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Italian Renaissance Manuscript Collection

Owning Institution: Claremont Colleges Library

About this Collection

The Bodman Collection of Italian Renaissance Manuscripts is but a small part of the splendid collection of books, incunabula, and manuscripts assembled and given to Honnold/Mudd Library from 1956 to 1960, by Mr. Harold C. Bodman. On view in this digital collection are eleven autograph, signed letters written between members of the Medici family of Florence and others in their social and political circles, including Angelo Poliziano, the Sforza family, Palla Strozzi, and Francesco Guicciardini. Written between 1426 and 1522, the letters touch on a number of issues urgent to the House of Medici including military campaigns, political associations, and the trials of family life.

Both recto and verso sides of each letter are presented to give an intimate view of the script of each author as well as visual evidence of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century practices regarding the secure delivery of private correspondence. Students and scholars of early modern Italian paleography will find a compelling array of writings styles, punctuation, compositional devices and formatting. Those interested in ink, paper, watermarks, wax seals, and letter construction will find a surprising variety of folding styles, paper sizes and surfaces, as well as innovative solutions for the fastening and sealing of letters. Of special note is the intact red wax seal on the 1521 letter from Cardinal Giulio de' Medici to Paolo Vettori which prominently displays the Medici emblem of palle. For scholars interested in the history of paper, the 1513 letter from Giuliano di Lorenzo de' Medici to Francesco de' Medici clearly displays the watermark of an anchor inscribed within a circle with a star above, indicative of Florentine importation practices of paper from Venice. Interested art historians as well as historians of collectors and collecting practices will find noteworthy three small printed portraits of related figures, which were stored with their respective letter files by Bodman. The portraits include one of Bianca Maria Visconti Sforza after a painting by Bonifacio Bembo, one of Pope Leo X (Giovanni de' Medici) after a painted portrait by Peter Paul Rubens, and one of Galeazzo Maria Sforza.

In 1483, Lorenzo de' Medici gave his Villa Diana to the poet and then tutor of the Medici children, Angelo Poliziano. In the twentieth century, Harold C. Bodman (1886-1960) and his wife Ysabel acquired the Villa Diana, making it their home of some years. Poliziano's villa sparked the Bodman's interest in collecting the works of Poliziano and those works produced at the time by the Medici's "think tank" of humanist scholars, philosophers, artists, and writers. Bodman's studies in this area led him to assemble the eleven letters now on view in the CCDL as well as the books and manuscripts now known as the Bodman Italian Renaissance Collection in Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library.

Translations and transcriptions of letters in the Bodman Italian Renaissance Collection were made by Janet Ross (London, 1910), Rosa Guidoni (Florence, 1958), William H.J. Kennedy (1960), Carlo Pedretti, and Salih Hadzialich.
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