Biography, Historiography, and Modes of Philosophizing

The Tradition of Collective Biography in Early Modern Europe


By way of essays and a selection of primary sources in parallel text, Biography, Historiography, and Modes of Philosophizing provides an introduction to a vast, significant, but neglected corpus of early modern literature: collective biography. It focuses especially on the various related strands of political, philosophical, and intellectual and cultural biography as well as on the intersection between biography, historiography, and philosophy. Individual texts from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century are presented as examples of how the ancient collective biographical tradition – as represented above all by Plutarch, Suetonius, Diogenes Laertius, and Jerome – was received and transformed in the Renaissance and beyond in accordance with the needs of humanism, religious controversy, politics, and the development of modern philosophy and science.

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Biographical Note
Patrick Baker, Ph.D. (2009) teaches medieval and early modern history at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. He is the author of Italian Renaissance Humanism in the Mirror (Cambridge, 2015) and co-editor of Portraying the Prince in the Renaissance (De Gruyter, 2016).
Review Quotes
“The various parts of the volume offer interesting insights into the role and functions of biographical writing during the early modern period. Scholars interested in the historiography of philosophy, the classical tradition, or early modern history can learn about a facet of early modern thought and writing that is often overlooked.”
Sabrina Ebbersmeyer, University of Copenhagen. In: Journal of the History of Philosophy, Vol. 56, No 1 (January 2018), pp. 176-177.

Table of contents
The publication of this volume was made possible through the support of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, using funds provided to Collaborative Research Center 644 "Transformations of Antiquity" (SFB644).

List of Illustrations
List of Contributors

Patrick Baker

I. The History of Philosophy and the persona of the Philosopher

Manuela Kahle
Spoliating Diogenes Laertius: Giannozzo Manetti’s Use(s) of the Lives of the Philosophers

Giannozzo Manetti
De illustribus longaevis, “Socrates”
On Famous Men of Great Age, “Life of Socrates”

Giannozzo Manetti
Vita Socratis (excerpt)
Life of Socrates (excerpt)

II. Encyclopedic, Historical, and Moral Biography

Marianne Pade
Lives Transformed: John Whethamstede’s Use of Plutarch’s Lives

John Wethamstede
Granarium, pars prima, “Paulus”
Granarium, Part One, “Paulus”

III. Bio-Bibliography and Cultural History (I): The History of a Cultural Movement

Patrick Baker
Collective Biography as Historiography: The De viris illustribus of Bartolomeo Facio

Bartolomeo Facio
De viris illustribus, “De poetis” et “De oratoribus”
On Famous Men, “Poets” and “Orators”

IV. Bio-Bibliography and Cultural History (II): Nationalism and Apologetics

Johannes Helmrath
Perception of the Middle Ages and Self-Perception in German Humanism: Johannes Trithemius and the Cathalogus illustrium virorum Germaniam … exornantium

Johannes Trithemius
Cathalogus illustrium virorum Germaniam suis ingeniis et lucubrationibus omnifariam exornantium (excerpts)
Catalogue of the Illustrious Men Who Have Adorned Germany in Every Way with Their Talents and Tireless Studies (excerpts)

V. Philosophical and Religious Didacticism

Asaph Ben-Tov
Philipp Melanchthon’s De Aristotele (1544): Biography as a Pedagogical Argument

Philipp Melanchthon
Oratio de Aristotele
On Aristotle

VI. Philosophizing and the persona of the Philosopher

Michael Weichenhan
Biography as a Medium of Philosophy and the History of Philosophy: Pierre Gassendi

Pierre Gassendi
De vita et moribus Epicuri, Epistola dedicatoria
On the Life and Character of Epicurus, Dedicatory Letter

VII. Philosophical Biography and the History of Philosophy

Leo Catana
From persona to systema: Heumann’s Dethronement of Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus and the Biographical Model for Writing the History of Philosophy

Christoph August Heumann
“Das Leben Plotini vom Porphyrio beschrieben”
“The Life of Plotinus Described by Porphyry”

Specialists and post-graduate students in the fields of early modern history, philosophy, and the classical tradition are the primary audience. The translated primary sources also lend themselves to undergraduate teaching.
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