P. Ramus als Theolog (Strassburg, 1878); E. Saisset, Les précurseurs de Descartes (Paris, 1862); J. Owen, French Skeptics of the Renaissance (London, 1893); K. Prantl, “Über P. Ramus” in Münchener Sitzungs berichte (1878); H. Höffding, Hist. of Mod. Phil. (Eng. trans., 1900), vol. i. 185; Voigt, Über den Ramismus der Universität Leipzig (Leipzig, 1888).
RAMUSIO. The noble Italian family of Ramusio—the spelling adopted in the publication of the Navigationi, though it is also written Ramnusio, Rhamnusio, Rannusio, &c.—was one of note for literary and official ability during at least four generations. Its original home was in Rimini, and the municipality of that city has within the last few years set up a tablet on the town hall bearing an inscription which may be thus rendered: “The municipality of Rimini here records the claim of their city to the family of the Ramusios, adorned during the 15th and 16th centuries by the illustrious jurist and man of letters Paolo the elder, who rendered the work of Valturius, our fellow-citizen, into the vernacular; by the physician Girolamo, a most successful student of Oriental tongues, and the first to present Europe with a translation of Avicenna; and by Giovanni Battista, cosmographer to the Venetian republic and secretary to the Council of Ten, who bequeathed to the world that famous collection of voyages and travels, regarded in his own day as a marvellous work, and still full of authority among all civilized nations.”
Paolo the Elder (c. 1443–1506), the first of those thus commemorated, migrated in 1458 from Rimini to Venice, where he obtained full citizenship, studied law and became a member of the magistracy, filling the offices of vicario, of judicial assessor, and of criminal judge under various administrators of the Venetian provinces on the continent. He continued, however, to maintain relations with the Malatesta princes of his native city, and in 1503 negotiated with them the cession of Rimini to the republic. The wife of Paolo, bearing the singular name of Tomyris Macachio, bore him three sons and four daughters. Paolo died at Bergamo on 19th August 1506 at the age of sixty-three, and was buried in S. Agostino at Padua. Paolo was the author of a variety of legal treatises and the like, and also published at Verona in 1483 both a corrected edition and an Italian translation of a once famous book, Valturius, De re militari, dedicating both to Pandolfo Malatesta of Rimini.
Girolamo (1450–1486), younger brother of Paolo, had a notable history. After he had studied medicine at Padua public suspicion was roused against him in connexion with the death of a lady with whom he had had some love passages, and this ran so high that he was fain, by help of his brother Paolo, to whom he transferred his property, to make his escape (about 1481–1483) to Syria and to take up his abode at Damascus. In 1486 he removed to Beyrout, and died the same year, killed, as the family chronicler relates, by a surfeit of “certain fruit that we call armellini and albicocche, but which in that country are known as mazzafranchi,” a title which English sailors in southern regions still give to apricots in the vernacular paraphrase of killjohns. During his stay in Syria Girolamo studied Arabic and made a new translation of Avicenna, or rather, we may assume, of some part of that author’s medical works (the Canon?). It was, however, by no means the first such translation, as is erroneously alleged in the Rimini inscription, for the Canon had been translated by Gerard of Cremona (d. 1187), and this version was frequently issued from the early press. Girolamo’s translation was never printed, but was used by editors of versions published at Venice in 1579 and 1606. Other works of this questionable member of the house of Ramusio consisted of medical and philosophical tracts and Latin poems, some of which last were included in a collection published at Paris in 1791.
Gian Battista (1485–1557), the eldest son of Paolo Ramusio and Tomyris Macachio, was born at Treviso in 1485 (June 20). Having been educated at Venice and at Padua, at an early age he entered the public service (1505), becoming in 1515 secretary of the senate and in 1533 secretary of the Council of Ten. He also served the republic in various missions to foreign states, e.g. to Rome, to Switzerland and to France, travelling over much of the latter country by special desire of the king, Louis XII. He also on several occasions filled the office of canceller grande. In 1524 he married Franceschina, daughter of Francesco Navagero, a noble-a papal dispensation being required on account of her being cousin to his mother Tomyris. By this lady he had one son, Paolo. In his old age Ramusio resigned the secretaryship and retired to the Villa Ramusia, a property on the river Masanga, in the province of Padua, which had been bestowed on his father in 1504 in recognition of his services in the acquisition of Rimini the year before The delights of this retreat are celebrated in the poems and letters of several of Gian Battista’s friends. He also possessed a house at Padua in the Strada del Patriarcato, a mansion noted for its paintings and for its collection of ancient sculpture and inscriptions. These, too, are commemorated by various writers. A few days before his death Ramusio removed to this house in Padua, and there died, 10th of July 1557, at the age of seventy-two. He was, by his own desire, buried at Venice, in the tomb which he had made for his mother, in Santa Maria dell’ Orto. His wife’s death had occurred in 1 5 36. In the work called Museum Mazzuchellianum (Venice, 1761, vol. i. pl. lxiv. No. 6) there is represented a 16th-century medal of Ramusio, which looks a genuine likeness, and a bronze example of which, without the reverse, is preserved in St Mark’s Library. There was a portrait of him, represented as in conversation with Andrea Gradenigo, in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, but in 1577 this perished in a fire, as did also a portrait of his father, Paolo. A professed portrait of Gian Battista by Francesco Grisellini, in the Sala dello Scudo, appears to be, like the companion portrait of Marco Polo, a work of fancy. A public nautical school at Rimini received from the government the title of the Istituto Ramusio.
Ramusio was evidently a general favourite, as he was free from pushing ambition, modest and ingenuous, and, if it be safe to judge from some of the dissertations in his Navigationi, must have been a delightful companion; both his friend Giunti and the historian Giustiniani speak of him with the strongest affection. He had also a great reputation for learning. Before he was thirty Aldus Manutius the elder dedicated to him his edition of Quintilian (1514); a few years later (1519) Francesco Ardano inscribed to him an edition of Livy, and in 1528 Bernardino Donati did the like with his edition of Macrobius and Censorinus. To Greek and Latin and the modern languages of southern Europe he is said to have added a knowledge of “Oriental tongues,” but there is no evidence how far this went, unless we accept as such a statement that he was selected in 1530 on account of this accomplishment to investigate the case of one David, a Hebrew, who, claiming to be of the royal house of Judah, wished to establish himself at Venice outside of the Ghetto. But Ramusio had witnessed from his boyhood the unrolling of that great series of discoveries by Portugal and Spain in East and West, and the love of geography thus kindled in him
- Both works are in the British Museum.
- “ Ramusii Ariminensis Carmina", in Quinqae Illustrium Paetarum . . . Lusus in Venerem. Girolamo’s are grossly erotic.
- The reverse is an amorphous map. The book is in the British Museum.
- Rerum Venetarum . . . Historia, bk. xiv.
- Ramusio’s report on this Hebrew is preserved in the diaries of Marcus Sanudo, and is printed by Cigogna. It is curious. David represented himself as a prince of the Bedouin Jews who haunt the caravan-road between Damascus and Medina; he claimed to be not only a great warrior covered with wounds but great also in the law and, in the cabala, and to have been inspired by God to conduct the dispersed tribes to the Holy Land and to rebuild the temple. In this view he had visited Prester John and the Jews in his kingdom, and then various European countries. David was dark in complexion, “like an Abyssinian,” lean, dry and Arab-like, well dressed and well attended, full of pretensions to supernatural cabalistic knowledge, and with enthusiastic ideas about his mission, whilst the Jews regarded him as a veritable Messiah.