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The Library of Renaissance Symbolism
The Symbolic Literature of the Renaissance
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This page gives biographical information on some of the authors referred to elsewhere on this Web site.
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A prolific Swiss scholar, made the first Latin translation of the second half of the Sentences of Stobaeus and is also credited with being the father of modern palaeontology as a result of his De omni rerum fossilium genere, Of all kinds of fossils, of 1565. Interestingly, Gesner gave some of his collection of natural history items to Joachim Camerarius a wellknown collector and the latter used these as the basis for his book, Symbolorum & Emblematum Centuria, a Century of Symbols and Emblems.
Gesner was one of the most extraordinary and erudite scholars of the Renaissance. He also wrote Historiae Animalium published in 1587 a book of some 3,500 pages and considered by many to be the beginning of modern zoology as well as the Bibliotheca Universalis, a bibliography of all extant books in Latin, Greek and Hebrew which contained some 12,000 titles. He wrote a book on fossils, prompting him to be described by Stephen Jay Gould as one of the founders of modern palaeontology - Deconstructing the Science Wars Science 287, 256, he made another collection of Sententiae, this time from the works of the Byzantine monks, Antonius and Maximus first published in 1546 and wrote a book on Philology, Mithridates, which compared 120 different languages. Not content with all this he was one of the first mountaineers for pleasure and wrote about that!
Ferguson says of Gesner that "there is no more notable man in the history of learning and of science in the 16th century." A suggestion of his versatility can be seen in the fact that for a quarter of a century, he was professor of both ethics and physics at Zurich and a practicing physician during the same period. He was astonishingly productive, publishing 72 works and leaving 18 others unfinished.
Ripa who lived from about 1560 to 1623 was one of the more colorful literary characters of the time. He started life as a cook but rose through the domestic ranks and as Majordomo to the household of Cardinal Salviati found spare time to write his great book which was first published in 1593. Thereupon he was immediately knighted by the Duke of Savoy.
Bracciolini was a Secretary to the Papal Curia and one of the most enthusiatic book collectors of the Renaissance. He discovered many texts including hitherto unknown works of Cicero and the complete works of Quintilian But his most celebrated achievement, certainly for his contemporaries, was his Facetiae, Jokes, written in Latin in the 1450’s and printed 20 years later.
Born in Venice and living most of her life in France, de Pisan is said to be the first European woman who made her living by writing. She wrote many works both poetry and prose based on the experiences derived from her aristocratic background, on subjects of interest to women and on chivalry.