Recent philological achievements on the ms. Vat. Lat. 3195 and open problems

The most recent philological achievements –from the new facsimile of Rerum vulgarium fragmenta: Codex Vat. Lat. 3195 (Rvf), edited by Belloni, Brugnolo, Storey and Zamponi, to the new critical edition of Petrarch’s masterpiece by Giuseppe Savoca– are aware of the limits that philology as an authentic human pursuit does always reveal. These philological accomplishments are the result of different methodological approaches: on the one hand, the facsimile edition based on the new material philology applied to Petrarch’s autograph manuscript; on the other hand, a textual criticism oriented towards the “critical edition” based on Petrarch’s autograph manuscript and the variants found in the most important witnesses, Codice degli abbozzi (Vat. lat. 3196), Chigiano (L V 176), Laurenziano (XLI 17), and Queriniano (D II 21).

Nonetheless, Savoca in his introduction to the critical edition of the Rvf admits that “the philology of a text is a continuously open technical and cognitive process” and that as a consequence the hermeneutic task of the interpreter is inexhaustible and should always be philologically oriented  (Il Canzoniere di Petrarca tra codicologia ed ecdotica vii). In this perspective, the use of a sophisticated tool such as high magnification and ultraviolet light to investigate Petrarch’s autograph manuscript solves some problems in textual criticism but at the same time it poses new problems because it not only allows us to trace Petrarch’s microscopic steps, such as the multiple erasures, but it also reveals the disturbing evidence of the presence of subsequent hands which, after Petrarch, “intervened,” as Storey writes, “more often than we might care to imagine” on his holograph manuscript (Storey, “Doubting Petrarca’s Last Words: Erasure in ms. Vaticano Latino 3195” 70-71). For these reasons the philology of the Rvf cannot be exhausted by the only observation of ms. Vat. lat. 3195 and must include the paleographic and codicological scrutiny of the witnesses” (85).

In this regard the situation is not substantially different from the one that made Carlo Dionisotti point out the difficulty of drawing a synthesis of the fourteenth-century manuscript tradition of the Rvf because even though new witnesses have been discovered, we are still missing a comprehensive and exhaustive description of that tradition (61). In a recent, not exhaustive, survey that tradition amounts to 228 exemplars (Signorini 141).


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