Monday, January 10, 2011


Barbarous Hostility to the Latin Tongue

Cincius Romanus, letter to Franciscus de Fiana (summer 1416), tr. by Phyllis Walter Goodhart Gordan in Two Renaissance Book Hunters: The Letters of Poggius Bracciolini to Nicolaus de Niccolis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), pp. 187-190 (at 188-189):
But when we [Poggius and Bartholomeus Montepolitianus and I] carefully inspected the nearby tower of the church of St. Gall in which countless books were kept like captives and the library neglected and infested with dust, worms, soot, and all the things associated with the destruction of books, we all burst into tears, thinking that this was the way in which the Latin language had lost its greatest glory and distinction. Truly, if this library could speak for itself, it would cry loudly: "You men who love the Latin tongue, let me not be utterly destroyed by this woeful neglect. Snatch me from this prison in whose gloom even the bright light of the books within cannot be seen." There were in that monastery an abbot and monks totally devoid of any knowledge of literature. What barbarous hostility to the Latin tongue! What damned dregs of humanity!
Latin text in Ludwig Bertalot, "Cincius Romanus und seine Briefe," Quellen und Forschungen aus italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken 21 (1929-1930) 209-255, rpt. in Ludwig Bertalot, Studien zum italienischen und deutschen Humanismus, Bd. II (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1975), pp. 131-180 (at 146):
Sed ubi turrim sacre edis S. Galli contiguam, in qua innumerabiles pene libri utpote captiui detinentur, diligentius uidimus bibliothecamque illam puluere tineis fuligine ceterisque rebus ad obliterationem librorum pertinentibus obsoletamque pollutamque, uehementer collacrimauimus, per hunc modum putantes linguam latinam maximum ornatum maximamque dignitatemque perdidisse. Hec profecto bibliotheca si per se ipsa loqueretur, magna uoce clamaret: ne sinite, uiri lingue latine amantissimi, me per huiusmodi negligentiam funditus deleri; eripite me ab hoc carcere, in cuius tenebris tantum librorum lumen apparere non potest. Erant in monasterio illo abbas monachique ab omni litterarum cognitione alieni. O barbariam latine lingue inimicam, o perditissimam hominum colluuionem.
Thanks to Eric Thomson.

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