After Wilkins: the four “editions” of the Rvf

As several scholars have pointed out, Wilkins’ philology was rather empirical, not preoccupied with or supported by material and codicological evidence, to the point that his criticism was based on the study of copies and transcriptions of Petrarch's manuscripts without a direct scrutiny of the original manuscripts (Del Puppo-Storey; Barolini; Pulsoni). Only two out of the “nine forms” of Rvf as conceived by Wilkins correspond to a specific manuscript: the “Chigi form” (ms. Chig. L. V. 176, now in the Vatican Library, copied by Giovanni Boccaccio) and the Vaticana form (Cod. Vat. lat. 3195). As a result, scholars tend not to support Wilkins' theory of the nine forms of the Rvf and call for a more philologically oriented approach to the evolution of the Rvf. Furthermore, Giuseppe Savoca has underlined the importance of the ms. Vat. lat. 3195 as opposed to all the speculations elaborated by Wilkins.

 Michele Feo proposes to consider four “editions” of the Rvf. The term “edition” indicates the preparation of a codex archetypus, a text approved by the author that he sends at least to one other person endowed with the right to write other copies of it. Feo thinks that the point of departure can only be the Chigi “edition”, which is Wilkins’ fourth form, the first one to be attested by an actual manuscript that has survived, the ms. Chig. L. V. 176  (Feo, “Francesco Petrarca” 277-278). The Chigi “edition” included 215 poems that in the last configuration prepared by Petrarch in the Vat. Lat. 3195 took the following numbers: 1-120, Donna mi vene, 122-56, 159-65, 169-73, 184-85, 178, 176-77, 189 from Part one, and 264-304 from Part two. For Feo, there are at least 8 manuscripts part of the Chigi’s family.

The second “edition” is the Malatesta, named after Petrarch's friend Pandolfo Malatesta who requested him a copy of his poetry collection. This edition includes 333 poems; it is attested by the late fourteenth-century apograph manuscript XLI.17 from the Laurenziana Library in Florence. The Malatesta “edition” alters considerably the order of the Chigi edition. Here is the new order: 1, 3, 2, 4-79, 81-82, 80, 83-120, 122, Donna mi vene, 123-242, 121, 243, 264-336, 339-41, 344, 342, 362-63, 365, 364, 337-38, 366, with a supplement of 355, 343, 345, 352.

 As for Petrarch’s letter to Pandolfo that accompanied this “edition” of the Rvf, Feo after consulting new manuscripts corrected the lectio of the postscriptum translated by Fracassetti that was based only on cod. Riccardiano 873.  In particular Feo quotes cod. Parmense , f. 62 r Pal. 79 from which the Cod. Riccardiano derives:

Sunt apud me huius generis vulgarium adhuc multa in vetustissimis cedulis, et sic senio exesis ut vix legi queant. 34 E quibus, si quando unus aut alter dies otiosus affulserit, nunc unum nunc aliud elicere soleo pro quodam quasi diverticulo laborum, sed perraro; 35 ideoque mandaveram quod utriusque partis in fine bona spatia linquerentur, ut, si quando tale aliquid accidisset, esset ibi locus horum capax; sed male michi in hoc ut in multis obtemperatum est. 36 Si quid tamen occurret, mittam tibi seorsum nichilominus in papiro.

Ci sono ancora presso di me molte di siffatte cose volgari in fogli vecchissimi, e così consunti dal tempo che a mala pena si leggono. 34 Da questi, se talora mi risplende qualche giorno di libertà, sono solito tirar fuori ora un pezzo ora un altro quasi come diversivo dal lavoro, rna di rado; 35 e per questo avevo raccomandato che si lasciassero buoni spazi liberi alla fine dell'una e dell'altra parte, in modo che, se una volta capitasse qualcosa di quel che ho detto, ci fosse lì spazio giusto per accogliere questi pezzi; ma in ciò come in molte altre cose sona stato male ascoltato. 36 Tuttavia, se avrò qualcosa per le mani, te la manderò nondimeno a parte su carta.

(Feo, “In vetustissimis cedulis” 122-123)

This postscript is very important to understand how Petrarch was working on the Vat. Lat. 3195. Sending his collection of poems Petrarch writes to his friend Pandolfo that he had asked the scribes to leave blank spaces at the end of Part one and Part two of the collection; however, the scribes did not execute his will and so Petrarch adds in the postscriptum that he will send aside, on paper, the eventual supplements to the collection. From this postscriptum we understand that, while working on the Vat. Lat. 3195, Petrarch was releasing to his friends provisional editions of the still in the making Rvf.  For this reason Petrarch promises to direct supplements to those provisional editions already sent out once they would become ready. This situation was common in fourteenth-century Italy where the author was in the first instance the publisher of his own work. It was his task to oversee and revise the work of the copyists.  At the time of “publication” copies of the work were sent to several patrons or friends. Usually, a work was not allowed to circulate until it had received its final revision and had been formally presented and “released” but before this it might have become known to friends and selected people privately. Moreover,

after the formal publication, each copy which had been presented could be freely copied under the direction of its recipient so that the recipients might become secondary publishers as it were. To them the author communicated any alterations he might wish to make in his work. From time to time at the request of friends, he would have made under his own supervision new exemplars; and these would naturally incorporate any alterations he might have made in the meanwhile”

(Root 426)

 Feo holds that the third “edition” (that corresponds to Wilkins’s Quiriniano form) followed immediately the second one. It is attested by ms. D II 21 from the Queriniana library in Brescia. It includes 328 poems: 1-243 (Donna mi vene è sostituita da 121), 264-336, 339-41, 344, 342, 337, 362-65, 338 and 366.

 The final  “edition” is attested by the ms. Vat. Lat. 3195 starting from 1366. Petrarch’s friend and pupil Giovanni Malapighini copied the following poems: 1-120, Donna mi vene, 122-78, 180-90, 264-318, and the inscription Francisci Petrarche laureati poete Rerum vulgarium fragmenta. Petrarca transcribed the following poems: 121 (in the place of the erased Donna mi vene), 179, 191-263, 319-66, and revised all the other poems.

 Another scholar, Carlo Pulsoni, proposes to consider 4 “editions” of the Rvf. Edition one, two and four are the same indicated by Feo. The third “edition” suggested by Pulsoni is what he calls the "Pre-Vaticana," the one that precedes the last configuration elaborated by Petrarch in the Vat. lat. 3195. It corresponds to the mss. that reflect the order of the poems before the last numbering in Arabic numerals in the ms. Vat. lat. 3195. This is the stage in which the ballata Donna mi vene spesso nella mente disappears from the collection. The manuscripts that attest this phase are the ms. Pluteo XLI. 10 from the Laurenziana-Medicea Library in Florence, the recently discovered ms. Italiano 551 from the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and the ms. 1015 from the Trivulziana Library in Milan (Pulsoni, "Wilkins e la tradizione manoscritta dei RVF" 262-263). 


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