Letter 5: Pico della Mirandola to Aldus

Pico della Mirandola sends this letter to Manutius, along with a copy of Homer. He apologizes for not writing sooner, and complains about the extent to which his correspondence has taken over his life. He warns Aldus not to allow his study of philosophy to distract him from pursuing the sacred mystery.

Ioannes Picus Mirandola Aldo Manutio salutem.

{1} Mitto Homerum, quem desiderabas, serius tamen quam et tu voluisti et ego debebam. Ita, mi Alde, distringor occupatione, ut neque interspirando sit locus. Addixi me (quod et tu nosti) iam dudum litteris in famulatum. Illae pro suo imperio ita severe legendi, dictandi exigunt pensum, ut vix valetudinem redimam. Tu, quod tu scribis facturum, accinge [te] ad philosophiam, sed hac lege, ut memineris, nullam esse philosophiam, quae a mysteriorum veritate nos avocet. Philosophia veritatem quaerit, theologia invenit, religio possidet. Vale, Florentiae Die XI Februarius MCCCC nonagesimo anno gratiae.

Notes to the Text

pensum, Omnia Opera : pensa V

accinge [te] ad philosophiam, Omnia Opera : accinge te ad philosophiam V  : te is my emendation


Giovanni Pico della Mirandola greets Aldus Manutius.

{1} I send the Homer which you wanted, later however than you wished and later than I should have. Aldus, I am so bound up by work that there is not even space to breathe. As you also know, for a long time already I have given myself over to the servitude of literature. Those documents on their authority insist so relentlessly on the necessity of reading and dictating them that it will be difficult to recover my health. Because you write what you are going to, arm yourself with philosophy. But in this, read so that you remember: philosophy which calls us away from the truth of the sacred mystery is nothing. Philosophy seeks the truth, theology finds it, and religion keeps it. Farewell. Florence, February 11, 1490.

Notes to the Translation:

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola: 1463-1494. A humanist and philosopher, Pico della Mirandola was famous for his 900 Theses on philosophy and religion and was a close friend and correspondent of Angelo Poliziano.

the truth of the sacred mystery: Pico della Mirandola was deeply interested in questions of mystery and syncretism in theology, combining Christian ideas with the Hebrew Kabbalah and classical philosophy. Pico’s writing was banned by Pope Innocent VIII.