was originally called by Petrarch Epistolarum mearum ad diversos liber
("a book of my letters to different people"
), which was shortened later to the current title.
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...
discovered the text of Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...
’s letters in 1345, which gave him the idea to collect his own sets of letters. It wasn't until four or five years later however, that he actually got started. He collected his letter correspondence in two different time periods. They are referred to as Epistolae familiares
(a.k.a. Familiar Letters
) was largely collected during his stay in Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...
about 1351 to 1353, however was not ultimately completed until 1359 when he was in Milan. Petrarch had this collection of letters copied onto parchment
Parchment is a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin, often split. Its most common use was as a material for writing on, for documents, notes, or the pages of a book, codex or manuscript. It is distinct from leather in that parchment is limed but not tanned; therefore, it is very...
in 1359 by a certain ingeniosus homo et amicus
with another complete copy done in 1364. He added letters in 1366, bringing his first collection of letters to 350. He broke these down and sorted them into 24 volumes. This first collection of letters called Epistolae familiares
were actually written between the years 1325 and 1366. In January of 1350 Petrarch wrote a lengthy letter to his dear friend ("Socrates" as Petrarch like to call him) dedicating the collection to him. He requests his friend to keep the letters safely out of sight of the censors and critics.
Letters of Seniles
Petrarch begun a second collection of letters in 1361, also known as Letters of Old Age
. It contains 128 letters written between 1361 and 1373.
[[http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0038-7134(196504)40%3A2%3C323%3AANFOPE%3E2.0.CO%3B2-H">JSTORA New Fragment of Petrarch's Epistolae Seniles by K. V. Sinclair; Speculum, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Apr., 1965), pp. 323-325 doi:10.2307/2855561]]
It is also broken down and sorted into volumes (18 books). The final letter, the first and only of the 18th book is his incomplete Letter to Posterity
. Some English translations of this collection of letters that are out of copyright are available here
There are many letters that Petrarch lost or did not keep a copy of. Others he destroyed the originals of for fear they would bring much criticism to his larger collection. There is a collection of 59 of these letters by Giuseppe Fracassetti.
This special set (Book Without A Name) of letters Petrarch was too fond of to let out of his hands of some nineteen letters was kept out of the main body of Familiar Letters
to give respect to the papacy and the controversial lavish lifestyle practiced at Avignon. Liber sine nomine is an epitome of this same work in one volume without a title
(which is 19 letters).