From Latin humanists to popular writers, Italian Renaissance culture spawned a lively debate on vocational choice and the nature of profession. In The Culture of Profession in Late Renaissance Italy, George W. McClure examines the turn this debate took in the second half of the Renaissance, when the learned 'praise and rebuke' of profession began to be complemented with more popular forms of discourse, and when less learned vocations made their voice heard. Focusing primarily on sources assembled and published in the sixteenth century, McClure's study explores professional themes in comic, festive, and popular print culture. A pivotal figure is Tomaso Garzoni, a monk whose popular encyclopedia, Universal Piazza of all the Professions of the World, was published in 1585. A funnel for earlier traditions and an influence on later ones, this massive compendium treated over 150 categories of profession - juxtaposing the world of philosophers and poets, lawyers and physicians, merchants and artisans, teachers and printers, cooks and chimneysweeps, prostitutes and procurers.
If the conventional view is that Italian Renaissance society generally grew more aristocratic in the later period, this and other sources reveal a professional ethos more democratic in nature and bespeak the full cultural discovery of the middling and lowly professions in the late Renaissance.