• friendship;
  • letters;
  • Petrarch

This article uses the letters of recommendation that Petrarch included in his published collections of letters as a case study to illuminate several aspects of Renaissance epistolarity. It considers the relationships between Petrarch, the people he was recommending, and the recipients of his letters, and analyses the rhetorical strategies that he adopted in them. In particular, it highlights the significance of friendship as providing both a context for, and a justification of, the requests these letters contained. More broadly, it examines how Petrarch sought to resolve the apparent contradiction between the supposedly spontaneous nature of the ‘familiar’ letter and the rather more formulaic character associated with a letter intended for a specific purpose. In addition, these letters are considered as elements within ‘constructed’ texts in order to shed light on the relationship between published letter collections and letter-writing manuals. These two genres have tended to be treated separately, but it is clear that they overlapped in a number of ways.