Classical Scholarship

Confronting the Original Texts

The humanists dedicated themselves to reviving antiquity--that is, to searching for, copying, and studying the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Poggio Bracciolini, a long-time employee of the church, was the most brilliant of the early fifteenth-century manuscript hunters. He braved what he described as the squalid, neglected libraries of Germany, Switzerland, and England in his quest for new texts. Later in the century, curial scholars began to collate -- and digest -- the new mass of material, and to translate vital Greek sources, like the works of Herodotus and Thucydides. Not all of these texts were clearly acceptable to Christians, or even consistently moral. But Roman intellectuals prized problematical works like the epigrams of Martial as well as moral ones like most of the dialogues of Plato. Vatican manuscripts enable us to follow the humanists at work, writing in the margins of their texts and then collecting and publishing their notes as scholarly works. These glimpses of how texts passed from script to print are among the Vatican's most remarkable--and revealing--holdings.

From here there are exist to rooms with: There is one extra object in the Humanism part of this exhibit; you can have a look now. You can also walk back to the Main Hall.