Italian Paleography


Chicago, Newberry VAULT Case MS 6A 11
Giovanni Battista Strozzi
Strozzi Text Dedicated to Grand Duke Ferdinando II
Florence, between 1621 and 1634

Go to Transcription
Go to Manuscript page 


How does one praise a prince who can make few claims to military glory?  Giovan Battista Giovan Battista Strozzi the Younger (1551-1634) faced this problem when writing the dedication of an epistle in verse he had penned to honor Ferdinand II of Tuscany (1610-1670).  He chose to assert that virtue demands not envy of the triumphs of others, but rather to acknowledge them generously — and proceeded to praise Ferdinando II for his capacity to rejoice in the military victories of others, not least those of his father, Ferdinand I (1587-1609).

The author of this counter-intuitive encomium—which could be read as a blame—was a wealthy member of the Strozzi family, whose reputation in Florence stemmed from his activities as an academician (in particular among the Alterati), as well as from the poetry he circulated in manuscript.  Around the turn of seventeenth century, Strozzi began working on a series of epistles in verse, introduced by brief prose dedications, of which two manuscript collections now remain, the present Newberry Library volume and a volume held in Archivo di Stato in Florence (Carte Strozziane, 3rd serie, 166).  The forty-five or so different poems they contained (some of which appear in both volumes) were addressed to individuals or groups that Strozzi was hoping to honor or please (members of the Medici and Barberini families, princes, academies, etc.).  Strozzi had the epistles carefully transcribed by one of his secretaries and made several rounds of corrections on them.  It is however unclear what the goal of his project was in assembling these texts.  Was it to ingratiate himself with people he already knew or to create new ties?  Did he hope his addressees would be honored to figure in such manuscript collections?  Was he seeking to publicize his own social and political connections?  Though the poet’s purposes remain mysterious, these volumes reveal encomiastic practices in Seicento Florence, while also providing a window into the networks and social practices of a well-connected Florentine literato.

Selected Bibliography: