Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/630

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the documents which were already known, and to those which began now to be known for the first time.

Much has been written upon the first of these topics, but chiefly from the point of view of men interested in the Classical Revival. There is not a great deal that can suitably be added in this place to the story of the rediscovery of ancient literature. The work done by the collectors of Greek books was a wholly new work; we shall see the results of it most clearly in the course of our examination of the libraries. With the early literature of the Latin Church the case was different. There were but few Christian writers among those whom Poggio and his fellows rescued from an age-long obscurity; and the welcome accorded to these by the humanists was theirs as Latinists rather than as theologians. Tertullian and Lactantius are the leading names of this class. The first copy of the works of the former was found at Basel by Tommaso Parentucelli (afterwards Nicholas V). Lactantius, never a frequent author in medieval libraries, had hardly found a single copyist between the eleventh and the fourteenth century. A library at Bologna had preserved the earliest and best manuscript of his Institutions, and other tracts were yielded up by St Gall and the German abbeys. The most important Latin books apart from these were some of the early versions of Greek patristic works, such as that of Origen's Homilies on Luke, the finding of which, at St Cecilia's in Home, gladdened the heart of Ambrogio Traversari. However, it must be allowed that, upon the whole, the Latin finds of the earlier period were inconsiderable. The work of Irenaeus, though known to exist, attracted very little attention- chiefly, we may conjecture, because of its barbarous style; the Latin version of Hermas was hardly read; and the writings of Arnobius and Minucius Felix, which are of the kind that would have proved most pleasing to the humanists, were reserved for the explorers of the next century.

The libraries which received and preserved the stock of new material claim to be discussed at greater length. The natural centre for the formation of a great Christian library was the papal Court. Private amateurs like Niccolo Niccoli might, and actually did, accomplish much in the way of rescuing and bringing together books of all kinds; but it is a clear and familiar fact that what they prized most were the masterpieces of the pagan literature. It is the clergy, and above all the Pope, whom we expect to find caring for the archives of Christian antiquity. Fortunately, we are in a position to estimate very accurately, by the help of library catalogues, the measure of what was done in this line. The greatest of the early papal bibliophiles was Nicholas V (1447-55). It is not necessary to spend words here upon describing his activity as a collector or his munificence as a patron of letters. We shall run less risk of exaggeration if we draw from so unemotional a document as the inventory of his books, made at his decease. A short survey of the collection, if dry, will at least afford some basis of solid fact.