Bracciolini, Poggio
(1380-1459)
   Florentine humanist. A provincial by birth, he settled in Florence shortly before 1400 and became a professional notary. He is commonly regarded as the principal creator of the elegant humanistic script that became the common hand for classical manuscripts in the Renaissance and later was the model for all typographical fonts known as roman. Between 1404 and 1453, Poggio was employed at the papal curia in Rome, eventually rising to the influential position of apostolic secretary. He always regarded himself as a Florentine, however, and he was known to contemporaries as Poggius Florentinus. In 1453 he became chancellor of the Florentine republic, a position previously held by such prominent humanists as Coluccio Salutati and Leonardo Bruni.
   During his attendance at the Council of Constance, Poggio visited many northern monastic libraries in search of unknown classical works and made a number of important discoveries, including the Familiar Letters and several orations by Cicero, nine comedies of Plautus, the De rerum natura of Lucretius, and the Institutio oratoria of Quintilian. Quintilian's Institutio had a great influence on subsequent humanistic conceptions of Latin style, rhetoric, and education. Poggio was probably the most successful of all the Italian humanists of his time in finding lost works of Latin literature. He also produced original works, including many letters to humanist friends (notably a sympathetic account of the execution of the Hussite leader Jerome of Prague at the Council of Constance), and a collection of humorous tales, the Facetiae, often cynical and anticlerical in tone. Though it scandalized many people, this collection circulated widely. He also wrote an influential description of the city of Rome and a history of Florence, continuing the work of Leonardo Bruni. Although Poggio wrote a literate, supple, and correct Latin style, it did not measure up to the more rigorously classical standards of the mid-15th century. In later life he found his literary reputation and his scholarly standards challenged by ambitious younger rivals. This generational rivalry led to a number of bitter literary conflicts, notably with Lorenzo Valla.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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