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From A Literary Source-book of the Italian Renaissance, by Merrick Whitcomb, PH. D., University of Pennsylvania; 1900; pp. i-iv.[front-papers]
THE Renaissance is a period of especial interest for the student of history. In it are found the beginnings of modern times. A fresh impulse sweeps across the Italian lands and penetrates beyond the Alps to the nations of later development, stirring the Christian word to a recognition of the possibilities of earthly life.
Studied in the bare inventories of dates and dynasties this period has little meaning. The great achievements of the time are literary; the vanguard of progress won its victories with the pen rather than with the sword. With such conditions the study of the Renaissance requires a special apparatus. No mere catalogue of names, even when reinforced with biographical details, is sufficient to afford a lasting impression of the Petrarchs and the Poggios of the age. It is only by immediate contact with their utterances that these personalities are made a part of our permanent intellectual capital.
It is with this purpose in view that the following extracts have been arranged. Their highest utility for the student is to constitute an appendix to the comprehensive and valuable treatises of Symonds and of Burckhardt. The German humanistic period, although possessing an interest peculiarly its own, has not yet been dignified with especial treatment.* It has been thought worth the while, therefore, to preface the German Source-Book with a brief introduction on the general conditions of German intellectual life in the half century preceding the Reformation.
* Such treatment is at least not available for the English-reading public. The scholarly work of Ludwig Geiger, Renaissance und Humanismus in Italien und Deutschland, lacks the fluent style that might give it an international acceptance such as has been accorded to the work of Burckhardt.