This paper analyzes the connections existing between the Islamic divinatory sciences, Italian Medieval dream-books and early Italian vision poetry. More specifically, it will focus on the conquest of Islamic symbols related to dreams, their integration into Christian culture and the erasure of their origins on the part of catholic censorship. My aim then will be to track the Islamic roots of these buried symbols in six Italian miscellanies of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth century.
The medieval Dream Interpretation is a popular and widely circulated manual, which guided the interpretation of dreams. It has its origins in early fourth-century Greek manuscripts, and thrived in the High Middle Ages primarily in Arabic, Latin, and the European vernaculars. The material aspects of the unstudied Italian tradition of this dream-book, reveal important factors about the influence of Islamic divinatory sciences in the use of vision or dream motifs by Italian poets. However, the catholic censorship constituted the major opposition to Islamic culture, and led to the oblivion of these dream-books as well as their connection to early Italian poetic production linked to dreams and visions. Therefore, the miscellanies bearing such dream manuals provide essential information about the ways in which popular culture, which is often so hard to describe specifically because it is often untraceable to written witnesses, influenced what we have traditionally identified as the ‘high culture’ of early literary Italy.
This research will focus on the specific ways in which the dream manual was materially bound with and utilized by early Italian visionary literature. To prove this point, I will examine six miscellany manuscripts conserved in Florence, such as the ms. Martelli 12, a codex which bears the earliest known attestation of this kind of dream-book and Dante’s Vita Nova, in which associations with ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture claim special significance.
The Islamic divinatory sciences were integrated in the catholic world, and even if their use remained controversial, their application into poetry confirm how these techniques were of common knowledge.