Volume 11 in the Shepheard-Walwyn edition corresponds with Book XII of the original Latin edition.
Volumes 1-10 are available here as a complete set at a reduced price.
This volume and its companions contain the first English translation of the letters written by the philosopher-priest who helped to shape the changes that we associate with the Renaissance. The letters in this eleventh volume cover the period from autumn 1492 to the spring of 1495, when they appeared in print. Several related items are included in an Appendix.
A twelfth volume will bring the series to completion with nine distinctive treatises which Ficino gathered into a separate volume in 1476 but later re-included in his Letters as Book II.
In the 1490s, Ficino was occupied with the political upheavals in Florence, and much of his effort was concentrated on trying to bring people back into dialogue with one another, in the hope of finding a more constructive outlook. Many of the letters in this book are covering letters to accompany copies of his work On the Sun, which considers the sun in its many aspects, as a heavenly body, a physical life force, a source of inspiration and an allegorical representation of the governing power in the universe. Other important letters include advice on coping with the evils of the time, the responsibilities and privileges of the philosopher, a reiteration of the importance of love, and further reflections on the theme of light. We note the increasing presence of friends in German lands, where several of his works were now being published. He also writes to friends in the French court.
One unusual letter tackles a religious question: Ficino was moved to intervene in an argument on the degree to which the Platonic philosophers of old anticipated aspects of the Christian Trinity. While it would be comforting to find such agreement, Ficino says there is none in Plato, though some of the later Platonists offer confirmation of Christian doctrines in their writings. Another controversy relates to the status of astrology, for which Ficino claims only a modest place despite his own writings on the subject. In a related letter on Providence he again returns to the evils the city is experiencing and how these might best be met. Facing one of those evils head on, Ficino composed an address to the French King whose armies were threatening Florence. It is not known whether this address was delivered in the presence of the king during the meeting which Ficino and others attended, but it lies on record as a genuine attempt to resolve hostilities.
The illustration on the front of the jacket is from a manuscript of the earliest version of Ficino’s work On the Sun, written in 1492 for Count Eberhard of Württemberg. It is reproduced with kind permission of the Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Stuttgart (HB XV 65,fol.7r). A translation of this early version is included in the Appendix.
Translated from the Latin by members of the Language Department of the School of Philosophy and Economic Science, London.
Editor: Valery Rees is a History graduate of Newnham College, Cambridge. She leads Renaissance Studies at The School of Philosophy and Economic Science. Valery has worked for many years on The Letters of Marsilio Ficino (London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 11 vols. to date). She has published numerous articles, including studies of Ficino’s influence on two poets, Edmund Spenser and Michele Marullus. She has co-edited several collections of academic essays, as well as teaching, and contributing to BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time. Her monograph From Gabriel to Lucifer. A Cultural History of Angels (2013) was reprinted in 2015 and published in a German translation in 2017. She leads Renaissance Studies at the School of Philosophy and Economic Science in London, home of the Letters project.
“Such giants as Ficino deserve a wider audience.”
“All that we regard as the norm of Western European art – Botticelli’s paintings, Monteverdi’s music, Shakespeare’s philosophical lovers, Berowne and Lorenzo, Jacques and Portia – has flowered from Ficino’s Florence.”
Kathleen Raine, The Times