Lodovico Antonio Muratori

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Lodovico Antonio Muratori

The Italian historian and antiquary Lodovico Antonio Muratori (1672-1750) is known for his publication of historical documents. He has been called the father of Italian history.

Lodovico Antonio Muratori was born at Vignola in the duchy of Modena on Oct. 21, 1672. He took minor orders in 1688 and had become a doctor of Roman and canon laws by 1694. Immediately after his ordination in 1695, Muratori was appointed to a post at the Ambrosian library in Milan. While a young man, his interest in philological studies and antiquarian scholarship had been awakened by the director of the library of the dukes of Modena, Father Benedetto Bacchini. At Milan he completed the first volumes of his first major work, the Anecdota (Milan, 1697-1698; Padua, 1713), a collection of documents drawn from the Ambrosian collections. In 1700, on Bacchini's retirement, he returned to Modena to take over the directorship. From this point on, his life story is the story of his publications.

Italian historical scholarship in the 17th century had been dominated by the spirit of the Counter Reformation. All events were viewed in the light of theological truths; moral fervor and religious orthodoxy were more important than historical accuracy. Muratori brought to Italy the exacting standards of the Benedictines of St. Maur, a French monastic group who had applied to historical studies the philological techniques first developed by 15th-and 16th-century humanists. Rigorous correction of texts through careful comparison of manuscripts, precise dating through philological and historical analysis, and elaborate historical erudition were the hallmarks of their work. All these Muratori introduced to 18th-century Italian historical scholarship.

Of Muratori's many works the most important were the Return italicarum scriptores (28 vols., 1723-1751; Writers of Italian History), the Antiquitates italicae medii aevi (6 vols., 1738-1743; Italian Antiquities of the Middle Ages), and the Annali d'Italia (12 vols., 1744-1749; Annals of Italy). The Rerum is an anthology of Italian chronicles from A.D. 500 to the 16th century. It includes the histories of Jordanus, Procopius, and Paul the Deacon; the Lombard Laws; the Liber pontificalis; the major monastic chronicles of the Middle Ages; and the most important regional chronicles of the Renaissance. Muratori's edition served Italian scholarship until the late 19th and 20th centuries, when most of the texts were given modern editions.

The Antiquitates is a collection of 75 dissertations on a variety of historical subjects, such as ordeals, heresies, the development of commerce, and the etymologies of words. In volume 3 Muratori published the earliest known list of the books of the New Testament, a text dating from before A.D. 200 that he had found in an 8th-century codex. It is still known as the Muratorian Canon. The Annali, a history of Italy from the time of Christ to the 18th century, is really a series of notes in which historical events are listed year by year. Muratori died on Jan. 23, 1750.

Further Reading

There is no study of Muratori in English. Background information on historiography is in Benedetto Croce, History: Its Theory and Practice (trans. 1923), and in Fritz Stern, ed., The Varieties of History (1956). □