FRANCESCO PETRARCA, 1304-1374
Itinerarium breve de Ianua usque ad Ierusalem
et Terram Sanctam
On parchment and paper
Roccacontrada (now Ancona), 28 July 1434
Marston MS 17, f. 1r
This is one of the approximately forty extant manuscript copies of Petrarch’s guide to the Holy Land and the only one in the United States. It guides the reader through Petrarch's favorite topics of mythology, legend, history, moral philosophy and religion. Petrarch was invited to join a friend on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; he had a fear of travel, especially by boat (horrified by the thought of drowning), and so instead he offered a vivid and insightful description of the coastline of Italy from Genoa to the Mediterranean Sea and on to Jerusalem, deriving his information from first-hand observation (as far as it would take him, that is Naples), and from his extensive reading. It is as much a trip through Petrarch’s mind as an actual pilgrimage. As with Boccaccio's De montibus, which accompanies the Petrarchan text in this manuscript, the Itinerarium is a measure of geographical knowledge of the day, as well as the erudition of its author.
The first page of the manuscript has been damaged and is torn at the bottom. The manuscript shows an active readership, with marginal notes, ownership date of 1434, and a manicula (little pointing hand).