3.13 Midlife

We do not know why Mancinelli left Venice in 1493. The tensions evident in his Valla prefaces may offer a clue, but it would be speculative to assume that they represent real discontent in Venice rather than a normal rivalry among humanists or an even more normal homesickness. (63) We do know that Mancinelli went back to Velletri, and that he had offers to work elsewhere at high salaries, prompted not by his scholarly writing but by his teaching reputation. So Venice had given him not only new publishing opportunities but also a quantifiable sense of his own worth on the market for teachers. (64)

His Venetian years were probably his busiest, but back in Velletri Mancinelli did not just return to teaching. He continued his scholarly editorial work and continued to crank out small textbooks and reading anthologies, the genres of publication in which he had been most successful to date. Befitting his newly achieved middle age (he had just turned forty), the new classroom works were all strongly moralizing in character, if possible even more earnestly so than his earlier texts. Increasingly they anthologize his own experiences. Almost immediately on his return, he wrote the autobiography in verse that is the source for much of what we know of his life. (65) This Vitae carmen is also a self-advertisement, since it gives a list of his published works to date, omitting only those, like the De rhetorica brachylogia, that he considered superseded. After this date, we must rely on dated prefaces and printers' colophons to follow his career.

Mancinelli seems to have returned from Venice with commissions in hand for additional scholarly editions of Strabo's Geography, of Herodotus in the Latin translation of Lorenzo Valla, and perhaps of Diodorus Siculus. The sponsor of Mancinelli's work on these books was Nicolò Rossi, canon of St. Mark's, who had been dedicatee of the commentary on Juvenal. In the event the Strabo and the Herodotus came from the presses of Giovanni Rossi and Gregorio de Gregori in spring of 1494, while the Diodorus seems never to have appeared. The 1494 prefaces imply that Mancinelli returned to Venice in April to deliver the Herodotus manuscript and perhaps to see it through the press, and that he completed work on the Strabo while there. The Herodotus preface is particularly informative as to the process, careful but not really thorough, which Mancinelli felt was his task as editor. It also displays Mancinelli's usual sympathy for the printer, whose inevitable errors are remarked but not in any damning way. Mancinelli did not edit the text in a critical way, and he tells us so. He merely cleaned up what he found in two sources he had to hand. The principal innovations of this edition are marginal notes and indexes. (66)

A curiosity of the Strabo and Herodotus editions is that both have prefaces dated after the dates in the colophons of the books. (67) The reason is to be found in the circumstances of their preparation, since Mancinelli must have been pressed to get the corrected texts to the printer even as they worked. The preface to the Herodotus was written while the work on Strabo was still in hand. Reading between the lines, we may imagine that Mancinelli was feeding the sheets to the printer a few at a time. The Strabo preface contains the only real complaint Mancinelli ever published about printers, "If there be any error in what you read, let it be put down not to my fault but rather to the haste of the printers." (68) The sentiment is commonplace by the fourteen nineties but it is striking coming from Mancinelli, usually so indulgent.

In both the Strabo and the Herodotus editions the lengthy indexes and the brief dedication letters are front matter; they occupy a separate set of sheets at the beginning of the book. The Strabo dedication is dated fully three weeks after the body of the text, which gives some idea of the amount of time spent on the preparation of the indexes. Not that the indexes are particularly well made. They are accurate in the page references, but seem at first to be alphabetized only half-heartedly. In fact they are perfectly regular in a different way, for they give the entries under each initial letter in the order of their appearance in the book: all the a-words on the first leaf, then the a-words on the next leaf, and so forth. This too may simply be a result of the printer's haste; but when Rossi reprinted the Strabo in January of 1495 (only eight months after the first edition) he used the same index setting. (69)


  • Open Bibliography
  • (63) On the competitive climate among humanists in Venice at the period, Perosa 1981, 602-608; Cox 2003, 662-664.
  • (64) Mellidi 2002, 62-63, 70-73.
  • (65) Mancinelli 1493b is the first edition.
  • (66) Strabo 1494. The exemplars were probably copies of the two earlier Venetian editions (1472 and 1480) since their text and prefatory matter are followed closely and since there is no indication that Mancinelli knew the other two earlier editions (both Roman, from the presses of Sweynheim and Pannartz).
  • (67) Noted by BMC 5:345, 418.
  • (68) Strabo 1494: Sicubi depravatum quid legitur, non mihi at impressorum potius festinantiae imputabitur.
  • (69) Perhaps the success of the first printing was already clear when the front matter was in press, so the printer deliberately did an overrun of the indexes at that time, or at least decided then to let the type stand.
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