Translations of a range of classical authors circulated in fifteenth-century England. In recent years, these translations have often been studied in the context of the early English reception of Renaissance humanism. Several of the translators and literary patrons are known among scholars for their interest in the New Learning and their libraries of classical and humanist texts. In this light, the circulation of English translations of the classics during the fifteenth century is often seen as evidence for the increasing diffusion of humanist tastes and interests in England, particularly among English aristocratic and gentry readers. These early interests in humanism and translation set the stage for the heyday of English humanist literature in the sixteenth century.
In reassessing the circulation of the translations, this paper will seek to place these humanist trends in a broader context. Which classical texts were translated into English and which translations circulated most widely? Among whom did they circulate? To what extent does their circulation indicate the spread of humanist interests in England? Through this reappraisal, the paper will suggest that the humanist associations of the translations have been overstated. Rather than evidence of the New Learning, the translations show the continued influence of earlier traditions of classical reception and only limited signs of newer humanist tastes.
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