The partially holograph Cod. Vat. lat. 3195: the last “form” of the Rvf?

The investigation of the relationships between the text and such features as form and layout, illumination, rubrics, and other paratextual elements of the ms. Vat. lat. 3195, confirms Petrarch’s philosophical idea of writing. After a masterful analysis Stefano Zamponi concludes that the manuscript of the Rvf at the time of Petrarch’s death had “un’organizzazione materiale incompiuta” (an uncompleted material organization) made of unbound fascicles that confirm Petrarch’s intention to set aside the project of an autograph edition of the manuscript, transforming it into an “autograph archive” of lyrics he decided to insert in his Rvf project (38).

The question of what constitutes the “final” or “last” copy of Petrarch’s work is an important one but it should not be driven by the modern idea of “copy” as a process of mechanical reproduction described by Walter Benjamin. On the contrary, it should lead to take into account Petrarch’s scribal and authorial procedures, along with the very likeable possibility that an author like him, so profoundly dedicated to continuing experimentation with his works, would not consider the last copies of his works as definitive versions. Finally, Petrarch’s multiple erasures and revisions, along with the condition of his work at the time of his death, do not allow us to conclude with certainty that the so-called final copy of the Rerum vulgarium fragmenta represents his final wishes or his plans for the final version of his work (Storey, “Doubting Petrarca’s Last Words: Erasure in ms. Vaticano Latino 3195” 70-71).

For a poet like Petrarch, not ready to oppose history and life or to confuse history with eternity, as the later generation of humanists would do (Dionisotti 91), the present is the time of writing and reading, the time of poetry, the language of mutabilitas and human restlessness. This language, as he read at the beginning of Augustine’s Confessions, can find repose only after death: Inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiscat in Te (I, 1; IV, 12). 


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