Niccolò de' Niccoli

Niccolò de' Niccoli

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Niccolò de' Niccoli was an Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 Renaissance humanist
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

.

He was born and died in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, and was one of the chief figures in the company of learned men which gathered around the patronage of Cosimo de' Medici
Cosimo de' Medici
Còsimo di Giovanni degli Mèdici was the first of the Medici political dynasty, de facto rulers of Florence during much of the Italian Renaissance; also known as "Cosimo 'the Elder'" and "Cosimo Pater Patriae" .-Biography:Born in Florence, Cosimo inherited both his wealth and his expertise in...

. Niccoli's chief services to classical literature consisted in his work as a copyist and collator of ancient manuscripts; he corrected the text, introduced divisions into chapters, and made tables of contents.

His lack of critical faculty was compensated by his excellent taste; in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 (of which he knew very little) he had the assistance of Ambrogio Traversari. Many of the most valuable manuscripts in the Laurentian library are by his hand, amongst them those of Lucretius
Lucretius
Titus Lucretius Carus was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is an epic philosophical poem laying out the beliefs of Epicureanism, De rerum natura, translated into English as On the Nature of Things or "On the Nature of the Universe".Virtually no details have come down concerning...

 and of twelve comedies of Plautus
Plautus
Titus Maccius Plautus , commonly known as "Plautus", was a Roman playwright of the Old Latin period. His comedies are the earliest surviving intact works in Latin literature. He wrote Palliata comoedia, the genre devised by the innovator of Latin literature, Livius Andronicus...

. The pursuit of ancient manuscripts was a dangerous and expensive task, agents working in the field at the time including Poggio Bracciolini.

Niccoli's private library was bettered only by that of Cosimo de' Medici
Cosimo de' Medici
Còsimo di Giovanni degli Mèdici was the first of the Medici political dynasty, de facto rulers of Florence during much of the Italian Renaissance; also known as "Cosimo 'the Elder'" and "Cosimo Pater Patriae" .-Biography:Born in Florence, Cosimo inherited both his wealth and his expertise in...

 who was the pioneer of the first Florentine public library which was the largest in Europe at that time. Niccoli also possessed a small but valuable collection of ancient works of art, coins and medals. He regarded himself as an infallible critic, and could not bear the slightest contradiction; his quarrels with Francesco Filelfo
Francesco Filelfo
Francesco Filelfo was an Italian Renaissance humanist.-Biography:Filelfo was born at Tolentino, in the March of Ancona. He is believed to be a third cousin of Leonardo Da Vinci. At the time of his birth, Petrarch and the students of Florence had already brought the first act in the recovery of...

, Guarino da Verona
Guarino da Verona
Guarino da Verona was an early figure in the Italian Renaissance.He was born in Verona, Italy and later studied Greek at Constantinople, where for five years he was the pupil of Manuel Chrysoloras. When he set out to return home, he had with him two cases of precious Greek manuscripts which he had...

 and especially with Traversari created a great sensation in the learned world at the time.

His hypercritical spirit (according to his enemies, his ignorance of the language) prevented him from writing or speaking in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

; his sole literary work was a short tract in Italian on Latin Orthography, which he withdrew from circulation after it had been violently attacked by Guarino.

He is also regarded as the inventor of the cursive script, known today as Italic or Cancelleresca. This came about from his enduring study of ancient manuscripts and the numerous copies he made. Niccoli decided he would vary his copied manuscripts by using tilted lettering and as a result later on, when Italian printers first used Italic type
Italic type
In typography, italic type is a cursive typeface based on a stylized form of calligraphic handwriting. Owing to the influence from calligraphy, such typefaces often slant slightly to the right. Different glyph shapes from roman type are also usually used—another influence from calligraphy...

, they chose Niccoli's lettering style.

Niccoli was buried in the Basilica of Santo Spirito in Florence.