Giusto Fontanini, historian, literate, bibliophile

Giusto Fontanini was born at San Daniele del Friuli on 30 October 1666. After attending the schools of his hometown, he entered the Jesuit college of Gorizia, and hence he went to the University of Padua where he graduated in laws. He was ordained as a priest in Venice on 23 December 1690, and became librarian and preceptor in the house of Moro, a patrician family. After moving to Rome in 1697, he was appointed prefect of the library of the cardinal Giuseppe Renato Imperiali. Here, among the others, in the beginning of the eighteenth century he met Ludovico Antonio Muratori who had launched the project of a ‘Literary Republic’ considered as the highest academy of Italian letters. In Rome Fontanini gradually deserved general esteem and important offices: in 1704 he obtained the chair of eloquence at the Sapienza university by pope Clement XI. A fundamental event in Fontanini’s life was undoubtedly his meeting with the young Domenico Passionei, a future cardinal, who introduced him to the world of books and literates, thanks to the number of contacts he had with European scholars and erudite circles. The erudite disputations Fontanini undertook as a main protagonist to support the prerogatives of the Church had a wide echo and were rewarded with a number of ecclesiastical benefits that reached the highest point when he was appointed as titular bishop of Ancyra (Ankara) in 1725. The work that made him renowned was undoubtedly Della eloquenza italiana (On Italian eloquence), which has to be considered the first step towards an organic arrangement of the history of Italian literature. Beside his works of biographical and religious, historical-diplomatic, archaeological, literary and bibliographical erudition, it must be mentioned a long series of works he dedicated to Friuli, he felt always deeply linked to, so that in 1734 he provided in his testament that his own library would be given to his hometown. The legacy was bound to the opening of a public library which was indeed officially opened in 1743, eight years after his death.

For further information see the entry Fontanini Giusto, storico, letterato, bibliofilo written by Lorenzo Di Lenardo, in Nuovo Liruti, Dizionario biografico dei Friulani, 2, LEtà veneta, edited by C. Scalon, C. Griggio, U. Rozzo, Udine, Forum, 2009, 1143-1155.

Leave a Comment