Petrarch’s Guide to the Holy Land
Itinerary to the Sepulcher of Our Lord Jesus Christ
248 pages, 6.14 x 9.21
Hardcover | 9780268038731 | December 2002
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268207663 | March 2023
- Press Kit
- Author Bio
In the early spring of 1358 Francis Petrarch was invited by his friend Giovanni Mandelli, a leading military and political figure of Visconti Milan, to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Pleased at the invitation, Petrarch nevertheless declined to undertake the journey. Fear of the sea, of shipwreck, and of “slow death and nausea worse than death” held him back. While Petrarch would not make the literal journey he offered Mandelli a pilgrimage guide instead of his companionship: “nevertheless, I shall be with you in spirit, and since you have requested it, I will accompany you with this writing, which will be for you like a brief itinerary.”
Composed over three days between March and April of 1358, the Itinerarium ad sepulchrum domini nostri takes the characteristic Petrarchan form of an epistle to a friend. Delivered to his correspondent in the form of an elegant booklet, the work presents a literary self-portrait that was meant to stand as “the more stable effigy of my soul and intellect” as well as “a description of places.” Although the Holy Land is the ostensible destination of the pilgrimage, more than half of this charming guidebook is devoted to Petrarch’s leisurely and loving descriptions of Italy's physical and cultural landscape. Upon reaching the Holy Land, Petrarch transforms himself into one of the greatest ten-cities-in-four-days Baedekers of all time, as Mandelli and the reader race through sacred landmarks and sites and end up, not at the sepulchrum domini nostri, but at the tomb of Alexander.
Theodore Cachey has prepared the first English-language translation of the Itinerarium. Based on an authoritative 14th-century manuscript in the Biblioteca Statale of Cremona, which is, according to the explicit declaration of the scribe, a copy of Petrarch’s 1358 autograph, the translation is accompanied by the manuscript reproduced in facsimile and by a transcription of the Latin text. Cachey’s extensive introduction and notes discuss Petrarch’s text within the multiple contexts of travel in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and contemporary political and cultural issues, including Petrarch’s relation to emergent forms of “cartographic writing” and Renaissance “self-fashioning.” Petrarch’s little book reveals him to be a man of his time, but one whose voice speaks clearly to us across centuries. The Itinerarium is a jewel rediscovered for the modern reader.
Theodore J. Cachey Jr. is the Inaugural Academic Director of the Notre Dame Rome Global Gateway. He is a Professor of Italian and the Albert J. and Helen M. Ravarino Family Director of Dante and Italian Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He earned his B.A. from Northwestern University and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Le isole fortunate: Appunti di storia letteraria italiana and of A. Pigafetta's “First Voyage around the World.” He is also the editor of Dante Now: Current Trends in Dante Studies, a volume in the William and Katherine Devers Series in Dante Studies, which he co-edits with Christian R. Moevs, published by the University of Notre Dame Press.
“. . . this illustrated version of Petrarch’s guidebook of 1358 is a gem of small press fine publishing.” —ForeWord Magazine
“Cachey . . . has produced a volume both handsome . . . and scholarly. . . . Cachey does a fine job of making this provocative and surprising pilgrimage guide available and accessible to an English-speaking audience.” —Comitatus
“This first Latin-English version of the Itinerarium is a useful and welcome addition to the canon of Petrarch’s works available to the modern English reading public. It is also a well designed, generously illustrated volume, a credit to its publisher.” —Renaissance Quarterly
“In a slim volume of 235 pages, Theodore J. Cachey, Jr. has provided the reader with a rich, comprehensive, and engaging presentation of an example of Petrarch’s writings in the genre of travel literature that heretofore has received very little critical attention. . . . [T]his volume provides a clear and distinct image of one of the central figures of Trecento Latin literature and thought. Cachey is to be commended for his fine scholarship and for reviving sonorously the voice of a supreme humanist." —The Medieval Review
“Theodore Cachey’s introduction carefully sets the work in the wider context of travel-writing which has attracted growing attention in recent years. The book is beautifully produced, with a sensitive English translation facing each of the thirty-nine pages of the full facsimile of one of the earliest copies, and a transcription of the Latin text below; ample annotation follows. The manuscript is written in a fine example of the clearly written rotunda that Petrarch advocated in the mid-fourteenth century, before the development of humanistica some fifty years later.” —Journal of Ecclesiastical History
“Cachey’s edition of the Itinerary is a major scholarly accomplishment, restoring to the canon a hitherto neglected work. He reproduces in facsimile the authoritative and beautiful Cremona manuscript (Libreria del Civico Museo, MS BB.1.2.5), transcribes it, and gives a faithful and straightforward translation. His lengthy introduction provides necessary biographical and geographical background, surveys medieval pilgrimage texts, and locates Petrarch within the modern critique of travel literature. Reproductions of contemporary maps let the readers follow along with the text, and the copious annotations satisfy any lingering curiosity they may have about, say, piracy, the Monastery of St. Catherine, the sources of the Nile, or Scylla and Charybdis.” —The Journal of Medieval Latin
“Petrarch’s Itinerarium is a fascinatingly paradoxical document in the emerging field of mobility studies—paradoxical, because it is at once the great poetís detailed guide to a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and his surprisingly personal and revealing refusal to embark on this very pilgrimage. Cachey has done a splendid job identifying each of the stops along the route and teasing out the implications of the work as a whole. And to anyone who has sailed on rough seas, Petrarch’s reason for declining the voyage—he is not afraid of death but he is deeply afraid of seasickness—makes perfect sense.” —Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University
“In this very elegant volume Theodore Cachey presents one of Francis Petrarch’s lesser known gems, his Guide to the Holy Land. Cachey inserts Petrarch within the historical context of the fourteenth century, using modern methods to examine the Guide as travel literature, as self-fashioning monument, and as an anticipation of the spirit of discovery that was soon to launch Europe onto its expansion all over the world. His introduction, translation, and notes are clear, informative, and original. This is a precious little book to be treasured by all those who cherish literature, traveling, and delving into the past to discover the present.” —Piero Boitani, University of Rome, “La Sapienza”