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date: 04 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The rediscovery of Cicero’s private correspondence in 1345 initiated the revival of the “private letter.” Petrarch started the humanist tradition of selecting and collecting Latin letters, both in prose and verse. Generations following Petrarch adapted his “model” to new stylistic and philosophical-historical values. Letter-writing was not only central to humanist thought and practice, it constituted part of the persona the humanist scholar wanted to convey. Both Erasmus and Lipsius composed new manuals on letter-writing; both offered new models of collections of letters so as to propagate their humanist program. The chapter explores letter collections composed in seventeenth-century late humanism, and how “scientific letters” based themselves on the ideals of the Republic of Letters, yet shifted to different formats and goals; e.g., the letter in some cases became the “journal article” or “review.” The chapter ends with a discussion of transformation of the Latin private letter in eighteenth-century vernacular literature.

Keywords: epistolography, Petrarch, Erasmus, Lipsius, scientific letters

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