Poggio Bracciolini, Giovanni Francesco

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Humanist; b. Terranuova, near Arezzo, February 11, 1380; d. Florence, April 30, 1459. Early in his boyhood his impoverished family moved to Florence where Poggio was able to pay for instruction in Latin from Giovanni da Ravenna from fees earned in copying MSS. He probably learned Greek, of which he never had full mastery, on his own initiative. In 1404, at the age of 24, he entered the service of the apostolic chancery during the pontificate of Boniface IX, serving as a scriptor; he held that post as a layman under eight popes for almost 50 years. On June 8, 1453, he assumed the office of chancellor of the Republic of florence, and functioned in that capacity until shortly before his death. His proficiency in Latin epistolography, an accomplishment much admired in his time, exerted considerable influence on the development of the curial style of the papal chancery. Poggio's most enduring claim to distinction rests on his remarkable industry in "recovering" MSS of Latin authors in monastic libraries such as weingarten, reichenau, and sanktgallen, where he found the complete text of Quintilian's Institutio oratoria, which he copied and forwarded to Leonardo Bruni.

As an author, Poggio is best known for his Letters and his most frequently translated Liber facetiarum, a collection of witty and generally indecent anecdotes filled with invective against clergy and religious. In imitation of Seneca he composed his Historia disceptiva de avaritia, Historiae de varietate fortunae, In hypocritas et delatores, and De humanae conditionis miseria, all of which show traces of a Christian stoicism. The Historia Florentiae, modeled on Livy's history of Rome, is useful but labors under the defects of its annalistic approach. In his translations of Greek authors, such as Diodorus Siculus, Lucian, and Xenophon (Cyropaedia ), Poggio's defective knowledge of Greek is all too evident; he was unable to render faithfully a Greek author's trend of thought. In controversies with Zeno of Feltre, Guarino, Ciriaco of Ancona, Filelfo, and Lorenzo Valla, to name but a few, he was frequently scurrilous and stirred up lifelong hatreds. Poggio's Urbis Romae descriptio and his interest in collecting Latin inscriptions give him a place of honor at the beginnings of classical archeology.

Bibliography: Editions. Opera omnia, ed. h. bebelius (Basel 1538); Epistolae, ed. t. de tonellis, 3 v. (Florence 183261). Literature. g. voigt, Die Wiederbelebung des classischen Altertums, ed. m. lehnerdt, 2 v. (3d ed. Berlin 1893). l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages, 40 v. (London-St. Louis 193861) v.1, passim. j. e. sandys, History of Classical Scholarship, 3 v. (Cambridge, England) 2:2534. e. walser, Gesammelte Studien zur Geistesgeschichte der Renaissance (Basel 1932). c. da capodimonte, "Poggio Bracciolini autore delle anonime Vitae quorundam pontificum, " Rivista di storia della Chiesa in Italia 14 (1960) 2747. m. seidlmayer, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 5:424. f. zoepfel, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 8:577. h. baron, The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance, 2 v. (Princeton 1955). m. e. cosenza, Biographical and Bibliographical Dictionary of the Italian Humanists and of the World of Classical Scholarship in Italy, 13001800, 5 v. (2d, rev. and enl. ed. Boston 1962) 4:285859; 5:144546. p. braccioloni, Lettere (Florence 1984); Poggio Bracciolini, 13801980 (Florence 1980). c. trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness (Chicago 1970).

[h. dressler]