Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 27/52
Cicero, Epistolae ad familiares (Letters to Friends), Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 66, fol. 1r
The recovery of ancient collections of letters provided new stylistic models for humanists eager to break with the old-fashioned Medieval formularies, the stilted writing manuals that had until then structured letter-writing practices. The great poet and text-hunter Francis Petrarch had uncovered Cicero’s Epistolae ad Atticum in 1345 in Verona, but it was only in 1392 that Coluccio Salutati brought to light the entire sixteen books that make up the Epistolae ad familiares. Beyond its exemplary style of Latin prose, this collection of letters provided invaluable historical information concerning the final years of the Roman Republic. The fine humanist manuscript we are looking at today, Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 66, contains a complete copy of the Epistolae ad familiares, save for the first four letters of book 16, which appear to have been omitted purposefully.