FRANCESCO PETRARCA, 1304-1374
Canzoniere, “Babylon Sonnets,” nos. 136, 137, 138
Florence, February 1467
General Manuscripts 109, Box 285, Folder 5127a
Single leaf, recto
Yet another example in support of Petrarch’s irreverent anti-Babylon sonnets. About one-hundred years before the official papal ban against reading and publishing the poems, this note openly endorses the sonnets. The first verse of each poem is cited, they are attributed to Petrarch, Babylon is identified directly with the papal court in Avignon, and all three sonnets are displayed for their truthfulness and morally edifying message. The note appears, appropriately, together with other brief texts on morality and religion.
The city of Florence, where this manuscript originated, may well have been a hotbed of anti-papal activity. Its citizens certainly enjoyed reading Petrarch’s anti-Babylon sonnets. The two most obvious examples in the Beinecke Library are this note and MS 873. Both manuscripts show how individual Florentines defied the papal Index, collected copies, and seemed to enjoy Petrarch’s condemnation of the evils of the papal court in Avignon.