Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/587

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Francesco Filelfo (1398-1481), afterwards so conspicuous as a humanist. He studied Greek at Constantinople with John (brother of Manuel) Chrysoloras, whose daughter he married. In selecting the books which he brought home with him, he doubtless had access to the best stores of the Eastern metropolis. Considerable interest therefore attaches to the list of his Greek books which Filelfo gives in a letter to Ambrogio Traversari, written shortly after his return to Venice in 1427. The manuscripts which he enumerates are those which he had carried with him to Italy. He says that he is expecting a few more ("olios...nonnullos"") by the next Venetian ships from the Bosporus; but we may assume that the catalogue in this letter includes the great bulk of his Greek library. It comprises the principal Greek poets (including the Alexandrian), with the notable exception of the Attic dramatists, who are represented only by "seven plays of Euripides." In prose he has the historians, from Herodotus to Polybius; of the orators, Demosthenes, Aeschines, and "one oration of Lysias"; no dialogue of Plato, but nearly all the more important writings of Aristotle: also much prose literature, good and bad, of the Alexandrian and Roman ages. The list contains no book which is not now extant.

Not all men, however, were in a position to seek manuscripts for themselves at Constantinople or elsewhere. The majority of collectors perforce relied on agents. A typical figure in the manuscript-trade of the Renaissance was Vespasiano da Bisticci of Florence (1421-98), to whose pen we owe vivid portraits of several among his more distinguished clients. He acted as an agent in procuring and purchasing manuscripts. He also employed a staff of copyists which was probably the largest in Europe. But he was not merely a man of business. He was scholar enough to see that his men made correct transcripts. In his later years the printer was beginning to supersede the scribe. Vespasiano regarded this new mechanical contrivance with all the scorn of a connoisseur in penmanship, and of one who grieved that those treasures which he procured for the select few should be placed within the reach of the multitude. Among the eminent men of whom Vespasiano became the biographer was Niccolo de1 Niccoli, of Florence, one of the most notable collectors in the earlier Renaissance. Niccoli was an elegant Latin scholar, and held a prominent place in the literary circle of Cosmo de' Medici. His house was filled with choice relics of antiquity, marbles, coins, and gems; in the refined luxury of his private life he seemed to Vespasiano "a perfect model of the men of old"; but the object to which he devoted most of his wealth and thought was the acquisition of Greek and Latin manuscripts. It was to him that Aurispa brought the famous eleventh-century codex now known as the Laurentian, containing Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Apollonius Rhodius. Bred in the days when good copyists were scarce, Niccoli had become inured, like Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Poggio, to the labour of transcribing manuscripts, and a