3.08 Scholarly Work

The prefaces to the commentaries further confirm Mancinelli's view of current scholarship and publishing. The commentary on Virgil poses an important question: Why make another printed commentary on Virgil, especially in light of the new and popular commentary of Cristoforo Landino? There were, after all, no fewer than sixteen editions of Virgil with commentary available to Italian scholars at the date of writing in late 1490. Three more would appear before Mancinelli's edition got through the press in December 1491. Mancinelli's answer was to insist on the stubborn ignorance of his critics. He mentioned the eminent Landino (1424-1492) in passing; but he claimed that the real problem lay in the long-studied commentary of Servius (4th century), because scholars followed it blindly and uncritically. Mancinelli's version is a labor on behalf of his students who will read Virgil more easily with this commentary than with the others. His contributions, beyond careful copy editing of the received texts, were limited to grammatical comments on the Georgics and Bucolics, prefaces to each poem or book, and mnemonic-verse arguments. (36) Mancinelli's success may be judged by the fact that his notes were included in most editions of Virgil for the next forty years.

Mancinelli's commentary on the Satires of Juvenal is a more thoroughgoing work. Although it is respectful of existing commentaries, just as the work on Virgil was, it represents a comprehensive approach to Juvenal as a school author. It appeared in December 1492, with a dedicatory letter dated June 1492, the first work of Mancinelli to issue from the Venetian press of Giovanni Tacuino, who would have a major role in the popularization of Mancinelli's works. It is a folio-sized volume with an elaborate apparatus. Mancinelli began the work at Rome (where Juvenal had been an important subject of discussion at the university) but its writing no doubt occupied a large part of the academic year 1491-92, when Mancinelli was teaching in Fano.

Successful commentaries on Juvenal by Domizio Calderini (1446-1478) and Giorgio Valla (1447-1500) had been circulating for some years in Italy before Mancinelli set to work, exactly the situation of his Virgil edition and commentary. (37) Juvenal was commonly taught in humanist schools; and commented editions were of use to teachers in preparing their lectures. Mancinelli explicitly advertised the usefulness of his commentary in his letter dedicating it to his Venetian patron, Niccolò Rossi. He named four commentaries already available in print and said he will add a fifth because no matter how many learned things his predecessors had remarked, they nonetheless omitted many things which would be useful for adolescent students. Mancinelli's was to be a comprehensive commentary, since he had "left nothing unconsidered, nothing implied, nothing unresolved." (38)

Furthermore, since he had emended the text extensively to rid it of errors introduced by scribes and printers, Mancinelli said he would print his own remarks first in the commentary and follow them with the comments of Calderini and Valla, many of which referred to a corrupt text and so should not be read first. He followed his letter to Rossi with a further series of introductory notes, among them a complete list of the passages he has remarked that were also treated by earlier commentators, so that scholarly readers can turn first to those passages and see the justification for his philological work. This is a curious sort of advertisement, since it is hard to imagine anyone actually doing such laborious cross-checking unless they already knew the Satires by heart and could go quickly to passages they already knew well. The portion of Mancinelli's target audience composed of grammar masters, however, would indeed know the text in this way; or at any rate Mancinelli thought they should be this familiar with Juvenal. Inviting them to inspect his work this closely was an advertisement to specialists.

Mancinelli also reprinted in full the introductory matter from Calderini's and Valla's commentaries. The commentary on each individual poem followed a standard form, including a prose argument and then detailed glosses with marginal notes to identify the contributions of the three commentators. There were also marginal index notes, but these cover only the notabilia in Mancinelli's commentary and not those of Valla or Calderini, another device to emphasize the new content of this volume. In a flourish typical of Mancinelli the school versifier, he also provided on the title page a 16-line poem, "Arguments of Juvenal's Satires by Antonio Mancinelli." This bit of verse allowed students to memorize a table of contents, checking off each of the sixteen satires and their basic themes, the better to cite them in future.

Mancinelli's commentary on Horace also appeared in Venice in 1492. It was more ambitious than the Virgil commentary and better integrated than the Juvenal edition because it incorporated only one previous commentary. It was a major scholarly achievement, expressly intended to counteract the risky Epicureanism of Cristoforo Landino's commentary of 1482. Like Landino, Mancinelli placed the poetry of Horace in a carefully constructed historical context, but he did so by circumscribing the hedonism of Horace (and Landino) with a more attractive Stoicism. Mancinelli no doubt avoided endorsing Horace's Epicureanism because he intended his work for classrooms teachers. This personal conviction may also have seemed prudent in light of the close supervision of humanists in Rome by curial officials. (39)

Mancinelli's Horace commentary had few independent editions, but it was quickly incorporated into large, scholarly editions of Horace along with commentaries by Landino, Josse Bade, and other humanists. In this form, it was reprinted at Venice as late as 1707.


  • Open Bibliography
  • (36) I summarize here from the earliest edition available to me, Virgil 1493. Mancinelli presumably worked from the Landino edition, Virgil 1489.
  • (37) IGI 5575, 5581-5596. On these and other Juvenal commentaries, Sanford 1953, 101-108; Blasio 1986, 481-492; Campanelli 2001, 21-33.
  • (38) Juvenal 1492, preface, partly reproduced in CTC 1:229: ...nihil fere intactum, nichil implicitum, nodosum nichil reliqui. Sanford 1948, 108 considers this an idle boast, especially by comparison to earlier, more original commentaries; but it seems clear Mancinelli meant it as an address to the specific needs of young students.
  • (39) Roberts 1995, 295-300; D'Amico 1989, 274-77.
Switch to Dark Mode
Show Comments