«In such confusion of affairs, likely to lead to new disturbances, began the year one thousand four hundred and ninety-four […], a most unhappy year for Italy and in truth the beginning of the years of misfortune, because it opened the door to innumerable, horrible calamities.». This is the opening of the sixth chapter in the first book of the famous History of Italy by Francesco Guicciardini which, for the events of that unhappy year and those that immediately followed, draws extensively on the incomparably less well-known and popular De bello italico by Bernardo Rucellai, as demonstrated by his autograph summary of the Latin work and certain coincidences. In many ways a forerunner of the later great historical works, traversed by a line of thought and by reflections of undeniable modernity, the story of the descent into Italy of the 'monster' Charles VIII, seen through the eyes of a Florentine oligarch nostalgic for the regime of Lorenzo and hostile towards Piero de' Medici and his insane politics, deserves to be rediscovered.
Based on the only existing manuscript, Rucellai's work is presented here for the first time in a modern edition, representing the very first Italian translation.
Brother-in-law and friend of Lorenzo de' Medici, son of Giovanni the author of a famous Zibaldone, Bernardo Rucellai (1448-1514) was a leading exponent of the political and intellectual life of Florence in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. He was an oligarch, opposed to both the 'broad' democratic government of Soderini and Savonarola – during which he went into voluntary exile in France – and to the 'tyrannical' regime of his nephew Piero. He was a humanist nurtured on classical literature, a historian who strove for the impartiality that literature connects with this role without being ideologically free, sufficiently 'modern' and unprejudiced not to be considered a mere tardy representative of traditional humanist historiography. The De bello italico is his most mature and original work. The others (De urbe Roma, De bello pisano, Bellum mediolanense) display very close relations with the classical humanist tradition, being reworkings or commentaries on the same or translations into Latin or the vernacular.
Donatella Coppini is professor of Italian Renaissance literature at the University of Florence. She deals with Latin humanist poetry (she produced the critical edition of the Hermaphroditus by Antonio Panormita and a translation and commentary on the Inni naturali by Michele Marullo), with the classical tradition and classical studies in the Renaissance, the question of imitation, the Latin of the humanists, issues inherent to textual criticism, and Petrarch (edition and translation of Salmi penitenziali e preghiere).
in the Catalogue