|NUMBER 3||FALL 1988|
BRUNETTO LATINI AND DANTE ALIGHIERI
In Dante's text, in Inferno XIII, we meet a major counter figure to Brunetto Latini. It is a scene of terror, where Dante plucks a dead twig which then bleeds __ one can add that it bleeds brown chancery ink __ and speaks. Later Dante gathers up the fallen leaves, the folia, restoring them to their owner.1 The shade who is the speaking tree is the suicide Pier delle Vigne, Chancellor to the Emperor Frederick II of Sicily. Pier delle Vigne as imperial logothete functioned much as had Thomas à Becket for his king and as would Thomas More to his; he ran the imperial chancery and likewise taught students how to do so.2 Part of his teaching method was to have exempla of his letters be copied into a collection, the Epistolarium.3 We find that letter collection in Florence translated into Italian and continued by Ser Brunetto Latini, to be copied out by his students, including the letter traditionally considered to have been composed by Brunetto Latini himself and sent to Pavia after the Florentine murder of the Abbot Tesauro of Vallombrosa. It is clearly ascribed to him in a Vatican manuscript.4
Archival Latin documents can help to demonstrate that Dante's construction of the Comedy is partly from the intertextual formulae of Latini's Chancery, which Latini in turn learned from the chancery styles of Frederick II, Alfonso el Sabio, and Charles of Anjou, and that Dante used the memory of these thirteenth-century chancery archives __ that ancient form of a computer retrieval system __ for his fourteenth-century poem, much as was Robert Browning to use the seventeenth-century Old Yellow Book, which the nineteenth-century poet discovered in San Lorenzo's market, both men creating, out of often sordid criminality of the past, magnificent poetry, the dead but true Latin archival documents of praxis undergirding the fictional and theoretical, yet living, Italian and English poems, The Divine Comedy and The Ring and the Book. In what follows such chancery documents, of which seven still exist written in Brunetto Latini's own hand and signed by him, will be used to explain aspects of Dante's Commedia.
When Dante meets Ser Brunetto in the Seventh Circle of Hell he is told who the other members of that circle are. In the following canto, still in the same Circle, he meets a trio of runners, Guido Guerra, Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, and Jacopo Rusticucci who, when living, had been important participants in Florence's republican «primo popolo», and who now wheel in a circle to speak with him. When I entered the Florentine archives seeking material about Brunetto Latini, I found initially a series of documents involving Count Guido Guerra's sale to Florence of property at Montevarchi and Montemurli comprising land and castles, one on the 31st of March 1254, another, the 6th of April of that year, each signed «ad sonum campane more solito congregatio» to the sound of the city's bells. Other names mentioned in the documents are those of Cavalcante Cavalcanti, Donato Benincasa, and Dino Tignosi Spinelli Malespini.5 Further such transactions were to occur on the 12th of August 1254, with Guglielmo Beroardi as sindico, on the 10th of September 1254, in which case it involved the sale of Romena by Count Guido Guerra to Florence, on the 6th of May 1255, with Farinata degli Uberti as a witness, and then again on 23 October 1273, after Montaperti and Benevento, in fact, a year after Guido Guerra's death.6 The Counts Guidi, whose later palace was to become home to the Brownings, were a powerful family, mainly Ghibelline, with the exception of Guido Guerra, who remained loyal to Guelph Florence, who was to be her captain after the victory of Benevento until his death, and who was to continue to be closely associated with Brunetto Latini. Romena was associated with Master Adam, whom the Ghibelline Conti Guidi got to forge Florence's lilied florins and who is mentioned in Inferno XXX, 73, in this context. Romena was also to be a temporary home for Dante during his bitter exile when he was taken in by the Counts Guidi, there and at Poppi, another of their castles. In Dante's Paradiso XVI, 64, we will find Dante's ancestor Cacciaguida bitterly regretting the sale of these Guidi castles and Florentine imperialist expansionism («Sariesi Montemurlo ancor de' Conti...») for Dante was himself, as an exile, to be the guest of the Ghibelline Guidi at Poppi and possibly Romena, and to shed his Guelph republicanism.
Document I. __ On the 20th of April of 1254, Brunetto Latini, Ser Burnectus Bonacorsi Latinus, as he is termed in such writings, was the notary who drew up the peace treaty with Siena in which Jacopo Rusticcuci and Hugo Spini are named as Florence's ambassadors. The peace treaty was signed and witnessed in the Church of Santa Reparata, again «ad sonum campanarum comunis», to the sound of the bells of the Comune, in the presence of the Anziani, the Senate, and all other officials of the Comune and people of Florence. That document was next, on June 11th, used as the basis for the Sienese signing at Montereggione, which Dante also mentions in Hell, comparing its twelve bristling towers to the twelve giants ringing Satan in the bottommost pit. The document in question is today still in Siena, written in Brunetto Latini's clear and lovely hand, signed with his notarial sign of a lilied column.7 Along with that document in Siena are many others, in which we witness the plotting and preparations for war by Siena with Farinata and other Florentine Ghibellines in conjunction with King Manfred of Sicily.
In Inferno VI (vv. 79-80) Dante asked Ciacco the glutton about «Farinata e 'l Tegghiaio... Iacopo Rusticucci» and others, and in Inferno XVI (vv. 34-45) Jacopo Rusticucci tells him:
«E io...», «Et ego...» This is the formulaic witnessing to the veracity of a legal document, of a political treaty. Dante so had his fictional poem be witnessed, within its text, by countless shades, shades whom he could only have met amongst the pergamene, the parchment documents of the Florentine Chancery. Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, for instance, was dead before Dante was born.
Tegghiaio Aldobrandi degli Adimari had been captain of the Comune of Florence in 1260 and formerly podestà for San Gimignano, Volterra, and Arezzo. He had died in exile in Lucca in the parish of San Frediano two years after Montaperti. At his death what troubled him was not sodomy, homosexuality, but his knowledge and guilt of the great usury he had practiced during his career. Like Guido Guerra he had used his military and political status for personal financial gain.8 Jacopo Rusticucci, likewise, in 1238 asked San Gimignano for recompense for swaying the Florentine podestà and consiglio against Volterra and its ambassadors. The then podestà, Rubaconte, had got the counsel to change its position, at Rusticucci's prompting, by claiming that Volterra had attempted to corrupt the decision.9
As for Ghibelline Farinata degli Uberti, whom we find mentioned again and again in the Sienese archives of this period, he was, for Brunetto Latini, a latter-day version of Rome's aristocratic treacherous Catiline, who had opposed Cicero and the Roman Republic's freedoms.10 Brunetto wrote about Catiline and his flight to Fiesole which was to cause the founding of Florence upon the model of Rome, in most of his works, in the Tresor, translated as the Tesoro, in the Rettorica, and in the Orazioni, in which he translated Catiline's address to his soldiers and which Dante, in Inferno XXVI, was to borrow for Ulysses' speech to his sailors. Dante returns to this story about Florence and Fiesole in both the infernal Brunetto Latini canto and in the mirroring Paradiso Cacciaguida cantos.11 Dante also presents us, in Inferno X, with Farinata and Cavalcante Cavalcanti, the Ghibelline and the Guelph, whose children had to marry each other, as fathers who are thus, in Dante's poetry, forever condemned to share the same tomb. For Farinata was a nobler man than Catiline and spoke effectively not for himself but for his city, successfully pleading with Siena after Montaperti that Florence not be destroyed. Dante, for this, called him «magnanimo», Aristotle's virtuous, great-souled man.
Document II. __ On the 25th of August 1254, Brunetto Latini drew up yet another peace treaty, this one between the Guelphs of Arezzo and Florence, which was signed on that day __ to the customary ringing of bells __ in the Church of San Lorenzo. Davidsohn, in his monumental history of Florence, stated that this 1254 peace treaty and the sale of the Guidi castles were connected. We find its copy in the Capitoli di Firenze carefully written in Brunetto's hand, with his notarial sign of a lilied column, and as carefully indexed as «Societas intras florentia, homines guelf... partis Aretii ... rogat per Burnettu Latini. f. clxxxvi».12 Giovanni Villani's Istorie di Firenze states that in 1255 Count Guido Guerra, who, he says, was not in collusion with the Florentines captured Arezzo and chased out the Ghibellines, who, Villani says, were then at peace with Florence. For this reason the Florentines came with their army to Arezzo against the Count, making the Count leave. He required twelve thousand lire to do so, which the Florentines promptly borrowed from the Aretines and likely never returned.13
In October and again in December of 1254 we find Brunetto Latini was working on a peace treaty with Pisa, its documents involving also Genoa and Lucca. The 10th of October document is signed «Et ego Burnectus Bonacursi Latini notarius et nunc Ancianorum scriba et comunis».14 Villani (VI, viii) discusses the peace treaty, then adds that 1254 was called by the Florentines the victorious year because with their diplomacy __ such as conducted by Brunetto Latini __ and their military __ as conducted by their podestà, Guiscardo da Pietrasanta, also named in the Siena peace treaty __ they had won glory and honor. This podestà was to be murdered in 1264 by assassins in the employ of King Manfred.
Brunetto was next involved, on the 8th of May 1257, with a peace pact with Faenza, in which he is named «Burneoto notario fil. Bonacursi Latini sindico comunis et populi Florentie».15 Then in June of 1257, Florence and Lucca formed an alliance against Pisa because Pisa had nominated Alfonso el Sabio of Castile as Roman Emperor and was against Florence. But in September of that year a peace was signed in Santa Reparata between Florence and Pisa. Next, Siena and Genoa allied with Manfred against Florence, Genoa offering Manfred the imperial throne.16 These documents and events do not name Brunetto Latini. We will find, however, Brunetto Latini again involved with Pisa, in the 1280s in the events surrounding the Count Ugolino.
On October 14,1258, the Abbot Tesauro of Vallombrosa, suspected of plotting with the Ghibellines, was murdered in Florence, his head torn off by the crowd.17 Pavia, his home town, protested. Florence sent to that comune a scathing reply, traditionally assumed to have been penned by Brunetto Latini, which mocks the Ghibellines by being written not in the Ciceronian style favored by the Guelphs but in the Ghibelline manner. It is a blasphemously sarcastic letter. In it Pavians are told not to lay up their «treasure» on earth (punning upon the Abbot's name, «Tesauro»), but in heaven, basing the text for this sermon about murder on Matthew 29:16-24. Such biblical punning was the hallmark of Pier delle Vigne's Ghibelline and imperial chancery style. We find him in his own text and again in Dante punning upon his own name (referring to St. Peter, capable of locking and unlocking Frederick's heart, and to himself as being the «true Vine», Christ).18 Brunetto added this letter to the compilations of Vignolan diplomatic exempla and would have had his students, such as Dante Alighieri, who was in turn to copy its style, copy it out as part of their chancery training.19 The murder of Tesauro of Vallombrosa caused the Pope to place Florence under an interdict, and the plotting exiled Ghibellines, now in Siena, to be victorious over her at Montaperti, in 1260, staining the Arbia red, because they used this crime as their excuse for war. Dante placed Tesauro of Pavia and Vallombrosa, whose murder took place before he was born, in Inferno XXXII, linking his figure with those of Bocca degli Abbati, who betrayed Florence at Montaperti to Siena by cutting off her standard bearer's arm, and Ugolino da Pisa, who was to betray his city to Florence and to devour his progeny.
Documents III & IV. __ On the 14th of October of the following year, 1259, we find Brunetto Latini as scribe of the Florentine Senate, the Anziani, taking the minutes of the deliberations, which concern contracts for the repairing of the Rubaconte and Carraia bridges, and for the fish weir at the Rubaconte.20 That scrap of parchment, written on both sides, is signed twice by Brunetto Latini with his lilied column and his name: «Et ego Burnectus Latinus notarius nunc Antianorum scriba predicta domini Capitanei et Antianorum mandato publice scripsi».21 During this period war clouds were gathering, Guelph Florence arming herself against Ghibelline Siena. The Libro di Montaperti lists what Florentines were prepared to provide for the war effort. The handwriting of the beginning pages and of several others reminds one of Brunetto's own __ and the dates are right for the parchment scrap tells us that Brunetto was, around this time, the notary and scribe of the Florentine Anziani. Brunetto is himself listed five times in the Libro di Montaperti the first time as «Burnetto Bonaccursi Latini, iudici et notario, sindico ut dixit Comunis et hominum de Monteguarchi» (the Montevarchi of the Conti Guidi), and as having a vexillum or banner and a pavilion or tent on the battle field. The other four times, as notary, he was guaranteeing that various leaders of sections of Florence would provide so many men.22
But, rather than having Brunetto Latini present on the field of battle, the decision was made instead to send him as ambassador to Alfonso el Sabio, at the same time that Guglielmo Beroardi, a similar Florentine poet and diplomat, was sent to the Bavarian court of the other claimant to the imperial throne, Richard of Cornwall. Guelph Florence, in desperation, was offering to both men her aid in gaining the imperial throne if they would come to Italy and fight against King Manfred. Villani gives a whole chapter in his Cronica to this episode, discussing the election of two emperors, Alfonso and Richard, and how the Church favored Alfonso in the hopes that he would overcome the pride of Manfred, and going on to state that for that reason the Florentine Guelphs sent Brunetto Latini to Spain as ambassador.23
It is probable that the King of Spain and the Chancellor of Florence exchanged books at this time and then again later __ for Alfonso was to continue to hope to attain the imperial throne. Later, in December of 1267, a Spanish bishop, García di Silves, sent to the Pope for this purpose, was murdered by the Ghibelline Pazzi a Ghibelline murder of a bishop which, in this propaganda chess game seemingly canceled out the Guelph murder of an abbot. Inferno XII (vv. 137-138) refers to this episode («a Rinier da Corneto, a Rinier Pazzo, / che fecero a le strade tanta guerra».24
But Latini's embassy was too late. On September 4, Guelph Florence was utterly routed at Montaperti, Brunetto Latini and his family being among those against whom sentence of exile was passed.25 Brunetto himself says that he learned of the sentence of exile while journeying back through the Pass of Roncesvalles, a student from Bologna telling him the news.26 His father, exiled with the other Florentine Guelphs to Lucca, penned a floridly grief-stricken Latin letter which survives in letter collections such as the Epistolarium. His brother, from Lucca, is said to have given it to him.27 Though many Florentines remained in Lucca, Ser Brunetto instead traveled to France. He there came to be established amongst Lombard bankers, centered in Arras, in northern France, but also visited the great fair at Bar-sur-l'Aube. From the documents that survive from this period it is clear that Latini was part of the Florentine Guelph shadow cabinet, of its government-in-exile, and that that government was becoming increasingly oligarchic, comprising the great banking families of Guelph Florence who now proceeded to win back their republican Comune with florins and marks sterling and with the aid of popes and imperial candidates.
We have two letters penned by Brunetto Latini from this period, the first in the Vatican Secret Archives, the second in Westminster Abbey. They tell us much about the Guelph Florentines in exile. Though still under the papal interdict for the murder of Abbot Tesauro of Vallombrosa, the Florentine Guelphs were nevertheless the allies of the Pope against King Manfred. The Pope's response to Manfred's aggression against him was to dethrone him and to wage a crusade against him, and, with the aid of Lombard bankers, to get churches in England and elsewhere to pay a tenth of their wealth, the decima, towards this «holy» war.
Document V. __ The first letter was written to the Roman Curia from Arras about notarized events on September 15 and 24 concerning these dealings, promising the loyalty of the exiled Florentine bankers in Arras and in Paris to the Pope's cause against Manfred, «quondam principis Tarentini». It names major Lombard bankers like Aimerio Cose, Pietro and Lotterio Benincasa, Cante or Cavalcante della Scala, Thomas Spigliati, and Ricco Cambi, some of whom had been on embassy to the Roman Curia, and among whom was Hugo Spini, mentioned also in Brunetto's document for the Siena/Florentine peace accord of 1254.28 Villani likewise stated that the exiled Guelphs joined Charles of Anjou (Carlo d'Angiò) and Pope Clement against Manfred.29
Document VI. __ The second letter, written from Bar-sur-l'Aube to England, directly concerned England's payment of the Crusading decima. It contracts between the Bellindoti and Spinelli family members and other Florentine merchants and bankers to loan almost two thousand marks sterling for the Bishop of Hereford, Peter de Egeblanke's, payment to the Roman Curia. An extraordinary sentence in the document states that to borrow at interest from the Florentines had papal approval, that such usury even had the crusading indulgence. There is a possibility that this is the amount, two thousand marks sterling, that the Roman Curia engaged to pay to Lucca for sheltering the exiled Florentine Guelphs in the parish of San Frediano.30
In May of 1265, Dante Alighieri, of a family too unimportant or insufficiently Guelph to have been exiled from Florence, was born. In June of that year, Charles of Anjou was made Senator of Rome. The text of Li Livres dou Tresor contains the text of a letter to Charles of Anjou concerning this investiture and oath to uphold the Capituli, the Constitution, while Arnolfo da Cambio, architect of the Palazzo Vecchio, sculpted Charles of Anjou as Senator in a Roman toga, the Capituli in his hand, both text and sculpture stressing the need to observe and preserve communal liberties.31 On January 6, 1266, Charles of Anjou and his wife, Beatrice, the daughter of Raymond Berengar of Provence, were crowned by the Pope in the Vatican. On the 26th of February the Battle of Benevento was fought, Charles of Anjou being victorious over King Manfred. We meet Manfred in Purgatorio III, 103-145, displaying his battle wounds. His soldiers buried their dead king under a huge cairn. The Pope ordered his body disinterred and cast onto a river bank beyond the bounds of either his own kingdom or the papal domains. With the news of Benevento, Ghibelline Florence played safe and elected two podestà, two Jovial Friars, one Guelph and one Ghibelline, from Bologna. Dante placed them in hell, in the circle of the hypocrites, as walking forever under huge capes of heavily gilded lead.32 In March, 1266, Ghibelline ambassadors from Florence to the Curia, among them Buonaccorso Elisei, Dante's blood relative, outlined to the Pope a restoration of the former Florentine government. In April of that year, Pope Clement and Cardinal Ottaviano Ubaldini finally lifted the eight year interdiction against Florence for the murder of the Abbot Tesauro of Vallombrosa.
Charles of Anjou, made king of Jerusalem and Sicily by the Pope, was in Florence in May 1267. He appointed Guido Guerra as the Vicar of Florence, under Giovanni Britaudi, Vicar of Tuscany. Count Guido held that post from 1267 until his death in 1272. Brunetto Latini, it appears, found some employment under the Angevin king, documents naming him sometimes as «protonotario», sometimes as mere «notario», to Giovanni Britaudi; then there is silence for several years. He must have loved giving advice concerning communal freedom too much; Charles of Anjou, unlike his saintly crusading brother, King Louis of France, brooked no dissent, was notorious for ruthlessly imprisoning opponents to his regime, and was insatiably greedy for money. Eventually his oppressive policies resulted in the Sicilian Vespers. Dante was to place Charles in the Valley of Negligent Rulers, Purgatorio, VII, 113.33 The Guelph Li Livres dou Tresor was written as a treatise on correct governing for Charles of Anjou and stressed throughout the need to protect communal liberties and freedoms. Charles of Anjou clearly failed to read that text adequately.
The first document of this period mentioning Brunetto was written in Volterra on August 20, 1267, and involved the election of a captain;34 the second, again about Volterra, both documents speaking of Brunetto as a notary.35
Document VII. __ Then we find a magnificent document written in Pistoia concerning San Gimignano by Brunetto Latini as the Vicar of Tuscany's «protonotarius», that is, as head of the Angevin chancery in Tuscany. The document still has strands of red, green, and now yellow silk attached to it.36 (We should remember that Dante, too, was involved with San Gimignano in a diplomatic capacity, being Florence's ambassador to that city, on the 7th of May 1300.) This splendid document uses all the Angevin semi-imperial chancery formulae, including mentioning Charles of Anjou's now dead wife, Beatrice, and speaks of doing so with the correct quasi-imperial Angevin chancery formulae. Dante and Villani both gave this Beatrice's story.37 Inferno XIII had presented us with the figure of Pier delle Vigne, the Chancellor for the Emperor Frederick II, who, in the face of envy and slander, imprisonment and blinding, committed suicide by dashing his brains out on his dungeon wall. Paradiso VI presents us the counter story of a Romeo who worked for Count Raymond of Berengar of Provence, married all his daughters to kings, including, in this legend, Countess Beatrice to King Charles; then, in the face of envy and slander and unjust accusations, asked merely for a mule and a pilgrim's staff, leaving the court in poverty to complete his pilgrimage. These figures were models for Dante, also unjustly accused of a crime he did not commit; Pier being the negative example, Romeo the positive example. Dante's poem is such a pilgrimage to a dead Beatrice. There is a tale which creeps into the Dante commentaries that Brunetto may have made a mistake in a notarial document (was it this one of naming the dead queen as if she were alive?) and so chose to go into exile rather than to admit his fault.
There are other documents mentioning Brunetto Latini as «protonotarius» for the Vicar of Tuscany, Giovanni Britaudi, written in this month of December 1269; and there were others concerning a peace treaty with Pisa of which no document survives but which supposedly took place in March of 1270 and where he is only «notarius».38 Then two documents in Bologna show Brunetto not as a diplomat but trafficking in money loans at interest through members of the Ardinghelli family, also involved in banking in England during Brunetto's time of exile in France. These two loans involved his brothers and other relatives who are engaged in spezialaria, trade in spices and herbs, even as far away as Famagusta.39 A now lost document gave Brunetto Latini as notary and scribe of the Council of the Florentine Comune in 1273 and involved the restitution of Guido Guerra's land and castles once again to Florence, the Count having died without heirs the previous year and the Guidi property being returned to the Counts under the previous Ghibelline rule of the Count Guido Novello.40 A reference on July 25, 1274, in the Sienese Archives speaks of Brunetto Latini notary of Florence and its senate and podestà, as present concerning a peace treaty between Siena and Florence.41 A document of 1275 listing Florentine notaries by sesti notes that Brunetto Latini from the Sesto of Porta di Duomo was absent.42 He was mentioned once in the Peace of Cardinal Latino in 1280: «Ser Burnectus Latini que fue de sextu porte domus». That document and the others with it name Aymeri Cose, the Ardinghelli and Spigliati family members, and Guido Cavalcanti; and these were drawn up in the Mozzi-Spigliati palace where kings, popes, and cardinals stayed when visiting Florence. The document especially frequently names Andrea Spigliati de' Mozzi of the great banking family who had been in England at the time of the Westminster document and who became Bishop of Florence, and who is mentioned, but not named by Dante's Brunetto as being in the Seventh Circle with him.43 We know that Francesco d'Accorso, also mentioned by Dante's Brunetto as being in his circle in Hell, spoke before the Pope in October 1278, taught the ars notariae at Bologna University, and loaned money at usury to his students.44
One wonders what happened during these silent years, these mystery years, of Brunetto's life from essentially 1270 to 1284. Was he teaching? In Florence? In Bologna? Was he in Sicily? In Constantinople? In Catalonia? Was Dante his student during this time? Or did Brunetto return to France as part of the Scala or Spigliati banking establishment? We do not have legal documents from him during this period that have survived the vicissitudes of time. We do have the continuing production of his manuscripts in France and in Italy, which may demonstrate teaching activity as Brunetto combined book production and legal teaching by having students take down his books as lectures («And then the Master said...») and had them also copy out the chancery letters of Pier delle Vigne, his own father's about Montaperti, and his own about the Abbot Tesauro of Vallombrosa, as models for future formulaic uses. We know that this was typical notarial training given by fathers to sons, who would be their discipuli,45 and can presume, from the contemporary references to Guido Cavalcanti, Dante Alighieri, and Francesco da Barberino as being his students, that Brunetto Latini extended his apprentice-taking beyond his own family. We know that Pier delle Vigne similarly combined his tasks as Chancellor with those as Maestro, as professor, a model Latini clearly followed in his literary works and most likely did so also in reality. If one looks at Siena's Buon Governo fresco one sees there such a maestro, such a magister, in his red teaching robes with his students seated before him, in one of the shops by the market place.46 I suspect that Brunetto's was such a store-front university, in Arras, in Florence, or wherever else he might have been, for instance, Poggibonsi, Volterra, Pistoia, or Bologna, or even in Apulia or Sicily, in the service of Charles of Anjou.
Or was his fate even worse? Was he languishing in some Angevin prison, sequestered in Naples, denied access to parchment, quills, and ink? For there are almost no documents for this period, either diplomatic or literary, apart from the copying of his books in France and in Italy. And when he was to return to Florentine politics, he was to make major speeches in elegant Ciceronian cadences about the need to free all slaves and political prisoners, especially the women, and so eloquent were his speeches that the vote always went in his favor.47 Such a fate could perhaps explain the listing of Ser Brunetto Latini, as notary for the sesto of Porta di Duomo, among the «nunc absentibus», in January of 1275, and the past tense, «che fue de sextu porte domus» of the Peace of Cardinal Latini in 1280.
For Charles of Anjou proved not only to be greedy but also to be cruel. Rather than a Senator under oath to preserve Roman __ and hence Florentine __ liberties, Charles was seen as a tyrant. One very fine, though mutilated Tresor manuscript in the Biblioteca Nazionale is dated between 1286 and 1287. In it the letter to Charles of Anjou has that king's name suppressed and Raymond Berengar's given instead. Another manuscript, again in the Biblioteca Nazionale, continues the Chronicle section of the Tresor with a scathingly bitter account of Charles of Anjou's reign, including the Sicilian Vespers revolution against him, documented with transcriptions and translations of diplomatic letters, the paper war, as well as the real one, at which he was the center. If we can trust the evidence of this eyewitness chronicle addition in this Tesoro manuscript, Brunetto Latini was perhaps himself involved in the secret diplomacy between the Emperor Paleologus of Constantinople and King Peter of Aragon in plotting the Sicilian Vespers uprising against Charles of Anjou to bring about his overthrow. The text describes an «Accardo» Latino and a Giovanni di Procita, both disguised as Franciscans, as involved in secret missions between the Pope, the Emperor, and the King. It is thought that that manuscript was written by a Ghibelline. I suspect, however, that it is Brunetto's own or a protegé's chancery propaganda against a most disappointing patron.48 Thus we can see that Li Livres dou Tresor is an important political as well as literary work in which this particular section, concluding its history of the world, could function as a contemporary chronicle. It is, as it were, a medieval Casa Guidi Windows.
We have one mention of Brunetto Latini in 1282, shortly after the establishment of the Priorate of the Artes was established in that year, in which he advised concerning constitutional matters.49 Then silence continues until 1284, when he was a major figure in the League against Pisa drawn up by Genoa, Lucca, Florence and other cities. We know that Charles of Anjou wrote to the Florentine Guelphs requesting such action against Pisa, April 10, 1283.50 Latini is mentioned again and again in these documents as associated with Manectus Benincase of the great banking family, both of whom were Florence's ambassadors, and Brunetto's name is the more important. These documents can be retrieved from the Florentine Archives and also the Genoese Archives. In the Florentine Archives they form part of a whole section of material closely associated with Brunetto Latini and which appear to have been carefully written by a discipulus scriptor.51 But although this League is to wage «guerra viva», Genoa by sea and Lucca and Florence by land, against Pisa, the Florentines break the agreement, negotiating with Count Ugolino separately and secretly. Villani tells us that this was deliberate policy on the part of Florence.52 Was this Brunetto's guise, to seem to be for Charles of Anjou's policy concerning Pisa, yet secretly to work against it? He was, after all, Chancellor Machiavelli's predecessor.
Pisa learned of this treachery in 1288 and then, in a time of terrible famine, in their desperation, cast Ugolino and two of his sons and two of his grandsons in prison. Guido da Montefeltro was to throw away the keys of the prison into the Arno, leaving the family to die of hunger. There is a tradition that Brunetto Latini wrote much of the Florentine Chronicle for this period, which Villani would cull for his great Cronica of Florence. The Cronicle tells of civic disasters, Arno floods, Florentine fires, famines, and plagues. The account for Ugolino, while inferring the cannibalism, in the same breath speaks of the establishing of the loggia of Or San Michele for the Florentine grain market, in a year of great carestia.53 In the year of Brunetto's death, a Chronicle entry tells of the many miracles that occurred at the loggia of the Or San Michele (then open with ten pillars), before an image of the Virgin and Child. When Brunetto's daughter, Bianca («Monna Biancia vedova figlia che fu di Ser Brunetto latini»), wrote her will many years later, in 1348, it was kept at Or San Michele to which she left quite a substantial portion.54 Dante created the terrible episode for the bottommost part of Inferno as a Black Mass a tale told by the shade of Ugolino as he tears at the skull of Ruggiero with his teeth, devouring the other's brains; a tale told about Ugolino's imprisonment with his progeny and of his devouring their dead bodies from hunger. Then we meet Satan devouring his progeny, Brutus, Cassius, and Judas, as we also see him do in the Baptistery mosaic. I suspect that Or San Michele was built in this way and at this time in response to the terrible knowledge of Pisan depravity and that its stress upon the mother nurturing her child is an attempt to reverse that of the father devouring his children.55 The lovely Sienese Virgin and Child we see today is a fitting contrast to the horror show of Ugolino's depraved speech and Dante's cannibalized chancery documents.
There is no need to go into detail about the dozens of speeches Brunetto Latini made between January, 1285 and July 1292, before the various bodies of Florentine communal government, except to say they were about constitutional matters and embassies, diplomacy and law, and that his speeches generally caused nearly unanimous votes in favor of what he counseled, the archival documents speaking of Brunetto Latini as a wise man. Though we lack the speeches themselves, the Libri Fabarum tell us their substance and their result. There are 42 of these which are mentioned and discussed in the Libri Fabarum and other documents in the Florentine archives.56 We know that Brunetto Latini, like Dante after him, was Prior, living in the Torre della Castagna from the l5th of August to the l5th of October 1287.
Much of the material discussed in the various councils concerned the gathering clouds of war with the Aretines. On June 11, 1289, Dante was present at the Battle of Campaldino, at which Florence routed Arezzo, even killing her bishop on the battle field (see Inf. XXII, 1-5). There is a tradition that Dante Alighieri gave Brunetto Latini a copy of his Vita Nuova, presenting it to him with an accompanying Easter-tide sonnet, «Messer Brunetto, questa pulzeletta», which was to be translated charmingly by a very young Dante Gabriel Rossetti.57 Scholars note of the Vita Nuova that it is greatly influenced by Averroistic Aristotelianism and by Ciceronian rhetoric, both taught by Latini to Dante. Brunetto died in that year.58 The young man thus gave the dying man a work written about a dead woman. Brunetto Latini was buried in Santa Maria Maggiore, his tomb to this day marked by a marble column bearing the inscription, «Ser Brunetto Latini et filiorum», and having on it also his coat of arms of six roses.
Then the similarly exiled Dante, who was himself to die from fever contracted on an embassy to Venice from Ravenna, wrote the Commedia. In that work he placed the ghosts fashioned from the parchment archival records of Florence. He created from the dead parchment, living dialogue, from written words, spoken speech. In Inferno XV he pretends he meets his dead master, who exclaims: «Qual maraviglia!» (v. 24). In the conversation that follows Latini teaches, as he had done while living, the history of Florence, beginning with its founding (from Catiline's treachery) and Fiesole, and ending with gossip about the inhabitants of this circle, figures like Francesco d'Accorso, Guido Guerra, Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, Andrea de' Mozzi, Filippo Rusticucci, and speaks also of Prisciano, his own predecessor as school master __ just as are the other figures involved in the worldly world of money and power, in which he very much shared. As he speaks the hail of flames falls upon his naked flesh, burning it. That hail of flames Dante takes from the medieval poem about Alexander's exploits; Alexander's teacher was Aristotle, the master of those who know (Inferno IV.131), whose Ethios Brunetto Latini had translated into French and Italian and taught to Dante after acquiring that text at Alfonso el Sabio's court in Spain when on embassy there. The Tesoretto had said, in its introduction, that were it ever to be misread and abused by boys, it would be preferable to have its pages burn in hell flames. That text also spoke out against the quest for fame. Dante pretends to misread the text, joking with his Master and his Master's prototype pilgrimage poem as he does so. He even jokes, in Pier delle Vigne's style, with his Master's name. For we see Brunetto, as cooked and browned and burned beneath these flames, being also the pages of his book. Then Dante has Latini recommend to him __ and to us __ the reading of the Tesoro:59 (vv. 119-120): «Sieti raccomandato il mio Tesoro, / nel qual io vivo ancora...». At the next moment we see him fleeing like one who wins, not loses, the green cloth at Verona.
Dante's Commedia has self-referential images about the burning of paper, about the hair/flesh sides of parchment pages, about the scribe and the illuminator (Dante and Oderisi) going side by side, yoked like two oxen drawing the Ark of God's inscribed Commandments, about all the scattered leaves of the universe gathered up and bound in one volume. I believe his poem is also about notaries and their legal chambers, about bankers and ledgers, about chancellors and their chanceries, with all their spider web patterns of reciprocity, of debit and credit accounts in black and red, that Dante has used for the Commedia, constructing from them a theater of memory, a prison house of words and parchment; that he is like Melville's Bartleby, the scrivener who worked in the dead letter office, that he is like Eco's monks in their vast, apocalyptic, ephemeral library. However, from these literary and legal worlds where one is unsure whether flesh and blood can be parchment and brown ink, we do still have documents written by Brunetto Latini in his own hand __ though we know of none by Dante.60 And these archival documents __ of which we have at least seven, signed, sealed, and delivered __ written by Brunetto and authenticated with his very Florentine notarial sign of a lilied column,61 clearly say: «Et ego Burnectus Bonaccorsi Latinus notarius», as if they were written not seven hundred years ago but today.*
*This article is a brief version of a forthcoming book of the same title. I wish to thank the American Association of University Women for the Founders Fellowship which enabled me to carry out this research in Florence, 1987-1988, and Casa Guidi, Browning Institute, Florence, where this lecture was presented on 22 November 1987.
1 Latini, in the Rettorica, gives diagrams of the different branches of knowledge, his teaching blackboard diagrams, which he calls «alberi», trees.
2 Ernst Kantorowicz, Federigo II Imperatore, trans. Gianni Pilone Colombo (Milano: Garzanti, 1976), pp. 271-277.
3 Epistolarium quibus res gestae ejusdem imperatoris aliaque multa ad historiam ac jurisprudentia continentur libri VI., ed. Rudulf Iselms (Basle: Schard, 1740). My thanks to William Stephany for much of this information which he imparted to me in Attica State Prison where we both gave papers on Dante in 1982.
4 Bibl. Vat. Chig. L. VII. 267, fol. 112 verso. At least twelve mss give this letter; see Julia Bolton Holloway, Brunetto Latini: An Analytic Bibliography (London: Grant and Cutler 1986), p. 34.
5 Archivio di Stato, Firenze [ASF], Capitoli di Firenze [Cap. Fir.] 29, fols. 181-184, 165-168, repeated 173-176: «Burnecto notario filio Bonaccorsi Latini». For Guido Guerra, see Filippo Villani, Le vite d'uomini illustri fiorentini (Firenze: Magheri, 1826; repr.: Roma: Multigrafica, 1980), p. 54.
6 Cap. Fir. 30, fol. 132; 30, fols. 136v-140; 30, fol. 141; Ildefonso di S. Luigi, Delle delizie degli eruditi toscani (Firenze, 1770), VIII, p. 132, but not found in 29, fols. 157 or 257: «Burnecto Bonaccorsi Latini» given as either witness or notary.
7 Le sale della Mostra e il Museo delle tavolette dipinte: catalogo (Pubblicazione degli Archivi di Stato, XXIII, Roma: Ministero dell'Interno 1956), p. 117, n. 6; n Caleffo Vecchio del Comune di Siena, ed. Giovanni Cecchini (Firenze: Olschki, 1935), p. 779, n. 567: «Et ego Burnectus Bonaccursi Latini notarius predictis interfui ...».
8 Robert Davidsohn, Istorie di Firenze, trans. Giovanni Battista Klein (Firenze: Sansoni, 1977), II, p. 698.
9 Davidsohn, V, p. 128.
10 Filippo Villani, pp. 51-3. See his portrait in Uffizi.
11 Colin Hardie, in a letter, made the comment that this mirroring is echoed perhaps in the phrase, Paradiso XVII, 121, «il mio tesoro», said of Cacciaguida's text within the text of the poem.
12 Cap. Fir. 29, fols. 5v, 189-191: «Et ego Burnectus Bonaccursi Latini notarius predictis interfui...»; Davidsohn, II pp. 612-3.
13 Giovanni Villani, Istorie di Firenze (Roma: Multigrafica, 1980), VI, lxi.
14 Liber Juris Reipublicae Ianuensis, I: Historia Patriae Monumenta (Torino, 1836-84), VII, cols. 1201-1204, 1212-1215, of Cod. A, fols. 330v,
15 Cap. Fir. 29, fol. 170v.
16 Davidsohn, II, p. 617; notes also that there was drought and famine 1258-1260, as there was to be again during the war against Pisa.
17 G. Villani, VI, lxv; Davidsohn, n, pp. 632-4, 654-7; text given: Li Livres dou Tresor, ed. Francis J. Carmody (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1948), p. xiv; Francesco Cristofari, Di «Quel di Beccheria di cui segò Fiorenza la gorgiera» ricordato dall'Alighieri nell XXXII canto dell'Inferno: Memorie e documenti (Roma: Tipografia Liturgica Editrice Romana, 1890), gives a very useful collection of «paper war» documents; Orlando Malavolti, Dell'historia di Siena (Venezia: Marchetti, 1599), 3 vols, gives brief account of Montaperti between vols I & II, as caused by the 1258 expulsion of the Florentine Ghibellines to Siena by the Florentine Guelphs in connection with Tesauro of Vallombrosa; see «Vallombrosa: Note storiche», in R. N. Vasaturo, G. Morozzi, G. Marchine, U. Baldini, Vallombrosa (Firenze: Giogi e Gambi, 1973), pp. 23-72, esp. pp. 60 & 72.
18 Inf. XIII, 58-62 gives the Petrine comparison; Dante transforms the other of the vine into the sterile thorn, having this Peter become a Judas, complete with hanging tree.
19 We find it in both Latin and in Italian versions, the latter the hallmark of Brunetto's theoretical teaching material, the former, the practical.
20 That fish weir is still constructed and deconstructed annually, and as I would cross the Rubaconte bridge (today the Ponte delle Grazie) over the Arno going to the Archives or to the Biblioteca Nazionale I would witness the dredging operations it entailed.
21 ASF Protocol, Compagnie religiose soppresse 479, fols. 60-60v, from the Cistercian cloister (Badia) at Settimo which minted coins for Florence. Discussed in Davidsohn, Forschungen, IV, pp. 134-8, and by Ernesto Lasinio, «Frammento di un quaderno di mandati dell'antica Camera del Comune di Firenze», ASI, s. V, vol. XXXV (1905), pp. 440-447 (my thanks to Daniela De Rosa for this reference).
22 ASF Libro di Montaperti: 26 February, 1260, fol. 11, p. 34; 20 July, fol. 50v, p. 123; 22 July, fol. 65, p. 148; 24 July, fol. 65, p. 148; 23 July, fol. 74v, p. 172.
23 VI. Lxxiv; repeated in ASF MS 225, fol. 9: «Nel 1260 i Fiorentini mandarono S Brunetto Latini loro Ambasc. à Alfonso di Spagna eletto Imp[erado]re per sommoverlo à passare in Italia contro i Ghibellini»; Ricordano Malespini, Istorie Fiorentine (Firenze, 1718), p. 139: «i Guelfi di Firenze gli mandarono ambasciadori per sommoverlo del paese, promettendogli grande ajuto acciochè favoreggiasse parte Guelfa; e lo 'mbasciadore fu Ser Brunetto Latini uomo di grande senno».
24 Davidsohn, III. p. 23.
25 Brunetto Latini was listed in G. Villani, VI. lxxx, as one of the exiles from Porta del Duomo.
26 Cf. Tesoretto 139-162, ed. Julia Bolton Holloway (New York: Garland, 1981), pp. 8-10: «E poi sança sogiorno / Ripresi mio ritorno / Tanto che nel paese / Di terra navarrese / Venendo per la valle / Del piano di roncisvalle, / Incontro uno scolaio / Sour un muletto baio / Che venia da bolongnia, / E sança dir mençongna / Molt'era savio e prode; / Ma lascia star le lode / Che sarebbero assai. / E io 'l pur domandai / Novelle di toscana / In dolçe lingua e piana; / Ed e' cortesemente / Me disse immantenente / Che guelfi di fiorença / Per mala provedença / E per força di guerra / Eran fuori de la terra / E 'l dannaggio era forte / Di pregione e di morte...». The Laurentian Tesoretto gives the illumination of the scene at fol. 2.
27 F. Schirrmacher, Geschichte von Spanien (Gotha, 1881), II, p. 476; Carmody, p. xv. He may even be the student from Bologna, mentioned in the Tesoretto.
28 Vatican Secret Archives, Instrumentum Misc. 99; M. Armellini, «Documento autografo di Brunetto Latini relativo ai ghibellini di Firenze scoperto negli archivi della S. Sede», Rassegna italiana, V (1885), pp. 359-363; Hans Foerster, Mittelalterliche Buch und Urkundenschriften auf 50 Tafeln mit Erlauterungen und vollständiger Transkription (Berne: Haupt, 1946), Plate XXV, comments, transcription, pp. 64-5 (my thanks to David Anderson for this reference); Bruno Katterbach and Carolus Silva-Tarouca, Epistolae et Instrumenti saeculi XIII, in Exempla scriptorum edita consilio et opera procuratorum bibliothecae et tabularii vaticani, fasc. II (Roma, 1930), p. 20, Plate 21; Gino Arias «Sottomissione dei banchieri fiorentinei alla Chiesa, 9 dic. 1263», in Studi e documenti di storia del diritto (Firenze: Le Monnier, 1901), pp. 114-120, gives an important related document.
29 «E mandarono loro ambasciadori a papa Clemente, accioché gli raccomandasse al conte Carlo eletto re di Cicilia, e profferendosi al servigio di santa Chiesa» (VII, ii, p. 137).
30 Davidsohn, II, p. 754; III, p. 30 notes the 1268 payment of 6,000 marks sterling loaned by Lucca to Charles of Anjou.
31 Davidsohn, II, Plate 33 (Rome, Palazzo dei Conservatori), Li Livres dou Tresor, pp. 396-397.
32 Inferno XXIII, 76-109.
33 Dante mentioning his masculine nose, and the statue by Arnolfo di Cambio bearing this out: Davidsohn, II, Plate 33 (Roma, Palazzo dei Conservatori).
34 ASF, August 20, 1267, Diplom. Volterra; Davidsohn, IV, p. 1.
35 ASF, February 25, 1269 [for 1270], Diplom. Volterra; Fedor Schneider, Regestum Volaterranum (Torino: Loescher, 1907), n. 791; Sergio Terlizzi Documenti delle relazioni tra Carlo d'Angiò e la Toscana (Firenze Olschki, 1950), p. 94; Demetrio Marzi, La Cancelleria della Repubblica Fiorentina (Rocco S. Casciano: Capelli, 1910), p. 44.
36 ASF, December 6, 1269, Diplom. San Gimignano; Davidsohn, II, pp. 1567; Terlizzi, pp. 74-5, gives partial transcription, not reading the name because of a crease in the document.
37 Villani, VI, xcl, p. 316; Par. VI, 133-6: «Quattro figlie ebbe, e ciascuna regina, / Ramondo Beringhiere, e ciò li fece / Romeo, persona umile e peregrina».
38 ASF, December 12, 1269; Davidsohn, II, p. 157; ASF, December 20, 1269, Pistoia; Cap. Fir., 29, fol. 119v; 22 March 1270: Historiae Pisanae, fragmenta, auctore Guidone de Corvaria, in Ludovicus A. Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores (Mediolani, 1738), XXIV, pp. 673-4: «Brunectus notarius superscripti vicarii de Florentiae»; Schneider, Regestam, n. 793, has a document for Volterra, April 28, 1270, which is no longer traceable in ASF, as Davidsohn, III, p. 76, also notes.
39 ASB, July 12, 1270: Memoriali di Pietro di Bonincontro Cazaluna, 1270, fol. LIIIIv; December 8, 1270, fol. CLIv, transcribed in Lodovico Frati, «Brunetto Latini speziale», Giornale dantesco, XXII (1914), pp. 207-209; Davidsohn, III, p. 564, mentions a relative, «Berthozi Latini Fiorentini spezarii» in Famagusta in 1300.
40 Ildefonso, VIII, p. 132; Davidsohn, II, p. 599; not Cap. Fir. 29, fol. 157 or 257.
41 Davidsohn, III, pp. 116 and 149; ASS Cons. gener. 19, fol. 9. __ I wonder whether these two documents may not refer to the earlier documents written by Brunetto Latini before Montaperti in 1254. However, my friend, Daniela De Rosa, tells me she has found another reference to a document written during this period in which Brunetto is again named as scribe and notary to the Comune, receiving back his old title.
42 Davidsohn, VI, p. 237; Marzi, p. 37, and Marchesini, p. 7, give the document as being in ASF, January 30, 1275 (Console dell'Arte). Not located.
43 Cap. Fir. 29, fols. 325-358, only mentions Latini once, fol. cccxxxviij, while Ildefonso, IX, pp. 84, 102, and 105, mentions Latini three times in these documents. __ For Andrea de' Mozzi, see Inferno XV, 110-114; Davidsohn, III, pp. 600-605.
44 Charles Haskins and Ernst Kantorowicz, «Diplomatic Missions», ELH 58 (1943), pp. 426-31; Richard Kay, Dante's Swift and Strong: Essays on 'Inferno' XV (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1978); Filippo Villani, pp. 20 and 106-109; Davidsohn, III, p. 572, on his loans at usury to his students.
45 Armando Petrucci, Notarii: documenti per la storia del notariato italiano (Milano: Giuffrè, 1958), p. 17: «Primo grado nella carriera curiale era quello di 'discipulus'. Costui, quasi sempre figlio o nipote del curiale, cominciava giovinetto a frequentare lo studio del suo parente, ove apprendere le formule, la scrittura, e quindi cominciava a scrivere gli atti che il principale autenticava. A questo punto egli non era più un semplice 'discipulus' ma un 'discipulus scriptor'», becoming next 'curialis'. Petrucci also notes that Federigo II created and Charles of Anjou continued a «schola dei curiali» at Naples.
46 Quentin Skinner in «Ambrogio Lorenzetti: The Artist as Political Philosopher», Proceedings of the British Academy (19 February 1986), pp. 1-56, gives a splendid discussion of the influence of Brunetto's Tresor upon Lorenzetti's frescoes. In the same Palazzo Pubblico, in the Ante-Capella, are to be found later frescoes of the virtuous pagans, including Aristotle as a medieval school master in ermine and red, then Cicero, Cato, and the two Scipios, among other figures. This program is of interest to both Brunetto and Dante __ and helps explain Dante's placement of Cato in the Ante-Purgatory.
47 Consulte della Repubblica Fiorentina, ed. Gherardi, I, p. 389 (21 March 1290, Libri Fabarum, H, fol. 24v): «Ser Burnectus Latinus consuluit... quod relaxatio carceratorum fiat hoc modo, scilicet quod omnes mulieres quacumque occasione sint, relaxentur... quod C ex nostris et Aretinis relaxentur: et usque in xl possint relaxari, de nostris et alii, sint de Aretinis... Item placuit lxxi secundum dictum ser Burnecti, super firmando quomodo eligantur relaxandi; nolentes duerint iiij solum»; II, p. 94 (Lib. Fab., m, fol. 42): again, about freeing prisoners, «placuit quasi omnibus secundum dictam predicti sapientis». The Italian Tesoro verse rendition is thought to be Ghibelline because of its bitter statement against Charles of Anjou's prisons. Dante gives the story of Siena's Provenzan Salvani humiliatingly and publicly begging in the town square for a friend's ransom to free him from an Angevin prison (Purg. XI 109-114).
48 Michele Amari, Altre narrazioni del Vespro Siciliano scritte nel buon secolo della lingua (Milano: Hoepli, 1887), pp. 23-119 (reproducing Biblioteca Nazionale, VIII, 1375).
49 Consulte, I, 109 (21 October, 1282: Lib. Fab. I, fol. 49v).
50 Amari, II, pp. 365-6, giving Naples Archives, segn. 1283, Reg. Carlo I, A, fol. 130, as source.
51 Genova: Liber Iurum Reipublicae Genovensis, Historia Patriae Monumentum, II, cols. 60 ff, transcribing 13 through 21 October 1284 Codex A, fols. 437-441, Codex C, fols. 126-131; Cap. Fir. 43 (formerly XLIV/XLVI), fols. 29-39, material also involves Volterra, Brunetto Latini named, fols. 34, 37v, 38.
52 VII, xcviii.
53 Helene Wieruszowski, «Brunetto Latini als Lehrer Dantes und der Florentiner (Mitteilungen aus Cod. II. VIII. 36 der Florentiner Nationalbibliothek)», Archivio italiano per la storia della pietà, II (1959), 171-198; also in Politics and Culture in Medieval Spain and Italy (Roma: Edizione di storia e letteratura, 1971), pp. 515-61; Otto Hartwig, «Die sogenannte Chronik des Brunetto Latini, 1286-1293», in Quellen und Forschungen zur Ältesten Geschichte der Stadt Florenz (Marburg: Elwert, 1875), pp. 228-233; G. Villani, VII. cxxviii.
54 Umberto Marchesini, Due studi biografici su Brunetto Latini (Venezia, 1887). Alas, the Will, later kept in the Florentine State Archives, Libro di testamenti di Or San Michele, no. 471, fols. 93v-94, was destroyed in the 1966 flood. Mercifully, Marchesini's transcription survives.
55 Ronald D. Herzman, «Cannibalism and Communion in Inferno XXXIII», Dante Studies, 98 (1980), pp. 53-57, discusses this episode relating it to Frate Alberto, «io son quel de la frutta del mal orto», v. 119, of the same canto.
56 Not all the references published in Consulte survived (many being described there as scraps between certain folios and are now placed elsewhere or lost) in the conserved Libri Fabarum.
57 Cf. Raccolta di rime antiche toscane (Palermo, 1817), II, p. 32, translated by Rossetti, in Dante and his Circle (London: Ellis and Elvey, 1911), p. 96: «Master Brunetto, this my little maid / Is come to spend her Easter-tide with you; / Not that she reckons feasting as her due / Whose need is hardly to be fed, but read. / Not in a hurry can her sense be weigh'd, / Nor mid the jests of any noisy crew: / Ah! and she wants a little coaxing too / Before she'll get into another's head / But if you do not find her meaning clear, / You've many Brother Alberts hard at hand, / Whose wisdom will respond to any call. / Consult with them and do not laugh at her; / And if she still is hard to understand, / Apply to Master Janus last of all». Much has been written and argued concerning this sonnet, it being believed for a while that it was addressed to a Betto Brunelleschi. See Guglielmo Gorni, «Una proposta per 'Messer Brunetto'», Studi di Filologia Italiana, 37 (1979), pp. 19-32, who sees it as written to Brunetto Latini.
58 Giammaria Mazuchelli's notes to F. Villani, pp. 130-131, give the sonnet written by a fellow Florentine poet mourning the passing of «Brunetto gajoso». Both Giovanni and Filippo Villani described Brunetto. G. Villani, II, p. 22 (VIII, x): «Nel detto anno 1294 morì in Firenze uno valente cittadino il quale ebbe nome ser Brunetto Latini, il quale fu gran filosofo, e fu sommo maestro in rettorica, tanto in bene sapere dire come in bene dittare. E fu quegli che sponse [from exponere, but ed. has spuose] la Rettorica di Tullio, e fece il buono e utile libro detto Tesoro, e il Tesoretto, e la chiave del Tesoro, e più altri libri in filosofia, e de' vizi e di virtù, e fu dittatore del nostro comune. Fu mondano uomo, ma di lui avemo fatta menzione, perocch' egli fu cominciatore e maestro in digrossare i Fiorentini, e farli scorti in bene parlare, e in sapere guidare e reggere la nostra repubblica secondo la politica». F. Villani, «Brunetto Latini Rettorico», p. 32: «Brunetto Latini de' nobili da Scarniano fu di professione filosofo, d'ordine notaio, e di fama celebre e nominata. Costui quanto della retorica potesse aggiugnere alla natura dimostrò; uomo, se così è lecito a dire, degno d'essere con quelli periti e antichi oratori annumerato. Questi, essendo la città nostra dalle intestine discordie affaticata, fu costretto di lasciare la patria, ed essendosene quasi per volontaria separazione andato in Francia, già quasi vecchio, mirabilmente e con grandissima prestezza imparò la lingua franciosa: e per compiacere ai grandi e nobili uomini di quella regione, compose in rettorica un bellissimo e utilissimo libro, nel quale tutta l'arte del dire con gran cura e ordine secondo la pratica descrisse, il quale chiamò Tesoro; opera certamente gratissima e piena d'eloquenza urbana, il quale appresso a' Franciosi è in gran pregio. Fu Brunetto motteggevole, dotto e astuto, e di certi motti piacevole abbondante, non però senza gravità e temperamento di modestia, la quale faceva alle sue piacevolezze dare fede giocondissima; di sermone piacevole il quale spesso moveva a riso. Fu officioso e costumato, e di natura utile, severo e grave, e per abito di tutte le virtù felicissimo, se con più severo animo le ingiurie della furiosa patria avesse potuto con sapienza sopportare». The Bibl. Laurenziana ms (Ashburnham MS 492) of this text has corrections by Coluccio Salutati, marginal comments giving «rethorica» and «quem thesaurum appellant», which inform us of that later Chancellor's knowledge of his prototype.
59 Stephen Popolizio, «Literary Reminiscences and the Act of Reading in Inferno V», Dante Studies, 98 (1980), 19-33 («The Pilgrim copies the words Brunetto speaks to him in the book of his memory...»).
60 Leonardo Bruni, quoted in Imbriani, p. 19, describes Dante's hand: «Fu ancora Dante scrittore perfetto; et era la lettera sua macra et lunga et molto corretta, secondo che io ho veduta in alcune epistole di sua propria mano scritto». My thanks to Barbara Reynolds for this observation.
61 One Vatican manuscript (Chigiano L. VII, 267, written in 1389) probably copied from a ms compiled by Brunetto's son who was notary at the court of King Robert of Naples, speaks of Cicero as a secure column, an unstagnant fountain («per una mia sichura cholonna sicchome fontana che none istagnia») __ which makes me suspect that this is the imagery Brunetto chose for his notarial sign.