Letter 11: Ludovico Ariosto to Aldus

In this 1498 letter to Aldus, Ariosto writes on behalf of famous Italian doctor Sebastian Aquila to acquire some books of Plato from Marsilio Ficino, a reviver of Neoplatonism in Italy.

Domino Aldo Manucio viro doctissimo ac mihi colendissimo, Venetiis.

{1} Cum Sebastianus Aquila vir bonarum artium sedulus cultor, qui apud nos praeter medicinam quam publico stipendio docet, Academicum Dogma profitetur, Platonem in Timaeo diebus festis maxima audientia legat; non mediocre desiderium studiosis incidit habendi libros Marsilii et aliorum, qui aliquid de hac secta a graecis scriptum latine transtulerunt. Et cum tu possis illos potissimum explere, nam id cum ex aliis tum superioribus diebus ex Alberto Pio viro magnifico ac litteratissimo cognovi, qui abs te rediens ad nos volumen inter ceteros attulit, in quo Platonicorum quorumdam opera quaedam congesta sunt; ego ut his doctis viris qui me ad id hortantur morem geram, et ut tuae utilitati consulam, quam non minimam existimo si quae imprimenda curasti a pluribus emantur, meum officium duxi te litteris obsecrare ut nostro huic honesto desiderio obsequi velis. Quare si tot litteratorum rogationes non despicis, quicquid in hac re habes ad nos mitte. Nam praeter tuum commodum studiosis etiam laborem ob hoc navigandi Venetias demes. Vale.

Ferrariae, nonis Januarii 1498.

Ludovicus Areostus.


To Aldus Manutius…

A most learned man, and most cherished by me, Venice.

{1} Since Sebastian Aquila, a diligent supporter of the good arts, who– besides teaching medicine amongst us at the public expense– professes the dogmas of the Academy, he reads Plato’s Timaeus on festival days with greatest attention. He kindles a great desire for obtaining the books of Marsilio and others, who translated some other work from this same School, from Greek into Latin. And since you are the best man to complete them – since I heard this from others previously— from Alberto Pio, an esteemed and most learned man, who, returning to us from you, published a book amongst the rest of us, in which certain works of Plato were collected. But I, so that I act in accordance with custom amongst these learned men who are urging me to this task, and, as to make proper use of your assistance— which I do not consider small, given that the things which you print are purchased by many— I consider it my duty to entreat you with letters to yield to this, my most noble request, wherefore, if you do not disdain this wish for so many letters, then send something to me which you have in this vein. For, beyond your assistance in these pursuits, and even your hard work, I hope this is worthy of a trip to Venice.

Ferrara, January 5, 1498.

Ludovico Ariosto

Notes to the Translation:

Sebastian Aquila: Renowned Italian doctor, mentioned in Marco Gattinaria’s 16th c. Morborum Internorum Prope.

Marsilio: Marsilio Ficino (Oct. 1433- Oct. 1499), Italian scholar, Catholic priest, astrologer, and reviver of Neoplatonism, published many works during this time: Theologia Platonica (Florentiae, 1482); Platonis, Opera Latine Interpr. (Venetiis, 1491); Commentaria in Platonis Parmenidem, Sophistam, Timaeum, etc. (Florentiae, 1496).

some other work from this same School: i.e., of Neoplatonic thought.

Alberto Pio: Ariosto, in whose volume of letters this letter is printed, was a friend and co-disciple of Alberto Pio, prince of Carpi; he named some of his poems after him. Pio was Aldus’ student, and his family, along with Giovanni Pico’s, funded the start-up costs of the Aldine printing press.

Ludovico Ariosto: (8 September 1474-6 July 1533), an Italian poet, best known for his Orlando Furioso (1516). He is credited with coining the term umanesimo, or humanism. This earliest letter of his includes a flattering request for four works on Platonism from Aldus in 1498. The letter is published in Ariosto’s own collection of his letters, collected and published in the 18th century by Antonio Cappelli.