De verecundia

Despite the fact that he had already completed his long epistle De verecundia (Entry n. 43) by 1390, Salutati viewed it almost as a marginal note to De nobilitate legum et medicine. In it he responds to two questions posed by his friend, the physician Antonio Baruffaldi, i.e. if it is fitting that physicians not devote themselves to rhetoric and if modesty is a virtue or a vice. Openly refuting Petrarch, Salutati is convinced that medicine is not a mute art and that rhetoric uttered by physicians can be therapeutic, bringing comfort and solace to the ill.

As to modesty, Salutati distinguishes various types—shame as embarrassment over committing a base act, as sadness in the wake of dishonourable actions, as fear of dishonour—and for each one he offers moral judgement. The fame of this work is tied above all to the main codex containing it: Laur. Strozzi 96, dated c. 1403 and revised by Salutati, which bears one of Poggio Bracciolini’s first experiments in littera antiqua, or humanistic script. It thus represents an early example of the revival of ‘ancient-style’ graphic forms in humanistic Florence.