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Brian Copenhaver

One form of extremely productive fidgeting in between trying to get my much-needed editing done this week involved finding out who these scholars are, the ones whose articles and books I've been working through. Brian Copenhaver is the first of these for the week. Back in '78 he wrote an immensely useful article in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (vol. 41) entitled "The Historiography of Discovery in the Renaissance: The Sources and Composition of Polydore Vergil's De Inventoribus Rerum, I-III." UCLA's web site is full of information about him - happily - since he's currently provost of the College of Arts and Sciences and has, over the course of his career, published 50+ articles and a handful of books, the most current of which is the culmination of the work which inspired this particular article in the first place. This month - yes, June, 2002 - his edition of Polydore Vergil's De Inventoribus Rerum comes out in Harvard's I Tatti Renaissance series.

Polydore Vergil's work deals with the question of who invented what when from a Renaissance perspective. Unlike Torcelli, he wasn't too concerned with recent inventions, but cared a great deal what the classical authors had to say on the subject. The whole heurematologic tradition is substantive - Pliny's the earliest big name whose work is still extant who was in the business. This particular work was Polydore Vergil's most influential at the time, even if not particularly what he was remembered for today (A book of proverbs is what gets him attention these days, evidently). He's interesting for the range of classical sources he used, his commentaries on the subject, and the simple fact that yes, this was a successful book in his day.

(d_benway recently mentioned Poggio Bracciolini, who translated Diodorus Siculus' history - which makes me wonder, not having done any further homework on the subject - did Polydore Vergil use Bracciolino's translation?)