de Florentia predicta coram me Acta Rogatus publice scripsi.

Document VIII
17 April, 1264 Westminster Abbey, Muniment Room and Library, 12843, from Bar sur l'Aube.
[NS] et ego Brunectus Latinus de Florentia Notarius, predicta coram me Acta Rogatus publice scripsi.
 

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