DIGITIZING BRUNETTO LATINO
AS KEY TO DANTE ALIGHIERI
The older mode of scholarship was to labour in the vineyard with a manual typewriter 'hunt and peck' and, if one was Francis J Carmody, to frantically examine Brunetto Latino manuscripts on the eve of the outbreak of war. Carmody had to defend his edition against the far better one already carried out by Polycarpe Chabaille, commissioned by Napoleon I and finished under Napoleon III - and likely written with a goosequill pen. Carmody found more manuscripts - some of them I fear by his day imaginary only - which I discovered when following in the steps of both of them with Eurailpass in the summers going from library to library that Chabaille's work was far more careful and trustworthy. One Carmody manuscript in Dunkerque had perished in flames in 1929, before he said he saw it, another in Strasbourg was merely a fragmentary pastedown. I think Carmody thought his tracks would be covered by the destruction of the war or that if any were to check his work it would be sufficiently long after his death. More recently art historians and myself have been speaking of the importance of the manuscripts that continued to be produced in Arras, and written in Picard French, where documentary evidence placed Brunetto during his exile following Montaperti. A further great scholar on the order of Chabaille was Davidsohn. Robert Davidsohn left Germany for Florence and spent a lifetime researching the Florentine archives. His many volumes used to accompany me back and forth across the Atlantic as I worked on my book on Brunetto. I found in the Archivio di Stato and elsewhere that every reference he gave was accurate. With his aid I could then transcribe the many legal documents that Brunetto wrote, all of which refer to men of flesh and blood who people the pages of Dante's Inferno.
Given our new technologies I propose a newer mode of scholarship, one that is not competitive but collaborative, not expensive but affordable. This is particularly needed in the case of Brunetto Latino, who wrote in Latin, French and Italian, whose manuscripts and documents are to be found across Europe, and whose corpus is so vast that one individual cannot master it all. Moreover, because his manuscript production was largely through oral means, like a professor dictating a lecture to students, we need to take account of the new findings by Paul Zumthor and Bernard Cerquiglini concerning mouvance and variance, for we lack a static authorized text. We need French scholars, we need Italian scholars, and we need archivists working together with these new theories and new technologies to understand Latino and his important influence on Dante. In particular we need to be aware of Michael Camille’s plea with the St Albans Psalter, that the edition not ignore the manuscript cycle or its miniatures.
Using the Internet I brought together scholars from Australia, Diana Modesto, from America, Alison Stones (and Elisabetta Sayiner by correspondence), from England, Jennifer Marshall, from Switzerland, Brigitte Roux (and now I include from from France, Bernard Ribémont, from Belgium, Wendelien van Welie-Vink and from Udine, Sonia Minutelli), and in Florence, Maria Grazia Ciardi Dupré Dal Pogetto, most of whom gave papers at our second conference in Florence on The City and the Book, where together we had the opportunity of going from library to library and from archive to archive to see the manuscripts and documents we talked about. The Laurentian, Riccardian, National and Capitolo Libraries and the State Archives all collaborated in this project with fine exhibitions of the volumes and documents in question (they had refused to put them all under one roof!) and we walked from one to the next in pouring rain under our umbrellas. I hope to be able to repeat this opportunity another year and under more favourable weather conditions! This paper can serve as a Call for Papers for the summer of 2008.
As a result of my own work on Brunetto, with editing Il Tesoretto three times, the first for Garland with an IBM Selectric, the second for the Laurentian Library with computer, the third digitized for my own self-archiving website, and with the research for Twice-Told Tales: Brunetto Latino and Dante Alighieri, published first by Peter Lang and now by myself, I have accumulated many microfilms of manuscripts and documents and slides of illuminations as well as books about Brunetto Latino and his era. M. Moleiro of Barcelona gave us their beautiful facsimile of the St Petersburg Li Livres dou Tresor, the sister manuscript to that of the Ashburham in the Laurentian Library, and the Laurentian Library gave us their facsimile of Il Tesoretto. These I make freely available in our small library in Florence, the Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei to scholars. I had earlier known of Dawn Prince's work on her edition of the Gerona Tesoro and Elisabetta Sayiner's work on her dissertation on Brunetto Latino. Cesare Scalon told me of his discovery of fragments of a Tresor in the Archives in Udine. Sonia Minutelli of Udine chose to write her thesis on Brunetto's astronomical material in the San Daniele di Friuli 238 manuscript and came frequently to my library making full use of all these holdings. Elisabetta Sayiner and I plan to co-edit all of Brunetto Latino's writings on rhetoric.
I have put the papers from the City and the Book conference on the web and on the CD. With these I include the third edition of the Tesoretto. Modern digitization is ideal for manuscript illuminations, enabling us to see more on the screen than we can see with the naked eye in a library. I also give the catalogue of my library's holdings on Brunetto in books, articles and microform. I include, as well, with her permission, Sonia Minutelli's fine thesis. It is my hope that our work on Brunetto can continue collaboratively with scholars collating all his texts, correcting errors in my Tesoretto, working on the Rettorica, on his two translations of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, on Li livres dou Tresor, on the Tesoro (which we now know to have been translated not by Bono Giamboni but most likely by Brunetto himself), and which would have been the version known to Dante. It is also my hope we can continue to openly archive this material inexpensively and interactively in digital forms for the use of new and international generations of scholars. In doing so we shall be complying with the Budapest Open Access Initiative. Brunetto himself with his mass production of the Tresor and Tesoro was carrying out a medieval version of this scholarly project, sharing by means of a book Guelf political ideas on governance based on Cicero and Aristotle for Europe. Dante, with his Commedia, would follow suit, though differing politically from his maestro, with a poem he desired be accessible not only to men but also to women and children.
Brunetto's acquisition of Arabic astronomical
materials in Spain at the court of Alfonso el Sabio as well as
his legal and rhetorical practices are all present in a
manuscript internally dated 1285-1286 of the Tesoro,
Biblioteca Nazionale Magliabecchiano VIII.1375, and which may,
Helene Wieruszowski thought, have been written by the young
Dante as a discipulus scriptor. It is this body of
material, as well as the archival legal documents Brunetto
wrote, which became matrix to Dante's Commedia. Such a
project could be a key to the study of Dante Alighieri and to
the currently neglected foundation for Florence's Renaissance,
in the Republic of Florence which had not yet heard of the
Medici but which was shaped by the likes of Guido Guerra,
Arnolfo di Cambio and Brunetto Latino.
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