Le lettere di M. Bernardo Tasso

Bernardo Tasso, Venice, 1549 (Google Books, 1578)

In July 1665, Lister read the letters of Bernardo Tasso, (1493-1569), an Italian courtier and poet who wrote the first original Italian odes in the manner of Horace. His son was the great poet Torquato Tasso.

Libri di lettere or epistolary collections were based on the humanist model as established by Petrarch after his rediscovery of Cicero’s Letters to Atticus in 1345. Epistolary collections attempted to provide a model of a literary Italian language, the works of Bernardo Tasso seen as particularly successful in that regard.  In his correspondence, Tasso portrayed himself as the model author serving as a courtier and secretary, first to Count Guido Rangone, a military captain in the Army of the Papacy and later to the Prince of Salerno.  His letters provide great insights into the political vicissitudes of the period, as well as to the role of an Italian humanist.  1

Lister probably read the work to improve his epistolary Italian.  Lister would later correspond with a number of Italian natural philosophers including Antonio Vallisneri (1661-1730), and would send a copy of his Historiae Conchyliorum, the first comprehensive scientific work on molluscs, to the Duke of Tuscany who gave him a case of Tuscan wine in appreciation.

  1. See Christine Andrade, ‘The Letters of Bernardo Tasso (1549) with an Annotated Translation‘ (Ph.D. Dissertation, Brown University, 2011).

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