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Religions 2012, 3(2), 210-227; doi:10.3390/rel3020210
Article

Res aut res publica: The Evidence from Italian Renaissance Manuscripts and Their Owners

Received: 31 March 2012 / Revised: 10 April 2012 / Accepted: 11 April 2012 / Published: 11 April 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue From the Renaissance to the Modern World)
Download PDF [373 KB, 13 April 2012; original version 11 April 2012]

Abstract

This paper examines a key tension in Renaissance culture as reflected in the origin and provenance of manuscript books. Were Renaissance manuscripts the private property of individual owners or the common wealth of a lettered public? Even an officially public library could not escape that tension, whether through abuse of borrowing privileges or plundering of vulnerable holdings. Market forces encouraged theft, while impoverished scholars used their knowledge to supplement meager incomes. Alternatively, a sense of common wealth is reflected in an ex-libris indicating that a codex belonged to an individual “and his friends.” Book collecting, finally, becomes a helpful clue in discerning to what a scholar is committed. Some Renaissance clergymen used culture as a way to promote their ecclesiastical careers, while others collected and shared manuscripts as a way to promote tolerance.
Keywords: renaissance; manuscripts; humanism; libraries; private property; common wealth renaissance; manuscripts; humanism; libraries; private property; common wealth
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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McManamon, J.M. Res aut res publica: The Evidence from Italian Renaissance Manuscripts and Their Owners. Religions 2012, 3, 210-227.

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