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Works by Leon Battista Alberti – Pic of the Week

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Three woodcut diagrams of the Trivium, from Opera by Leon Battista Alberti (1499).
Three woodcut diagrams of the Trivium, from Opera by Leon Battista Alberti (1499).

A humanist and generally recognized as an uomo universal [“Renaissance man”], Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) is known for his works in painting, sculpture, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, music, physics, philosophy, and cryptography.  The writing of the mysterious Hypnerotomachia Poliphili has even been attributed to him.  The Law Library recently acquired a compilation of his lesser-known works, simply titled Opera [“Works”].

Bound in a blindstamped calf cover, the book contains five of Alberti’s works: De commodis litteratum atque incommodis [“On the Advantages and Disadvantages of Literary Studies” – 1429]; De iure [“On Law” – 1437]; Trivia [“Rules of Rhetoric”]; Canis [“Dog”], and; Apologi [“Fables”].  Edited by Girolamo Massaini (Hieronymus Massainus), the book was published in 1499.

De commodis litteratum atque incommodis is a reflection of the sacrifices he made during his intense period of study at university.  Over seven years, he earned a degree in canon law from the University of Bologna and continued his studies of ancient culture in Venice and Padua.  In De iure, Alberti specifies the rules for what makes a good judge.  Trivia is a treatise on the rules of rhetoric.  The book contains three woodblock diagrams of the trivium. The Apologi is a collection of one hundred original fables written in Latin.  Alberti wrote them in just over a week!  He dedicated the fables to Aesop.  Alberti wrote Canis as a eulogy for his dog.  Meant to be comical, the florid language of the mock funeral oration praised the dog for his moral integrity and assiduous pursuit of learning.

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