A hidden hand

A hidden hand
A previous blog has commented on the role of Petrarch in rescuing the letters of Cicero from the ravages of time by discovering a crumbling copy of them in a library and having them copied and distributed. The backstory is that many scholars of his day, the 1320s 30s and 40s, were proficient in Latin, and Petrarch himself was particularly interested in letters, as witnessed by the many of his own that are available and which are riveting reading. Entirely through happenstance I followed a train of thought set in motion by a PhD student interested in Plato’s The Republic. Our conversation was about the different authorial voices he adopted in different texts and centred on my reading of his The Epistles – thirteen letters – and whether the authorial voice in these is Plato’s own or a fake. This in turn led me to the role of Petrarch and his friends and junior colleagues in ‘rescuing‘ Greek manuscripts and in particular those of Plato and associates, including by learning Greek in order to be able to read them, and through this setting in motion having them copied and also translated. How amazing this is, for I had never before appreciated quite how important Petrarch is to the letter, to current understanding of the ancient Greek classics, to philosophy and to so many other things.
Last updated:  12 May 2022

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