The Bodman Collection serves as a principal resource and focus for Italian Renaissance studies from 1450 to the 16th century. The gift of the late Harold C. Bodman (1886–1960), the Collection reflects his interest in the period, which was stimulated during the time that he and his wife Ysabel Bodman made their home at the Villa Diana above Florence. The Villa Diana (given by Lorenzo de Medici in 1483 to the poet Angelo Poliziano), with its rich heritage of Renaissance associations inspired Bodman to read widely in the works of Poliziano and the group of Italian humanist scholars, philosophers, artists, and writers of the Medici court as well as those of the Platonic Academy. He explored classical sources and followed their influence on later Italian writers, an interest which led him over the years to assemble the books and manuscripts which are now known as the Bodman Italian Renaissance Collection.
Mr. Bodman gave the collection to Honnold Library in 1956 and added to it until his death in 1960. His biography of Lorenzo de’ Medici, Lorenzo the Magnificent Realist, showed his very wide background in the period, not only in its literary and philosophical expressions, but in the details of daily life, the dress, the manners, and the customs.
Though the complete works of Homer, including the rare Miscomini printing of the Iliad and Odyssey (1488), take their place as the keystone of the collection, the works of Poliziano form the important nucleus of the collection. Among the finest volumes in this extensive section are the first and second editions of his Greek and Latin writings, the Opera printed in Venice in 1498 and in Florence in 1499, and the great Basle edition of 1553. There is also the first edition of his Miscellaneorum Centuria Prima printed in 1489. Among other first editions are his translation of Herodian’s History (1493), his Letters (1499), and his poems, Silva (1491). There are virtually all the later editions of his writings, as well as translations and scholarly studies. Works of other members of the Platonic Academy include the first three editions of Ficino’s Della Cristiana Religione (1474, 1484, and 1500), and the first editions of his Letters (1495 and 1497), Theologica Platonica (1482), De Vita (1489), and his famous translation of Plato (1484). Pico della Mirandola, Cristoforo Landino, Leonardo Bruni, and others are equally well represented. There are good, though not exhaustive, collections of the works of Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Savonarola, Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Tasso, and Ariosto. And Florentine history, from the earliest chronicles of Villani, Dino Compagni, and Bruni to modern writers is covered in depth. Critical and historical studies of the Renaissance and bibliographical and other reference tools round out the book collection.
Among the 170 incunabula are the first printed text of Aristotle (1469), the first Greek grammar in Latin (1497), the first Aldine edition of Crastoni’s Greek-Latin dictionary (1497), and the Latin text of Alberti’s architectural writings (1485). Fine examples of early printing include the Sweynheym and Pannartz 1469 edition of Bessarion’s Adversus Platonis calumniatorem, showing a clear Roman type face for the first time in the history of printing with movable type. Also Nicholas Jenson’s first edition of Diogenes Laertius’ Vita et sententiae philosophorum (1475), known for the design and proportion of its magnificent Roman type, and his first edition of Pliny the Elder (1476). Incunabula are listed in Frederick Goff’s third census of Incunabula in American Libraries.
Among the manuscripts is an exquisite Book of Hours, brilliantly illuminated on fine vellum, done for the Strozzi family in fifteenth century Florence. There are manuscript letters from many of the Medici, Cosimo, Giovanni, Giuliano, Giulio, and Lorenzo and a most interesting letter from Poliziano to Lorenzo.