Brunetto Latini’s (aka Latino’s) Li Livres dou Trésor

Written in verse in about 1266, the Li Livres dou Trésor is an allegorical and didactic encyclopedic text by Brunetto Latini, an Florentine writer and notary whose rhetorical skills were immortalized by both Giovanni Villani and Dante Alighieri. The Trésor follows in a long tradition of compendiums of classical material for a didactic audience, such as Cassiodorus, Boethius, and Martianus Capella. Latini deviates from this tradition, however, by writing in the vernacular. Indeed he states in his introduction “…and if anyone should ask why this book is written in Romance according to the usage of the French, even though we are Italian, I would say that there are two reasons: one, that we are in France, the other, that French is more pleasant and has more in common with all other languages.” The text is divided into three books—wisdom, ethics, and rhetoric—that not only present summaries of classical knowledge for a lay audience on theology, universal history, science, geography, and natural history, but also provide practical advice on economics and politics. Latini’s work was extremely popular, being copied in over seventy manuscripts and translate.