Detail map of İstanbul, Turkey,Venezia, Veneto, Italy

A: İstanbul, Turkey, B: Venezia, Veneto, Italy

How Greek Texts Moved from Constantinople to Italy: The Largest and Finest Collection of Greek Texts before Bessarion's


Having spent four years in Constantinople collecting manuscripts, on December 15, 1423 book collector, scholar, and occasional bookseller Giovanni Aurispa arrived in Venice with the largest and finest collection of Greek texts to reach the west prior to those brought by Cardinal Basilios Bessarion.

"In reply to a letter from Ambrogio Traversari, he [Aurispa] says that he brought back 238 manuscripts. These contained all of Plato, all of Plotinus, all of Proclus, much of Iamblichus, many of the Greek poets, including Pindar, and a great deal of Greek history, including volumes of Procopius and Xenophon which had been given to him by the emperor. Also the poems of Callimachus and Oppian, and the Orphic verses; the historical works of Dio Cassius, Diodorus Siculus, and Arrian. Most of the works were hitherto unknown in the west.

"Further items included the oldest manuscript of Athenaeus; a 10th century codex containing 7 plays by Sophocles, 6 by Aeschylus — the only manuscript in the world of these—, plus the Argonautica of Apollonius; the Iliad, Demosthenes, and many more. A Herodotus was also among the collection; also the Geography of Strabo. The texts are all listed in the letter to Traversari" (Wikipedia article Giovanni Aurispa, accessed 11-26-2008).

(This entry was last revised on April 8, 2014.)

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