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Treasures of the Library : Il Decamerone Di Messer Giovanni Bocchaccio Nvovamente Stampato Con Tre Novelle Aggivnte

Boccaccio, Giovanni 1313-1375

Treasures of the Library

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This is a beautiful humanist edition of Boccaccio’s most famous work and one of the earliest with illustrations; the 101 woodcuts scattered through the text are copied from the 1492 incunable edition. The edition occupies an important position in the <i>Decameron’s</i> textual history, since although it is based on the previous Florentine edition, it was corrected using early manuscript witnesses, including one that was probably transcribed from authorial originals. The book is bound in an early 19th-century straight-grained morocco binding with restrained gilt tooling.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>As well as being important in its own right, this copy has remarkable annotations by the Elizabethan spy William Herle (d. 1588/9), who worked for William Cecil and Francis Walsingham in the Low Countries, and who is known to have been fluent in Latin, Flemish and Italian. Herle inscribes the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>title page</a> with his name and a convoluted but cynical epigraph: ‘If honest & good thinges were as hard to be preised as don, I think it shold be as littill praised as now folowed. Q[uo]d W. Herle.’ The book bears various other Herle signatures, no two of which are alike, and a substantial scattering of annotations, many of which are in Italian. Some of these make clear the structure of the stories or pick out striking details; others note particular words and phrases; and still others turn Italian terms into English. One story is marked (in English) ‘to be tra[n]slatyd’, which strongly suggests that the book was used in language-learning.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The book later belonged to the Earl of Ashburnham (1797–1898), who had a great collection of <i>Decamerons</i>, including the 1492 edition upon which this edition bases its illustrations. The volume complements the Library’s excellent holdings of early Italian imprints, the depth of which is attested by our recent project to catalogue nearly 500 imprints from Venice alone for the period 1500–1525. The Library’s collections also include the ‘rival’ 1516 edition of the <i>Decameron</i> produced in Venice by Gregorio di Gregori and a Bologna imprint of 1476, both without illustrations.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Jason Scott-Warren<br /> English Faculty<br /> University of Cambridge</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>An account of many of the annotations in this volume can be read in this <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>blog post</a> for the Centre for Material Texts.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The book was acquired with a grant from the <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Friends of the National Library</a>'s B. H. Breslauer Fund and digitised with a further grant from Friends of the National Libraries and support from the Friends of the University Library.</p>

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