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  • The Missing Autobiography of Mario Esposito October 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval , trackback

    Mario Esposito (obit 1975) was a talented medievalist born to an Italian family in that glittering Dublin of Joyce, Yeats and Beckett. ME got involved with the struggle for Irish independence, was a keen mountaineer, but above all published on Irish manuscripts. His first academic article was written when he was 18, a rather misinformed piece on the geographer Dicuil, and by his mid 20s he was a member of the Royal Irish Academy. Soon after he moved to Florence, Italy and spent most of the rest of his life there.

    Esposito’s academic articles were spread over seventy years, and the most important have been gathered together in a couple of Variorum volumes; there is muttering too about a third. Variorum, for those who have not explored inside their rich blue covers, are expensive collecteana of prestigious authors that can only be afforded by elite libraries in elite institutions or by professors employed by elite universities. (Chip on Shoulder).

    One publication has, however, so far evaded modern scholars. In 1944 ME published an autobiography of sorts that would be extraordinarily important for all kinds of academics: not least the present if only it could be found. This ‘autobiography’ was entitled Montagne, Amore e Libertà: Saggi e Ricordi, (Mountains, Love and Freedom: Essays and Memories). It came out in Florence and was privately printed.

    What went wrong? Well, Montagne came out in Florence at the time of the German occupation and, it is alleged, all but a handful of copies were burnt by the occupiers. The Nazis were never going to be very keen on a book that had ‘freedom’ in the title. Then Esposito was caustic, who knows what else he managed to say about Mussolini’s friends from over the Alps. He was probably lucky that it was only his books that were put on the fire.

    Beach has looked for a couple of decades in Florence, in Italy and in Europe more generally but he has never come across a copy of this mythic book. However, he is not ready to consign it to the burning library file just yet. In a  search today this reference came up on a French Medieval site: Esposito, Mario, «L’alpinismo nel medio evo», Montagne, amore e libertà. Saggi e ricordi di Mario Esposito, Firenze, chez l’auteur, 1944, p. 113-169.

    Either this reference means that the website writer had direct access to the book or that someone else had access in the postwar period and a reference was copied. Can anyone help the search to rescue Montagne, Amore e Libertà from the maws of time? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Beach is trying to get in touch with the French bibliographer.

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    30 Oct 2012: Wade sends in a link to Gorman’s variorum volume, the third that dopey Beach did not realise had been published. On p. 307 Gorman writes that Bieler (German medievalist who had been forced to flee to Ireland before the war) had seen the book. Gorman writes though that ‘no copy seems to survive’ It would be interesting to find out where Bieler’s books ended up at his death: Beach recalls rumours of an American collector. Thanks Wade!