The Hope of Literary Discovery

Aldus Manutius, 

Preface to Pliny’s Epistles, Nov. 1508 (to Alvise Mocenigo)

“My most distinguished Alvise: in earlier years, when I heard that the decades of Livy which were thought to have perished, or the histories of Sallust, Trogus, or any other historian had been found, I used to think it mere stuff and nonsense. But from that time when you, having earned for yourself that great praise and fame by working as an ambassador with the utmost integrity and accuracy, along with the many things which an orator ought to possess, and having acquired by your singular eloquence you for yourself riches and influence in this most excellent republic, brought back from France these epistles of Pliny, written on parchment with letters so different from ours that one cannot read them except through long practice – from that time I began to hope, miraculously, that in our age many of the authors whom we consider as lost might finally be found.”

Solebam superioribus annis, Aloisi, vir clarissime, cum aut T. Livii decades quae non extare creduntur aut Salustii aut Trogi historias aut quemvis alium ex antiquis autoribus inventum esse audiebam, nugas dicere ac fabulas; sed ex quo tu e Gallia, ubi pro senatu tuo integerrime accuratissimeque legatum agens magnam tibi laudem et gloriam peperisti, cum plurimis quae inesse optimo oratori oportet, tum eloquentia tua singulari qua tibi ante et divitias et gratiam in hac republica excellentissima comparaveras, has Plinii epistolas reportasti, in membrana scriptas atque adeo diversis a nostris characteribus ut nisi quis diu assueverit non queat legere, coepi spirare mirum in modum fore aetate nostra ut plurimi ex bonis auctoribus quos non extare credimus inveniantur.

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