As one of the pioneers in a literary and intellectual movement known as humanism, Petrarch helped to inaugurate a new curriculum of learning in western culture that emphasized the Greek and Roman classics. He translated and edited several volumes of lost works from antiquity, making it possible for generations of future historians to study Cicero, for example. His private collection of works from antiquity was one of the largest in Avignon, where he spent some time with the papal court, and he expressed his passion for books in a very famous statement in a letter to a friend:
I am possessed by one insatiable passion, which I cannot restrain—nor would I if I could. . . . I cannot get enough books.
Petrarch's volume of poems, Canzoniere, or "Song book" is considered one of the major achievements of early modern European literature. Petrarch was also the first modern historian, as he wrote scholarly editions of Livy's histories in addition to a number of biographies of important classical figures. He also was a gifted philologist, becoming one of the first to study language itself in a systematic way. Situated between the late Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance, Petrarch, along with his contemporaries Giovanni Boccaccio and Dante Alighieri, is one of the founding figures of modern Western thought. By establishing humanism as an intellectual pursuit, he pointed the way to the Renaissance.