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Francesco Petrarca.
“Memorabilia quedam de Laura.”
Mss Bd. Petrarch P P49 R513.
Manuscript on vellum, Italy (Florence [?]), ca. 1460.
Cornell University Library.


Fol. 1 recto, beginning of Petrarch's famous "Nota de Laura."

On May 19th, 1348, Petrarch received a letter from his close friend Ludwig van Kempen (his "Socrates"). The letter is itself lost, but Petrarch noted in the flyleaf to his manuscript of Virgil (now in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, and decorated by another of Petrarch's friends, the Sienese painter Simone Martini, 1285-1344), the following:

"Laura, who was distinguished by her own virtues, and widely celebrated by my songs, first appeared to my eyes in my early manhood, in the year or our Lord 1327, upon the sixth day of April, at the first hour, in the church of Santa Clara at Avignon; in the same city, in the same month of April, on the same sixth day, at the same first hour, in the year 1348, that light was taken from our day, while I was by chance Verona, ignorant, alas! of my fate. The unhappy news reached me at Parma, in a letter from my friend Ludovico, on the morning of the nineteenth of May, of the same year. Her chaste and lovely form was laid in the church of the Franciscans, on the evening of the day upon which she died. I am persuaded that her soul returned, as Seneca says Scipio Africanus, to the heaven whence it came. I have experienced a certain satisfaction in writing this bitter recorded of a cruel event, especially in this place where it will often come under my eye, for so I may be led to reflect that life can afford me no farther pleasures; and, the most serious of my temptations being removed, I may be admonished by the frequent study of these lines, and by the thought of my vanishing years, that it is high time to flee from Babylon. This, with God's grace, will be easy, as I frankly and manfully consider the needless anxieties of the past, with its empty hopes and unforeseen issue. "


Detail of illuminated initial "L."