Giuseppe Marc'Antonio Baretti

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Giuseppe Baretti

Giuseppe Marc'Antonio Baretti (24 April 1719, Turin, Piedmont – 5 May 1789, London) was an Italian-born English literary critic and author of two influential language-translation dictionaries. During his years in England he was often known as Joseph Baretti.[1] Baretti's life was marked by controversies.


Baretti was intended by his father for the profession of law, but at the age of sixteen fled from Turin and went to Guastalla, where he was for some time employed in a mercantile house. He devoted himself to the study of literature and criticism, in which he became an expert, though his writings were so controversial that he had to leave Italy. For many years he led a wandering life, supporting himself chiefly by his writings. At length he arrived in London, where he remained for the remainder of his life (when not traveling). He was appointed Secretary to the Royal Academy of Arts,[2] and became acquainted with Samuel Johnson, Garrick and others of that society.

Baretti was a frequent visitor at the home of Hester Thrale, and his name occurs repeatedly in Boswell's Life. In 1769 Baretti was tried for murder after inflicting a mortal wound with his fruit knife on a man who had assaulted him on the street. Johnson and others gave evidence in his favour at the trial, which resulted in Baretti's acquittal.

He died in London in May, 1789. He was buried in Marylebone Chapel with a monument by Thomas Banks.[3]


Baretti's first notable work was the Italian Library (1757), a useful catalogue of the lives and works of several Italian authors. The Lettere famigliari, giving an account of his travels through Spain, Portugal and France during the years 1761-1765, were well received, and when afterwards published in English (4 vols., 1770), were highly commended by Johnson.

Baretti was an enemy of the English Hispanist John Bowle, and published a scathing and personal attack on him: Tolondron. Speeches to John Bowle about his edition of Don Quixote, together with some account of Spanish literature.[4] See Ronald Hilton, "Un Duel entre Hispanophiles: Baretti et John Bowle", Chapter VII of Hilton's La Légende Noire au 18e Siècle: Le Monde Hispanique Vu du Dehors.[5]

While in Italy on his travels Baretti started a journal of literary criticism, titled Frusta letteraria (Literary Scourge). The publication met with considerable difficulties and was soon discontinued. His many other works include a Dictionary and Grammar of the Italian Language,[6] a similar Dictionary of the Spanish Language,[7] and dissertations on Shakespeare and Voltaire. His collected works were published at Milan in 1838.

The words of the recantation attributed to Galileo, "eppur si muove" (meaning "nevertheless it moves"), were first set down by Baretti in his Italian Library.[8]:357 [9]:52 This record was published some 125 years after Galileo is purported to have made the statement sotto voce (under his breath).


  1. ^ [1] A Dictionary of the Italian and English Languages . . (1787 ed.) by Joseph Baretti
  2. ^ Luigi Piccioni, BARETTI, Mario, Enciclopedia Italiana, Istituto dell'Enciclopedia italiana Treccani
  3. ^ Dictionary of British Sculptors, 1660-1851, Rupert Gunnis
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ A Dictionary of the English and Italian Language
  7. ^ A Dictionary, Spanish and English, and English and Spanish, containing the signification of their words and their different uses; together with The TERMS of ARTS, SCIENCES, and TRADES; . .
  8. ^ Drake, Stillman (2003). Galileo at Work: His Scientific Biography (Facsim. ed.). Mineola (N.Y.): Dover Publications Inc. ISBN 0486495426. 
  9. ^ Baretti, Giuseppe (1757). The Italian Library. Containing An Account of the Lives and Works of the Most Valuable Authors of Italy. With a Preface, Exhibiting The Changes of the Tuscan Language, from the barbarous Ages to the present Time. London: Printed for A. Millar, in the Strand. p. 52. This is the celebrated Galileo, who was in the inquistion for six years, and put to the torture, for saying, that the earth moved. The moment he was set at liberty, he looked up to the sky and down to the ground, and, stamping with his foot, in a contemplative mood, said, Eppur si muove, that is, still it moves, meaning the earth. 


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