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Aristotle' Animals and Renaissance university practices May 3, 2002
Almost neglected in the Middle Ages, Aristotle's zoological treatises received increasing attention in the Cinquecento, and were often commented on by several professional Aristotelians. Through close scrutiny of unpublished and rare texts, I reconstruct here this commentary tradition: a parabola that goes from Pomponazzi's lessons on the De partibus animalium (held in Bologna, 1521-23) up to the publication of Cristoforo Guarinoni's Commentaria in primum librum De historia animalium, Frankfurt 1601, and includes other bright lights of the Aristotelian scene, such as Niccolò Leonico Tomeo, Agostino Nifo, Julius Caesar Scaliger, Simone Porzio, Francesco Vimercato, and Cesare Cremonini (while a sort of paragraph zero is devoted to the Byzantine humanist Theodore Gaza, who had worked out the reference Latin translation of these treatises). Special attention is paid to the peculiar techniques of analysis employed by each commentator and to the balance between philology, erudition, and natural philosophy. This study also provides a reading key that explains the reasons of this renewed interest for philosophical zoology in the first half of the century and explains why commentators transformed their use of Aristotle's zoology throughout the second half of the century, to reach, eventually, the extinction of medieval commentary-technique.