Recovery of manuscripts (The)

Portrait of Poggio holding a manuscript on the first page of the Ruins of Rome (Biblioteca apostolica Vaticana, Urb. Lat. 224, fol. 3). This treatise dedicated to another prominent manuscript hunter, the pope Nicholas V, is a meditation on the loss of Roman culture.

Manuscripts were the cornerstone of humanism. They had been the main vector for transmission of the ancient texts and culture in the Middle Ages. Most of them had nonetheless been lost or forgotten in remote libraries. In order to recover the ancient Greek and Latin texts they favoured, humanists went on a European quest to find these manuscripts. From Italy, at first, humanists travelled all across Europe, visiting convents and libraries, in search of the lost works of Tacitus, Cicero, etc. building and securing the antique legacy of European culture.