• cv: Dr. Kim H. Veltman

cv: Dr. Kim H. Veltman


In Memoriam: Giuseppa Saccaro del Buffa Battisti (1930-2018)


Giuseppa (Giuseppina) Saccaro del Buffa Battisti, affectionately known as La Peppa, was one of the great scholars of our time. Physically, she was smallish, kind, gentle, generous, wise, often inscrutable. Metaphysically she was a titan, as enigmatic as she was mysterious. She was always courteous and frequently courtly, with that gentle reserve of high aristocracy. Once, half-facetiously, I called her a Baronessa. There was a smile and then, with the gentlest of tones, she corrected me: no, actually, I am a Marquesa. And we were told the story of her roots via Turin that led back to Sicily and quite possibly back to Sephardic circles in mediaeval Spain. 

She was admired and loved by many, known by few, and understood by even fewer. A first hint comes when we try to find her work. A search on the Sapienza website gives 20 titles. The Italian Catalogo Unico, depending on how one spells her name, ranges from 38 to 64 titles. Worldcat, the largest library catalogue in the world, under Giuseppina Saccaro del Buffa Battisti provides 0 hits. A search for Saccaro del Buffa, Giuseppa provides 10 hits. A search for Giuseppina Battisti provides 67 hits of which only two, Scimmia and Streghe are by the author. A search under Giuseppa Battista provides 80 links, of which many are relevant, but which are far from providing a comprehensive list. 

Any attempt at a full analysis of her contributions would require several volumes. The pages that follow merely attempt to offer a snapshot of the intellectual horizons and spiritual dimensions of a most remarkable individual. She is special, because in addition to being a loyal wife, loving mother and grandmother, and having her regular university career, she devoted herself to scholarship. Most people have a specialty. Peppa had four: a) collaborating with and augmenting her husband’s work; b) utopia; c) sources of early modern science and technology; d) sources of belief. Each of these will be considered briefly, ending with random comments on her personal life.