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Renaissance Printed Epistolary Collections: From Models for ‘good writing’ to Handbooks for Secretaries*

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From 1538, the year of the first publication of Aretino’s collection of Lettere, the Italian book market was overrun by hundreds of editions of epistolary collections. The reason lays in how well the genre served a variety of purposes; their language, for example, couched as they were in the idiom of high officialdom but still setting examples of the correct usage of the Italian vernacular. Not least, was their function as bearer of chronicles of contemporary events and famous personalities. The publication in 1564 of Sansovino’s Del secretario launched a new genre of epistolary: the book was not only a collection of letters, but also a treatise on the role and function of the court secretary. Subsequently, texts and indexes took to being organized by rhetorical typology which enhanced their relevance. In the end, however, the standardized models that prevailed were bereft of any reference to contemporary events.

Affiliations: 1: University of MilanItaly


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