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AMONG the Number of eminent Men, which the City of Florence has produced since the Revival of Litterature, one of the most extraordinary, and of the most celebrated in his Time, was Antonio Magliabechi: And indeed there are such uncommon Things asserted of him, and so far exceeding the Bounds of Probability, as may seem to require some Apology even for repeating them; it may therefore not be improper to premise, that the chief Authorities on which the following Account of him is founded, are Florentines; that the Italians in general, and the Florentines in particular, delight in a higher and larger way of Speaking than is usual among us j that they deal much in Superlatives; and that their Superlative, like that in the Latin Language from whence it is derived, signifies, very much j as well as,' Y % the
the Most: That whatever I have quoted from Books, is, in general very punctually referred to in the Notes, and often, the very Words of the Authors inserted; and that whatever is not so authorized, is what I have learned, in Conversation with Gentlemen of the City of Florence, who were personally acquainted with Magliabecki, Men of Learning and Reputation, and of very good Credit, both for Knowledge and Veracity. Thus assisted, I have undertaken to give some Account of this extraordinary, and so much admired Man.
Magliabechl was' born at Florence on the 29th of OSlober [a], in the Year 1633. His Parents were of so low and mean a Rank, that they were very well satisfied when they had got him into the Service of a Man who fold Herbs and Fruit.. He had never learned to read; and yet he was perpetually poring .over the Leaves of old Books, that were used as waste Paper in his Master's Shop. A Bookseller who lived in the Neighbourhood, and who had ofttn observed this, and knew the Boy could not read, asked him one Day, " What he meaned "by staring so much on printed Paper?" He said, "That he did not know how it was, but that he "loved it of all Things; that he was very uneasy "in the Business he was in, and should be the « happiest Creature in the World, if he could live "with him, who had always so many Books about
[<;] From his Article in Mcreri's Dictionary. Niceron, in his Meiroires fairsnrvirS T Uifloirt da Htmmtt Hiuflrts, fays, it was on the
z « him." ct him." The Bookseller was astonished, and yet pleased with his Answer ; and at last told him, that he lhould not be disinclined to take him into his Shop, if his Master would be willing to part with him. Young Magliabechl thanked him with Tears of Joy in his Eyes j and his Happiness was highly encreased, when his Master, on the Bookseller's Desire, gave him Leave to go where he pleased. He went therefore directly to his new and much desired Business \¥\; and had not been long in it, before he could find but any Book that was asked for, as ready as the Bookseller could himself. Some time after This he learned to read, and as soon as he had, he was always [V] reading when he could.
He seems never to have applied himself to any particular Study. A Passion for Reading was his ruling Passion j and a prodigious Memory his great Talent. He read every Book almost indifferently, as they happened to come into his Hands. He read them with a surprizing Quickness, and yet retained not only the Sense of what he read, but
p5] This Account I had from a G;ntlernan of Thrina, who was very well acquainted with Mag/iaiecbi and his Family: There are other Accounts very different from this. Sahitii fays, that he was at first, in an honourable, tbut not litterary Employ: And Father JNiceron, that he was Apprentice to a Goldsmith. I do not pretend to determine, which of the three Accounts are the truest.
[c] " Ne* Libri, che esser dovenano di tutto il fuo vivere compagni "infeparabili; ne' Libri, uniche delizie, unici fuoi amori, P intrat"teneva." Sal-vim, Orat. Fun. p. 7. And he speaks of his, "Virtuosa BramalTa di scmpre legere," just after; and confirmj these Passages in several other Places, Set Pages 9, IT, 2t, and 37; Hid,
Y 3 often often all the Words, and the very Manner of spelling them, if there was any thing peculiar of that kind in any Author.
His extraordinary Application, and Talents, sooii recommended him to Ermini [d], and Marmi [/], the Great Duke's Librarian. He was by them introduced into the Conversations of the learned, and made known at Court: And began to be looked upon every where as a Prodigy [/], particularly for his vast and unbounded Memory.
It is said, that there was a Trial made of the Force of his Memory, which, if true, is very amazing. A Gentleman at Florence, who had written a Piece which was to be printed, lent the Manuscript to Magliabechi; and some Time after it had been returned with Thanks, came to him again with a melancholy Face, and told him of some invented Accident, by which, he said, he had lost his Manuscript: The Author seemed almost inconsolable for the Loss of his Work, and intreated Magliabechi, whose Character for remembering what he read was already very great, to try to recollect
\d] Librarian to the Cardinal of Medici's.
[e] Father Niceron names these two as his great Friends; and it may probably be of the latter that Sahini fays, " Un nobile, let'« terato, e generoso fpirito della citta nostro dal fuo impiego il "levo; e nelle letterarie conversazioni lo introdusse; e ella Real ** Corte di Toscana il fe conoscere." Or. Fun. p. 8.
[f\ " Fu egli amirato fin da principio, come un prodigio, di quells ** parte principalmente dell* Anima che Memoria s* appella." Ib. f. 8.