Scribal Culture and Political Information in Italy, 1450-1650

Birkbeck College, Malet Street, University of London, Friday, 12 September 2008

Many of Italy’s most famous authors combined literary production with work that is now less known as professionals of political information, whether as secretaries, counsellors, authors of reports, newswriters, or scribes. Other writers who specialised in information have been almost universally ignored, but were important figures in their own time. One reason for this is that traces of their information activities have remained in manuscript, while (mostly) literary works were printed at the time and have often been reprinted. This interdisciplinary workshop – the first step in a wider collective project on scribal culture in early modern Italy – seeks to understand the uses and mechanisms of manuscript as a means for obtaining, elaborating, storing, and circulating political information. We welcome participation by all those interested in the social history of literature, the history of the book, the history of information, the cultural history of politics, and the history of diplomacy and diplomatic practice in Italy at this time.


9.30  Coffee and registration (room 541)
10     Introduction: Filippo de Vivo (Birkbeck) and Brian Richardson (Leeds)


Chair: Dilwyn Knox (UCL)

Robert Black (Leeds), ‘The Capitoli: An untapped source for Machiavelli’s political and diplomatic experiences and for the genesis of his political thought’

Catherine Fletcher (Royal Holloway), ‘Scholarship and diplomacy in the Italian campaign for Henry VIII’s divorce’
Brian Richardson (Leeds), ‘A scribal publisher of political information: Francesco Marcaldi’


Chair: Warren Boutcher (Queen Mary)

Camilla Russell (Newcastle), ‘News from the Indies: The Jesuits and the history of information in late-Renaissance Italy’

Angela Nuovo (Udine), ‘L’informazione politica e di attualità nella biblioteca di G. V. Pinelli’

Dorit Raines (Ca’ Foscari), ‘Political information and official historiography in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Venice’


Chair: Stephen Milner (Manchester)

Caroline Callard (Sorbonne), ‘Una lega, due culture della scrittura politica: Venezia e Firenze contro la Santa Sede (1643-1644)’

Mario Infelise (Ca’ Foscari),‘Consulenti politici e professionisti dell’informazione nel ’600’

Gianvittorio Signorotto (Modena e Reggio Emilia), ‘Le scritture sui conclavi nel Seicento’

The organisers gratefully acknowledge the support of the British Academy, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura of London, and the British Library.

For more information, and for registration (by 1 September 2008), please contact Filippo de Vivo or Brian Richardson. A registration fee of £15 (£7.50 for postgraduates), will include coffee/tea and lunch. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Birkbeck College’, and sent to Filippo de Vivo, School of History, Classics, and Archaeology, Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX.)

On the morning of Saturday 13 September, a half-day workshop on planning further collaborative projects in scribal culture will be held at the British Library. If you are interested in participating, please write to one of the organisers.