Venetian Inscriptions
Vernacular Writing for Public Display in Medieval and Renaissance Venice

Ronnie Ferguson

Italian Perspectives 50


26 July 2021  •  438pp

ISBN: 978-1-781886-38-0 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95

ISBN: 978-1-781886-42-7 (paperback, 21 December 2023  )

ISBN: 978-1-781886-46-5 (JSTOR ebook)

Access online: Books@JSTOR


In addition to its original library hardback edition, this title is now on sale in the new student-priced Legenda paperback range.

Carved on stone, painted on canvas, wood or porcelain, stitched on fabric, written on parchment or printed on paper, the 109 inscriptions in this unique collection preserve the surviving public writing of Venice’s individuals and collectivities in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. They celebrate the completion, authorship or sponsorship of buildings, sculptures, paintings, reliquaries and shrines. They caption the splendid mappa mundi of Fra Mauro and Jacopo de’ Barbari’s iconic view of Venice. They declare the ownership of a processional banner, of the recipient of a maiolica plate, and of neighbourhood association properties. They record wills, indulgences and appeals. They mark the graves of confraternities, a barber-surgeon and a master mason. They can be found from Piazza San Marco to the corners of Cannaregio and Castello as well as on the lagoon islands. Written in the vernacular, their weight of presence, unmatched by any other Italian centre, attests to the city’s exceptional literacy in our period and provides a wealth of privileged historical information. The corpus, with accompanying photographic record, is the first of its kind. It is thoroughly contextualized and analysed in terms of historical and artistic background, script and language.

Ronnie Ferguson is Emeritus Professor of Italian at the University of St Andrews and Cavaliere della Stella d'Italia. He is a Fellow of the Ateneo Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti and of the Accademia Galileiana. His research interests include medieval and Renaissance epigraphy, the language and culture of Venice, Renaissance comedy and historical linguistics.


  • ‘The rigorous standards of the author’s nearly decade-long project will certainly satisfy professional historians, but lay readers too will find themselves thoroughly engaged by the manner in which he uses each inscription vividly to evoke multiple aspects of Venice’s social, religious, cultural and political life, as well as the characters of some remarkable individuals.’ — Roderick Conway Morris, Times Literary Supplement 21 January 2022
  • ‘A short review cannot do justice to the rich array of insights and ideas that thread through this fascinating book, nor can it reflect the dedication and time that were needed to compile the catalogue. Ranging from the familiar to the seemingly unnoticed, these inscriptions add myriad fragments to the enormous jigsaw of the townscape of late medieval and Renaissance Venice.’ — Deborah Howard, Burlington Magazine 165, February 2023, 207-08
  • ‘The Italian Perspectives series, founded by Zygmunt Barański and Laura Lepschy in 1998, reaches its half-century in impressive fashion with this outstanding work of scholarship... As well as making a major contribution to epigraphy, the volume includes a wealth of information on the urban fabric, society, culture, and language that will make it an invaluable resource for Venetian Studies during the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.’ — Brian Richardson, Modern Language Review 118.2, 2023, 258-60 (full text online)


Part I A Body of Venetian Public Texts C. 1300-C. 1525
Ronnie Ferguson
PART II The Medium and the Message
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PART III Corpus: Edition, Translation and Commentary
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INDEX (1) Inscriptional Persons
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INDEX (2) By Present Location
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INDEX (3) Commented Words, Constructions and Linguistic Features
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Ronnie Ferguson

Bibliography entry:

Ferguson, Ronnie, Venetian Inscriptions: Vernacular Writing for Public Display in Medieval and Renaissance Venice, Italian Perspectives, 50 (Legenda, 2021)

First footnote reference: 35 Ronnie Ferguson, Venetian Inscriptions: Vernacular Writing for Public Display in Medieval and Renaissance Venice, Italian Perspectives, 50 (Legenda, 2021), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Ferguson, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Ferguson, Ronnie. 2021. Venetian Inscriptions: Vernacular Writing for Public Display in Medieval and Renaissance Venice, Italian Perspectives, 50 (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Ferguson 2021: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Ferguson 2021: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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