Forty-six Dialogues by
Translated by Thomas Twyne
ere is a book that fairly crackles with wit and wisdom, for six hundred years
have not dimmed its ability to speak to our minds through the clarity of its perspective,
the power of its language, and the vivid pertinence of its thought. Because of the genius shown in his lyrical works, Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) inspired the Renaissance in Italy. He set patterns and standards for the revival of learning and, at the same time, was a powerful advocate for the preservation of valuable manuscript material. From the classic models, Petrarch transmitted a refinement of taste and thought, and a polish and politeness of speech and style.
Petrarch's original manuscript, De remediis utriusque fortunae, or
Remedies for Both Good and Bad Fortune,
or Phisicke Against Fortune, is a work of prose consisting of two hundred
and fifty-three dialogues that he completed near the end of his life. It represents a distillation of
his moral philosophy arranged as a treatise that shows how our ideas and actions help us create either
true happiness or sorrow and disillusionment. Throughout this long concatenation of dialogues Petrarch
counsels modesty in prosperity and courage in adversity; he warns us against putting all our hope of
happiness in mundane victories here on earth; instructs us on how to deal with our
"Importunate Neighbours," tells us how to cope with "Loss of Time," and what to do when we experience
"A Disagreeably Wavering Mind."
For Foolscap Press the most difficult choice has been to select from the entire range of Petrarch's
dialogues the forty-six that make up this edition.
Introduction by Lewis W. Spitz
Lewis W. Spitz, William R. Kenan, Jr. University Professor, Professor of history at Stanford University,
brings his considerable scholarship to the question of Petrarch's influence on the northern Renaissance,
as well as providing an overview of Petrarch's written works. Through background and example he shows
why Phisicke Against Fortune is, as he says, "a mirror for mankind."
Illustrations by Hans Weiditz
Hans Weiditz (c.1495-c.1536) was an important member of the small group of outstanding woodcut designers
of the German Renaissance whose membership included Albrect D'rer, Hans Holbein, and Hans Burgkmair.
The fact that he was nearly alone in illustrating a great number of secular books makes him in many ways
a more interesting artist than his more famous colleagues.
Click to enlarge image.
Weiditz is best known for his illustrations for "Brunfels' Herbal," which is recognized as the most
important herbal of the period and the first botanical book to contain realistic and accurate
illustrations. Weiditz's imagination and close observation of real life show most clearly in this
herbal and in his handling of the woodcuts for the dialogues of Petrarch. In illustrating
Phisicke Against Fortune Weiditz demonstrates his highly individualized
style and addresses an astounding range of issues, among which are: an individual's relationship to
society; secular versus religious perspective; how we perceive and respond to nature and natural laws;
and how we behave toward each other.
As an appendix to the text we have included notes on the Weiditz illustrations based on information
Walther Scheidig and translated especially for this edition from the German by Beate Reid.
Essay by William M. Ivins, Jr.
In his essay on Hans Weiditz, William M. Ivins, Jr. (1881-1961), former Curator of Prints at the
Museum of Modern Art, shares his infectious enthusiasm for the artist whose life had remained
largely unappreciated until modern scholarship brought to light his great contribution to
German Renaissance art.
Translation by Thomas Twyne
The Elizabethan Age was great both for the depth of its literature and the translations into
English of many foreign works. Thomas Twyne's translation of
Phisicke Against Fortune, from Latin
into English, was completed in 1579. Now, newly transcribed from the Elizabethan blackletter, with
the spelling and punctuation standardized, Twyne's translation can be clearly enjoyed. We have
retained intact the particular character of the work and the marvelous flavor of the language.