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[1] Asked often by dear friends and beloved students alike that I should compile2 for them useful things1 in prose composition, I did not dare to contradict them, yet I was ashamed to begin, fearing lest3 if perchance I set down some phrases of my professorship, jealous persons would say: "He moved the bare horns of laughter with furtive colors."4

[2] Thus, so that with the most truthful arguments I should be able to break the teeth of the jealous,5 who said that which I had promised was impossible: those things which I shall have known were useful in the art of prose composition, so far as the heart of my genius will respond to my pledge, I will take care to place in this little work, so that I can most truthfully prove them to be liars.

[3] First I will treat salutations suitable for each and all types of persons; second, how many parts a letter may consist of and which defects of style should be avoided; third, exordia suitable for all type of persons, just as it has been permitted to me from on high.6


1 Perhaps this claim to utility explains the title of this work: a beginner's handbook. Unlike the prologues to this author's other dictaminal works (Palma, Oliva, Mirra, Cedrus, Boncompagnus, Rhetorica novissima) there is no justification for the title: a clear indication of the more modest literary pretensions of this work. --- The title Ysagoge (henceforth normalized to Isagoge) is plural, as are titles Notule auree, Quinque tabule salutationum; Tractatus virtutum is singular.

2 The Isagoge is compiled from Boncompagno's own works: Quinque tabule salutationum, Palma, Tractatus virtutum, and perhaps Notule auree. For a full listing of these self-borrowings, see STEVEN WIGHT Repertorium of Boncompagno's artes dictaminis (forthcoming).

3 For this construction (timens ne, timentes ne): Boncompagnus 1.23.4, 1.25.9 §2, 1.27.7, 3.14.5 §2, 5.14.12, 5.22.1 §4.

4 Horace Ep. 1.3.19-20. Also quoted in Tractatus virtutum §7, and alluded to in Boncompagnus 1.18.9, 1.18.12. Here the fear is expressed that by epitomizing his own earlier work he might be accused of plagiarism.

5 Liber X tabularum prol. 2.

6 Cf. Tractatus virtutum §6, Boncompagnus 1.18.14, 1.23.2 §4, 5.20.1 §2, 6.7.4, Prooemium ad Summam Institutionum Azonis (quoniam ex alto irremediabiliter corruit, qui volare satagit antequam pennas assumat), and above, Isagoge prol. 1, note 4. --- A warped reminiscence of these passages appears in Salimbene de Adam Cronica ed. GIUSEPPE SCALIA (Bari 1966) 109, see Boncompagnus 5.1.25.

© Steven M. Wight, Los Angeles 1998

Scrineum © Universitą di Pavia 1999