Famed humanist scholar, translator, and man of letters Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini, better know as simply as Poggio, died 30 October 1459. Born 11 February 1380 in the town of Terranuova (which became Terranuova Bracciolini in 1862 in Poggio’s honor), the young Poggio showed early promise as a student of Latin, prompting his father to send him to Florence for his studies.
While in Florence he studied under Giovanni Malpaghino of Ravenna, and in his early twenties he was granted admission to the Arte de’ Giudici e Notai, the Florentine Guild of Judges and Notaries. Soon after this guild acceptance Poggio began work for Cardinal Landolfo Maramaldo, Bishop of Bari, his first role in a succession of posts within the Catholic Church that would endure for half a century. He served a total of seven popes as part of his duties within the Roman Curia, but he also ensured that his ties to Florence remained strong. He maintained friendships with the likes of Lorenzo de’ Medici and became Chancellor of Florence toward the end of his life in 1453.
His pursuit of literature, though, took Poggio across the European continent in various trips form 1415 onward. Recovering works from the prominent authors of history, Poggio is most often lauded for his discovery of De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) by first-century BC writer Lucretius, a text which proved pivotal to the fields of both humanism and science during the fifteenth century. He himself became a collector of texts and art and continued to write until his death at the age of 79.
Craig Kallendorf, “Poggio Bracciolini.” Oxford Bibliographies.
James J. Rorer, “A Reliquary Bust Made for Poggio Bracciolini.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 14 (10) (June 1965), 246-251.
Engraving of Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini. From Icones quinquaginta virorum illustrium, 1597, by Jean Jacques Boissard (1528-1602). Typ 520.97.225, Hougton Library, Harvard University.