Petrarch (d. 1374) is widely considered the father of Renaissance humanism, a cultural movement characterized by a renewed interest in ancient literature. A poet, Latin scholar and collector of old manuscripts, Petrarch sought to imitate the ancient authors in his own works. He wrote widely on various subjects, ranging from love (his famous ‘Songbook’ and ‘Triumphs’) and philosophy, to devotion and biography. He also wrote a large number of letters, some of which were addressed to ancient authors, as well as an autobiography and a work of self-examination titled ‘My Secret Book’. After his death, it became common for many of his works, including letters, to be bound together in one volume. Petrarch enjoyed fame in his own lifetime, and was immediately recognised as a model to follow.
Once owned by the Calori family of Modena, whose coat of arms crowns the first leaf, this manuscript testifies to Petrarch’s fame and authority, as it includes two miniature portraits of the Italian humanist (image nos. 1 and 2).
- Article by:
- Alixe Bovey
Art, music and literature blossomed in the Middle Ages, as evidenced by the wealth of sources in the British Library’s collections. Dr Alixe Bovey explores the evolution of art and culture in the Middle Ages.
- Article by:
- Roberta Klimt
- Politics and religion
From his politics and religious writings to Paradise Lost, Roberta Klimt traces how the life and work of John Milton was guided by the principle of freedom of thought and how in doing so he challenged fundamental aspects of 17th-century society.