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The Evolution of the Book in Italy 101: Universities and the Rise of Humanism


Humanity's infatuation with the written word has echoed throughout the ages. The creation and development of the book was one of the most outstanding achievements in preserving the social, religious, and political values of societies throughout history. This series aims to provide insights into the technologies and cultural context that led to the advancement of the book from the Middle Ages to the Italian Renaissance. Examining the book's function and technologies helps better grasp the mutual influence between society and the written form. The series examines the book's materials, purpose, and values as a knowledge repository and communication channel. It also delves into the development of the printing press, its relationship to literacy, and its impact on the book economy and humanist agenda. Illustrating a shift in form and function of the book from Medieval to Renaissance Italy, this series explores how ecclesiastical and secular use of the written word liberated and enriched culture. It will also provide insight into how the book also served as a reflection of cultural values and ideologies throughout its evolution.

This 101 series is divided into six articles, including:

1. History of the Book 101: Ancient Technologies

2. History of the Book 101: Medieval Monks

3. History of the Book 101: Illuminated Manuscripts

4. History of the Book 101: Universities & the Rise of Humanism

5. History of the Book 101: Rise of the Printing Press

6. History of the Book 101: A New Age of Literature

History of the Book 101: Universities and the Rise of Humanism

Manuscripts and the art of illumination prevailed as a means to enrich the spiritual and secular understanding of beauty and devotion in medieval society. The book became a prized commodity, and its production was transformed by new social, intellectual, and secular desires that altered the structure of medieval Italian society. The twelfth-century revival of learning and the subsequent rise of universities greatly increased the demand for books, causing its production and trade to shift from monasteries to urban cities of writing and scholarship. During the fourteenth century, the rise in the philosophy of humanism and the desire for accurate versions of rediscovered texts had become a cultural phenomenon that pervaded the social and intellectual landscapes of Italian culture. Manuscript production was an art form that was soon adopted by the aristocratic and elite members of society as a powerful symbol of wealth and intellect, marking the beginning of a remarkable period of growth in book production.

Education in the medieval era was limited to the wealthy and young members of ruling families, with most schooling taking place in monastic or cathedral schools, or with a private tutor (Streissguth, 2008). Famous masters gathered around private groups of scholars, to teach theology and grammar among other subjects. In 1070 A.D., the Corpus Juris Civilis, or the Code of Justinian, was rediscovered in northern Italy. Established by Justinian I, this sixth-century system of jurisprudence, written in Latin, had attracted intellectuals throughout the peninsula (“The First European University is Founded in Bologna: 1088”, 2014). Masters scholars had come together in the city of Bologna, Italy to study the newly discovered text, which proved a highly difficult task. By 1088, the concentration of scholars in the city resulted in the foundation of the first educational institution: The University of Bologna (Patton, 1969). The distinction of a university required the presence of the higher faculties including medicine, law, theology, and the arts which include logic, grammar, literature, and philosophy (Patton, 1969). Soon, universities with regular curriculums had been institutionalized throughout Europe, as did a great demand for textbooks, which would greatly alter the standard means of book production.

The establishment of universities had increased the need and breadth of manuscript production, and with it, education and the proliferation of texts extended beyond the cloister. Manuscripts of the basic texts for studies in law, theology, and medicine, were in great demand by students, though copies of textbooks were often in short supply and the master had to work through crucial texts at dictation speed (“The Rise of Medieval Universities”, 2001). Masters read an established text aloud and added commentary for students who would write the lecture word for word. It was not uncommon for lecturers to speak too quickly, softly, or slowly, naturally frustrating many students (Pettegree, 2010). As a result, a new system of book production was devised which allowed students to acquire necessary texts in advance. Under this system—the pecia, or “piece”—students would copy texts rapidly and with ease, providing the scholars with their own copy of the text and learned commentary of the work. Bookshop owners and university authorities began supplying master copies of texts, called exemplars, that were rented out to scholars who would copy the text before returning it (“The Rise of Medieval Universities”, 2001). Written on inexpensive parchment and in non-calligraphic script, the exemplars were kept unbound in loose, individual gatherings called pecia. The exemplars were owned by the stationarius, who rented out the pecia for students to replicate (Celenza, 2000). The new pecia system allowed for the rapid multiplication and distribution of manuscripts while preserving the accuracy of the original texts.

Figure 1: Postcard Illustration of the University of Bologna Library (n.d.).

As the copying of texts remained a lengthy task, exemplars were rented out one pecia at a time. Had a bound manuscript been rented out, it would be entirely unavailable for use by others; for this reason, texts were rented and copied from the individual loose gatherings and could be exchanged for the following unit upon completion (Pettegree, 2010). Lending time was often restricted, typically to one week, and thus only a single unit was inaccessible to others and only for a short period of time. The peciae of the exemplar were always numbered as a means to enable the copyist to find the required gatherings; these numbers, or “pecia marks” were noted in the margins of the text (Soetermeer, 2005). In the event the copyist needed a pecia that had been loaned out and thus unavailable, the scribe would leave blank what he deemed accurate space for the gathering and begin the succeeding pecia. It was not uncommon for scribes to inaccurately calculate the length required for the missing text. If the scribe overestimated the space needed, a gap was left in the text. To atone, the scribe would “fill it by copying the last part of the pecia once again and would then immediately suppress this part of the text by adding ‘va’ and the beginning and ‘cat’ at the end: ‘vacat,’ meaning ‘this is empty’” (Soetermeer, 2005, p. 5). In the event the scribe underestimated the space needed, the surplus was written in the lower margins of the folios. This procedure for the copying of texts had been established earlier in the monastic scriptoria and was adopted by secular patrons of the later Middle Ages, having considerably simplified and expanded the production of both scholarly and ecclesiastic manuscripts.

The rapid copying of manuscripts that resulted from the new pecia system both amplified and preserved texts of ancient wisdom and religious devotion. Literacy had once found refuge in monastic communities, but the mass production of texts for scholars and universities enriched the minds of medieval society and greatly contributed to the expansion and social mobility of the book market. By the end of the twelfth century, the making and distribution of texts had become the full-time occupation of a new breed of workmen (Pettegree, 2010). However, this period of growth did not last, as the fourteenth century was beset with famine and disease (“The Rise of Medieval Universities”, 2001). In the two years between 1347 and 1349 A.D., Europe was devastated by the Black Death as one-third of the population had been eradicated. Italy was ill-prepared for the unprecedented spread of this plague, and mortality was quite severe in the cities which had become the major centers of book production (Pettegree, 2010). Scholars could no longer attend universities, and masters could no longer teach their students. The manufacturing and trade of manuscripts ceased to exist as mortality rates caused a drastic decline in the labor force. Though the Black Death rattled Medieval Italian society, its profound impact led to significant cultural, economic, and religious changes.

Unable to escape the surge of the plague, the Church lost countless priests and monks. In response, the Church hastily trained new spiritual leaders to serve the clergy who, because they lacked proper training, were unfit to serve the needs of the people and the Catholic doctrine (Hay & Hay, 1977). With a loss of principle, the Church eventually fell victim to corruption and lost the faith of the people. This resulted in the increased secularization of Italian society, where every man was free to detach themselves from the ecclesiastic world that once constituted life. The role of the Church's authority was in question, and old certainties were overturned by a new spirit of inquiry fixated on the revival of classical Greco-Roman thought (Pullan, 1973). The existing social structure had been replaced by an eccentric period of social mobility that greatly underscored individual talent and virtue; merchants and self-made men formed a new elite class of nobility and aristocrats that were keen on the patronage of art as a means of establishing wealth and power (Hay & Hay, 1977). Society began to gradually recover and embarked on a period of exponential cultural and economic growth. The surging enthusiasm of individualism catered to secular interests, and had a profound impact on the production of manuscripts.

Figure 2: Boccaccio's "The plague of Florence in 1348" (Boccaccio, n.d.).

The proliferation of arts and culture led to the foundation of humanism: the principal intellectual movement of Italian culture which emerged as a powerful force in literature and marked the beginning of the Italian Renaissance (Kristellar, 1978). Aspects of medieval manuscript traditions continued into this period of spiritual enlightenment, but literature produced in the following centuries was transformed by the social and scholarly conditions of the new cultural philosophy. Humanism in the Renaissance was quite different from the present-day understanding of the umbrella term for human values. The primary concern of Renaissance humanists was in the study and imitation of Greek and Latin literature, for which they developed disciplines based on the emulation of the ancient models (Kristellar, 1947). The umanista (humanist) was a practitioner of the studia humanitatis, which included the core academic curriculum considered necessary for a righteous life: grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy (Rabil, 2000b). Humanists believed that education rooted in classical Greco-Roman texts would help bring about a cultural rebirth and a revival of the arts and literary culture that would inspire well-educated, virtuous, and desirable members of society (Nauert, 2000). Fourteenth-century humanists often referred to this era as a period of awakening from the scholastic tradition of education in the Middle Ages, which stressed the Christian doctrine of logic, theology, and philosophy (“Early Renaissance Literature”, 2005). The specific disciplines of humanists differed throughout the regions of the Italian peninsula, but an emphasis on grammar, history, moral philosophy, and the art of eloquence were pillars of the movement.

Most humanists belonged to various professional groups, and occasionally some occupied more than one. Initially, humanists served as masters in universities or other secondary educational institutes, but the noble and wealthy amateurs of the time elected to combine the intellectual practices of humanism with political activity. The secretaries of aristocrats and elite members of society were also involved in the political and social growth of the city and thus could ennoble themselves as a humanist (Kristellar, 1978). Scholars of humanist learning “edited, translated, and expounded classical Greek and Latin authors, and wrote on matters of grammar and philology; they composed speeches, letters, poems, historical works, and moral treatises” (Kristellar, 1947). Humanists revered classical antiquity as a perfect age, and with the belief that it was their responsibility to revive the wisdom of the ancient past. As a result, the range and content of literary production were vast and occupied an important place in Italian culture that shaped the social and intellectual practices of the Renaissance.

The central figure in the founding of Italian humanism was Francesco Petrarch, born in 1304 in the Tuscan city of Arezzo, Italy (Pettegree, 2010). A poet, scholar, and collector of manuscripts, it is Petrarch who is princely associated with the rebirth of classical culture and the restoration of ancient Greco-Roman values of thought and rhetorical elegance that had long been neglected (Rodini, 2000). Though he was the foremost humanist writer of literature, Petrarch was an avid philosopher and theologian who sought to make a relevant personal philosophy guided by the works of classical authors and scholars (“Early Renaissance Literature”, 2005). Petrarch traveled extensively to scour monasteries and private collections in Europe, seeking to unearth ancient texts that had existed in the medieval era but had largely fallen out of circulation. He edited and translated the documents into Latin or the vernacular, and submitted them to philological analysis (Rabil, 2000a). Petrarch’s most significant discovery was made in 1345, at the Chapter Library of Verona where he unveiled the text of Cicero’s Letters to Atticus (Pettegree, 2010). In these texts was a rhetorical moral philosophy that favored individual expression, and served as an elegant model of the Latin language (Rabil, 2000b). This inspired Petrarch to devote his life to the pursuit of eloquence. He had amassed a sizable library of ancient texts, and left behind a considerable collection of personal letters. As a result of this dedication to individual thought and the revival of the classics, Petrarch laid the foundation of humanism that would proliferate in the following centuries. Petrarch’s literary endeavors achieved him international renown, and he was soon acclaimed the “Father of Humanism”.

Figure 3: Portrait of Petrarch (n.d.).

His greatest claim to fame was as a poet. Petrarch was convinced he would establish a historical persona through his works written in Latin, including essays, formal letters, and the notable Punic War epic Africa (Rabil, 2000a). However, he is largely remembered for his works written in Italian, even though he “publicly dismissed his poetry written in the vernacular as youthful indiscretions” (Rodini, 2000). On April 6th, 1327 in the Church of Saint Claire in Avignon, Petrarch saw and fell in love with a woman he would call Laura, and sparked a passion that would ignite his poetic imagination for the rest of his life (“Petrarch”, 2000). His unrequited love for the married French woman would soon inspire his most lyrical and influential poetry, the Canzoniere, or songbook. This collection of love sonnets would eventually come to include 336 poems that were divided into two major sections: “In vita di madonna Laura” and “In morte di madonna Laura” (“Petrarch”, 2000). About two-thirds of the poem was written while Laura was alive, and the other third after her death, though Petrarch would often return to polish the collection for the rest of his life. Amorous, political, artistic, moral, and religious themes are illuminated in the Canzoniere and would become widely imitated by writers during the Renaissance (“Petrarch Becomes the First Poet Laureate: 1341”, 2014). Petrarch refined the style of the sonnet; though not the inventor of it, he perfected the style to such a degree that the fourteen-line form became known as the Petrarchan sonnet (“Early Renaissance Literature”, 2005). His dual emphasis on the psychology of the self and the poetry of ethics and morality were so influential that they gave rise to the “Petrarchism” literary movement in Italy that would spread throughout Europe.

In 1341, Petrarch arrived in the Capitoline Hill in Rome to be proclaimed poet laureate, where he received a crown of laurel leaves. According to ancient Greek tradition, “the laurel crown was a sacred honor reserved only for the finest poets and dramatists” (“Petrarch Becomes the First Poet Laureate: 1341”, 2014). Petrarch was only the second person since antiquity to receive such an honor, as the tradition had fallen out of practice when the Roman Empire fell in the fifth century. Petrarch lived at a time when classical traditions were just being rediscovered, and his crowning as a poet laureate indicates the nascent rebirth of Greco-Roman interests. He adumbrated his own life to accommodate the characteristics of the humanist movement he inspired: emulation and recovery of the classical tradition and style, rhetorical elegance, a sense of self as an individual, and a desire for earthly mortality (Rabil, 2000b). During the course of his life, Petrarch had amassed what was likely the largest private library in Europe, having contained about 200 volumes. He persuaded the city fathers of Venice to reach a formal agreement that he would bequeath his library to the city in exchange for a suitable home, and the guarantee his books would not be dispersed (Pettegree, 2010). Within one generation of Petrarch’s death, his successors achieved an elegance in writing Latin that superseded his own talents, many of whom even learned Greek. Petrarch inspired later humanists to search for classical manuscripts, who would make momentous discoveries of ancient scholars' works on the training and practice of an orator.

Figure 4: Petrarch in his study (1497-1500).

A contemporary and friend of Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio was a notable humanist who helped to shape the course of early Renaissance literature. Petrarch’s defense of poetry, admiration of classical antiquity, and ideology that literature and eloquence are necessary for a virtuous life, all influenced Boccaccio significantly. In 1348, shortly after the Black Death struck Florence, Boccaccio began the Decameron; a vernacular masterpiece of Italian prose that is often regarded as the most influential literary work of early humanism (“Early Renaissance Literature”, 2005). A collection of 100 stories, the Decameron recounts the horrors of the plague, the alacrity with which it moved through the city, and how the Florentines responded to the carnage. The narratives are spun by ten wealthy men and women who had decided to flee the city and take refuge in the countryside and amused themselves with tales to pass the time (Streissguth, 2003). Each story is written to convey hope, despair, fortune, and desire; themes of hellish wickedness and heavenly virtue, passion, and the human will are all elements that are central to the message of the Decameron ("Early Renaissance Literature", 2005). Completed in 1353, this collection represents a connection between earlier works of the Middle Ages, many of which “were infused with chivalric ideals and Christian morality, and the more ‘humanistic’ works of the Renaissance, which treated ordinary people as a fit and worthy subject and which accepted human foibles, weakness, and sensuality” (Streissguth, 2003). It was written to offer solace to Florentine society and was wildly successful among the bourgeois, mercantile class. Boccaccio’s work represented a shift toward literature about the common person, and highlights many tensions of fourteenth-century Italian life; in particular, those that had existed between the new merchant class and older nobility (“Early Renaissance Literature”, 2005). Tales of wit, humor, and life lessons, all contributed to the mosaic that inspired this new style of vernacular prose which soon became more popular and widely accepted as a literary form. Its influence transcended the Italian peninsula and became the model of literary prose that would inspire humanists and writers throughout the Renaissance.

The Decameron was certainly Boccaccio’s undisputed masterpiece, but like Petrarch, his literary output was enormous. He wrote in both Latin and Italian and styled much of his works to resemble the literary styles of classical antiquity (Cassell, 1989). As the Latin past began to unfold, questions naturally arose concerning the Greek past, which no one interested in the ancient world could dismiss. Boccaccio greatly advocated for and encouraged the study of Greek as well as Latin, having searched far and wide for lost texts (Rodini, 2000). Over the course of many years, and finished shortly before his death, Boccaccio wrote the Genealogia deorum gentilium, or “The Genealogy of the Gods” (Cassell, 1989). The first edition was completed in 1360 and was widely established as a key reference to classical mythology. As new materials and manuscripts came into his possession, he corrected, edited, and added to the work. In the Middle Ages, writers typically granted mythological tales Christian interpretation, but Boccaccio strove instead to present the Greco-Roman tales with little commentary on Christian philosophy (“Early Renaissance Literature”, 2005). In this work, he also stressed his establishment of the first professorship of Greek at the University of Florence. Boccaccio called for Leontius Pilatus, a southern Greek Italian scholar to this position for assistance in the translation of the world of Homer and Euripides into Latin (“Early Renaissance Literature”, 2005). Boccaccio became the student of Pilatus and was the first man of the Renaissance to learn Greek for the explicit purpose of reading classical literature, which enabled him to include some fifty quotations in the language (Cassell, 1989). This written work became used as a textbook for students of literature and humanities for the next four centuries and served as an extended defense for the studies of ancient literature and thought. Translations were then copied and circulated to other humanists, including Petrarch, and ultimately encouraged the revival of the study of the Greek language which had been unknown for centuries.

Figure 5: Printed Illustration of Giovanni Boccaccio (n.d.).

The endeavors of the two acknowledged literary geniuses provided models for later Renaissance writers, who used the works of Petrarch and Boccaccio as guides to prose and poetry. Their dedication to the study and collection of ancient works and the philosophical insights of early humanism had begun to alter intellectual and literary tastes that had a significant impact on the projection of Renaissance education. What began with Petrarch and Boccaccio spread through all of Italy, though it saw its origins as an intellectual movement in Florence under chancellor Coluccio Salutati (1331-1406), who regarded himself the guardian of the humanist movement (Rabil, 2000b). Salutati made two substantial contributions to the development of humanism. The first was in 1397 when he persuaded Manuel Chrysoloras to come to the city and teach Greek (Nauert, 2004). Many Florentine students became proficient enough to translate Greek texts into Latin, and include those rhetorical and philosophical ideas in their own work. After his three years, Chrysoloras left behind Italy’s first generation of Hellenists, and the study of Greek in Italy became understood as a serious undertaking of classical antiquity (Rabil, 2000a). Salutati, as the person in charge of diplomatic correspondences, also expanded the circle of humanists in Florence and created a network of like-minded friends throughout the Italian peninsula. He influenced numerous disciples who would make Florence the center of humanism in the fifteenth century. Notably was Pier Paolo Vergerio (1370-1444), who wrote the first humanist educational treatise De ingenuis moribus et liberalibus studiis adulescentiae, “On noble customs and liberal studies of adolescents” (Rabil, 2000b). Written in the years 1402-1403, this was the first time humanism was put forward as the basis of a new educational philosophy and curriculum (Rabil, 2000a). Leonardo Bruni, of Salutati’s circle, penned a parallel treatise on the education of girls in 1424, giving special prominence to the studia humanitatis (Rabil, 2000b). He would eventually become one of the leading humanists of his generation. Salutati had created an environment for humanistic studies that would bring about the most significant educational revolution since the development of the university and contributed to the triumph of humanism as the common culture of the elite classes throughout Italy.

Another central figure of Salutati's circle of humanists was Poggio Bracciolini. During the years 1414-1417, while on papal service at the Council of Constance, Bracciolini searched for ancient texts in the libraries of monastic houses near Florence and throughout northern Europe (Pettegree, 2010). At this time he uncovered a number of Cicero’s orations, as well as the complete text of Training in Oratory by Quintillian, which served as the principal sources for understanding the history of, training in, and practice of rhetorical eloquence (Rabil, 2000b). Like Bracciolini, Niccoli de’ Niccoli (1364-1437) devoted most of his time to searching for the lost manuscripts of ancient scholars. He assiduously compiled copies that had been discovered, translated, or reproduced by himself and Salutati, becoming the first systematic collector of manuscripts and ultimately built a library of some 800 volumes (Nelles, 2004). These works contained multiple copies of several classics, and with those Niccoli had established the first research library for scholars. Salutati and Niccoli, like all true collectors, “assembled books with magnificent disdain for cost and consequences. Niccoli consumed a considerable fortune in assembling his library, and died heavily in debt” (Pettegree, 2010, p. 20). The Florentine magnate and humanist Cosimo de’ Medici compensated Niccoli’s creditors and donated the library to the monastery of San Marco, which opened its doors to the public in 1444 (“Libraries”, 2004). Private libraries became popular among scholars. Many professionals such as lawyers, physicians, and churchmen responded to changing patterns of book collections that demanded increased textual proficiency by keeping collections of books about their areas of interest or expertise (Nelles, 2004). Libraries served as centers of intellect and culture that gave scholars a place to explore classical antiquity and formed the focus of Renaissance humanist scholarship.

Figure 6: Sixtus IV appoints Bartolomeo Platina Prefect of the Vatican Library (1477).

Since the Middle Ages, ecclesiastical institutions had served as centers of learning, and the libraries treated the books and manuscripts as prized works of art, venerated as much for the artistry and beauty as for the content. Manuscripts had always been critical in the display of wealth, power, and status. A gilded, richly crafted volume was a proud possession and an intricate object of majesty (Pettegree, 2010). During the Renaissance, libraries were transformed by humanistic scholarship and books were increasingly found in great demand to fit the intellectual agenda of aristocratic patronage (“Libraries”, 2004). In the late fourteenth century, there was a shift from the possession and exhibition of a single prized volume to the display of a collection of considerable size (Pettegree, 2010). Such a library was not only a material manifestation of the patron’s wealth and social status, but it was highly personal and demonstrated the intellect of humanistic studies and religious devotion. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the aristocratic desire to expeditiously build comprehensive libraries resulted in the proliferation of illuminated manuscripts and the development of secular book productions— an industry once monastic in nature (Nelles, 2004). These libraries called for the rapid reproduction of ancient, secular, and religious texts, and the velocity with which the scribes copied resulted in the flowering of the two great calligraphic revolutions of the humanist movement.

The art of calligraphy—elegant handwriting or lettering—continued to evolve during the Italian Renaissance. Humanist writing, in accordance with rhetorical eloquence, was characterized by a heightened concern for clarity and sophistication. Fifteenth-century humanists considered previous centuries to have been ignorant and barbaric, resulting in texts that were difficult to read (Marcos, 2014). Coluccio Salutati and Petrarch both criticized the handwriting of medieval scribes and desired a script that would reflect changing societal values and the ideals of humanist culture (“Writing”, 2004). When looking at texts of classical antiquity, humanists of Salutati's circle were fascinated by the simplicity and legibility of the lettering. In fact, it was Poggio Bracciolini and Niccolò de’ Niccoli who developed the two humanist styles of calligraphy that would permeate Italy and much of European book production during the Renaissance. Bracciolini developed the style known as the humanist round hand, which, in comparison to the script of the Middle Ages, was more uniform in space between words, used fewer abbreviations, and distinguished more clearly between letters (“Writing”, 2004). In creating this script Bracciolini copied scripts he believed to be of Roman antiquity, perhaps having been encouraged by Salutati. It has since been discovered that the original script was a late example of the Carolingian minuscule, which had been revived in the twelfth century (Marcos, 2014). Nonetheless, the humanist script was an attempt to restore clarity and elegance to book production, coupled with the scholarly preoccupation with texts. Niccoli promptly learned Bracciolini’s new script and adopted the lettering of the humanist hand into his own cursive script (“Writing”, 2004). The cursive script of linked letters allowed scribes to reproduce copies of texts with great speed and ease, as they were not required to lift the quill from the page as each letter was completed (Pettegree, 2010). This form of writing, commonly understood at the time as humanist cursive, is the origin and basis of the modern italic font. These two elements of humanistic calligraphy were significant in the development of book hand during the Renaissance and saturated the folios of manuscripts produced in this period of cultural revolution.

Figure 7: Page from the Book of Hours of Giovanni II Bentivoglio written in the humanist script (1497-1500).

Manuscript production of the late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance was changed dramatically, largely in production, content, and presentation. By the late thirteenth century, the monasteries responsible for the copying of manuscripts and the necessity for book collections of ecclesiastical institutions prevalent in the medieval era had been eclipsed by the evolution of the university and secular thought. Manuscripts had continued to increase in production during the rise of humanism in the early Renaissance, demonstrated by the continued demand for books among scholars. In the churches, courts, and cities of the Italian peninsula, the manuscript endured as a repository of knowledge and a princely artifact of great value. Revitalized by the humanist passion for manuscript collection, great care was taken in the reproduction and conservation of texts. Fuelled by the desire for accurate versions of rediscovered ancient texts, particular attention was given to the texts of classical antiquity. The art of the manuscript had ultimately found homage in the aristocratic patronage of elite Renaissance humanists as a symbol of wealth and power. Book production of this time was the direct result of changing social, political, and religious structures within Italian society. The development of humanism directly encouraged the increase in book production and trade, and largely influenced the literature circulated. Even with the advent of print soon to come, manuscripts continued to pervade the changing intellectual and social landscapes of Renaissance culture in Italy.

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