Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/629

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be answered in the negative. Exceptional opportunities for the furthering of Christian scholarship lay ready to the hands of the Italians in the fourteenth century; yet there is strikingly little to show that advantage was taken of them. It has already been hinted that in Italy the knowledge of Greek as a spoken language was far from uncommon. Large portions of the South were, as Bacon says, "purely Greek"; on the Adriatic coast Greek was widely known. The Court of Rome had its relations with the Eastern patriarchates. The points at issue between the Greek and Latin Churches were productive of a long series of controversial writings on both sides; There was, in fact, no good reason why the knowledge of the Greek Bible and of the great Greek Fathers should not have continued to exist at the papal Court, and have been diffused from thence over the West. Yet we do not find that such knowledge existed in any appreciable degree. The thought of applying the knowledge of Greek to the study of the Bible seems hardly to have occurred to the Italian scholars of the fourteenth century. There are, it is true, examples dating from this period of Gospel-books and other parts of the Bible written in Greek and Latin, and emanating from Venice and Florence. It is commonly said, too, that an English Bishop -Adam Easton, Bishop of Norwich and Cardinal of St Cecilia-made a fresh version of the whole Bible from the original while in Italy. But this last assertion stands in need of corroboration; and at best it would indicate, not an activity of Italians in sacred studies, but the existence in Italy of materials by the aid "of which such studies could be prosecuted. The difficulty of discovering any symptom of consciousness that the field of theological study needed widening is of more weight than are the isolated examples of a wider learning which have been cited.

Before the fifteenth century has fairly opened we find nothing that can be called a decided current setting in the direction of wider learning or true sacred scholarship. It was not immediately that the rush of new discoveries involved those whose prime interest lay in things sacred. But when we hear of a Queen of Cyprus presenting a copy of the Gospels in Greek to a Pope, of a Greek prelate on his way to the Council of Florence giving another copy to a church at Verona, of a Cardinal (Cusanus) in the same year buying a third at Constantinople, and, within four years more, of copies being written in Italy itself, we feel sure that the movement is well in train.

Once begun, its development can be followed up along many lines. Three in particular suggest themselves as fruitful in indications not likely to be fallacious. First, we may take stock of what was done in the way of collecting ancient texts and forming libraries in which to preserve them. Secondly, we may review the work of the translators and copyists who made the new material accessible to their public; and, in the third place, we may trace the beginnings of criticism as applied to