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AURISPA, GIOVANNI (c. 1370-1459), one of the learned
Italians of the 15th century, who did so much to promote the
revival of the study of Greek in Italy, was born at Noto in
Sicily. In 1418 he visited Constantinople, where he remained
for some years, perfecting his knowledge of Greek and searching
for ancient MSS. His efforts were rewarded by the acquisition
of some 250 MSS., with which he returned to Venice. Here he
is said to have been obliged to pawn his treasures for 50 gold
florins to provide for his immediate wants. Cosimo de’ Medici,
hearing of his embarrassment, redeemed the MSS. and summoned
the owner to Florence. In 1438, at the council of Basel, Aurispa
attracted the attention of Pope Eugenius IV., who made him his
secretary; he held a similar position under Nicholas V., who
presented him to two lucrative abbacies. He died at Ferrara.
Considering his long life and reputation Aurispa produced little:
Latin translations of the commentary of Hierocles on the golden
verses of Pythagoras (1474) and of Philisci Consolatoria ad
Ciceronem from Dio Cassius (not published till 1510); and,
according to Gesner, a translation of the works of Archimedes.
Aurispa’s reputation rests upon the extensive collection of MSS.
copied and distributed by him, and his persistent efforts to
revive and promote the study of ancient literature.
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