Phyllis Goodhart Gordan '35 Bequest


Leo M. Dolenski

The recent bequest of Phyllis Goodhart Gordan '35 has brought to the library a remarkable collection of Renaissance manuscripts, incunables, and research materials, complementing earlier gifts in the 1950s from her father Howard L.Goodhart.

The young Phyllis Goodhart, while a student at Bryn Mawr majoring in Latin, developed an interest in the work of a major fifteenth-century Italian humanist Poggio Bracciolini, best known for his passionate search throughout Europe for lost classical texts. It is largely through his efforts that we have today a number of the works of Cicero, Quintillian, Manilius, Lucretius, and others. For many decades after her graduation, after marrying and while raising four children, Mrs. Gordan pursued her scholarly studies of Poggio, studies which culminated in 1974 with the publication of Two Renaissance Book Hunters: The Letters of Poggius Bracciolini to Nicolaus de Niccolis (New York and London, 1974).

Her bequest to the library includes nine Renaissance manuscripts containing texts by Poggio and his close friend, the humanist Leonardo Bruni. The titles of some of these manuscripts, written in the then-new and beautiful humanistic script, reveal something of the scholarly and historical interest of these Italian humanists: De nobilitate, De miseria conditionis humanae, Epistolae familiares, and De bello italico. Of particular importance to scholars is a text by Gaspar of Verona, a teacher of rhetoric in Rome, De temporibus Pauli II libri V, which celebrates the achievements of Pope Paul II in a series of five books. The Vatican Library holds Books I, II, and IV. For centuries not all of Gaspar's books were available, since Books III and V had disappeared. Although Book III remains lost, Book V surfaced in the early 1800s and was eventually acquired by Howard Goodhart who gave it to his daughter. Now, as the Bryn Mawr copy, it remains the sole known text of this work.

Complementing this manuscript collection are nineteen incunables, which, added to the superb Goodhart collection already in the Library, make the Library's holdings of these books even more important. Authors of these recent additions include Leonardo Bruni, De duobus amantibus, Rome ca. 1472; his Epistolarum familiarum libri VIII, Venice 1493; Francesco Filelfo, Epistolae, Venice ca. 1473; his Satyrae, Milan 1476; Pius II, De captione urbis Constantinopolitanae, Rome 1474; his Epistolae, Louvain 1483; Bartolomeo Platina, Vitae pontificum, Venice 1469; Lorenzo Valla, Antidoton in Poggium Siena 1490; and others.

During her many decades of study on Poggio, Mrs. Gordan acquired an extensive collection of research reference materials in the form of dictionaries, biographies, monographs, and journals-much of it now out of print and difficult to consult. That part of this collection not already at Bryn Mawr Library, such as the massive twenty-five volumes of Ludovico Muratori's Rerum italicarum scriptores, an eighteenth-century edition of Italian writings from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries has now been added to her collection. In the course of her readings Mrs. Gordan took extensive notes which were then typed and carefully arranged into many volumes of black-covered notebooks. These notes, biographical and bibliographical in nature, on several hundred Renaissance figures, have already proven their usefulness to scholars.

Lastly her collection also includes some 60 reels of microfilm containing selections from nearly 500 Renaissance manuscripts and church records relating to the works of a wide group of humanist scholars and church leaders. Since both Poggio and Leonardo Bruni were in the service of the Papal court, their works are well represented in this group.

This collection, representing as it does Mrs. Gordan's work as a scholar, has brought to the Library an extraordinary resource for the study of the Renaissance and will enable others to continue her life's work. The College's "Poggio Project" will seek to make Mrs. Gordan's work readily available.

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