The Brown Italian Studies department has created a bilingual online version of Boccaccio’s Decamerone that has been expanding since its beginnings ten years ago and particularly since it was awarded a two-year grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1999.

Since the project’s inception, it has made substantial progress. There are now well over 300 documents and dozens of images, all designed to provide our visitors with an easily navigable site and abundant information related to the study of Boccaccio’s masterpiece. Though the project was originally produced as a multimedia resource for students here at Brown, it soon became apparent that teachers and students around the world were benefiting from its materials . In response to this demand, we began a series of improvements and additions which, we hope, will make it even more useful to a wide range of users. This expansion is of course an endless endeavor and we depend upon the feedback of our visitors to guide us in the project’s growth.

The basic element is the text (whether you choose the original Italian or the century-old English translation, you can click on the paragraph number to get the corresponding section in the other language); alongside it, they have created a cast of characters (the “brigata”); sections on history, society, religion, and other background areas; a collection of maps (hyperlinked so that if you click on, say, Paris you get not only maps from the medieval and later periods but links to related portions of the text); a section of links to relevant resources (including similar projects such as the Canterbury Tales, the Confessions of Augustine, and others, including the mysterious Zifar or Libro del cauallero de Dios, “generally held to be Castile’s earliest original work of prose fiction,” of which I had never heard), and much else. A remarkable site, whose discovery I owe to a MetaFilter thread by conservative controversialist hama7.


  1. Geez, I know I’ve mentioned this site on CavLec. It’s one of my favorite show-and-tells for the power of nitpicky SGML tagging. (The text is TEI on the back-end; they tagged character and place names. I know because I saw the SGML.)
    But yes, very very VERY very cool.

  2. V:4 is one of the funniest stories of all time, mostly because it is so perfectly written. It also describes a Polynesian sort of courtship pattern not thought of as characteristic of Italy. I’ve seen Boccaccio spoken of as sort of a feminist.
    I also remember that, for all the frankness of some stories, euphemisms are used for certain words, as also in Rabelais (believe it or not).
    “Ma voi dovreste pensare quanto sieno piu calde le fanciulle che le donne attempate”.
    “Su tosto, donna, lievate e vieni a vedere, che tu figluola e stata si vaga dell’usignolo, che ella e stata tanto alla posta ch ella l’ha preso e tienlosi in mano”.

  3. The web really needs something like this for the Slovo o polku Igoreve, and I wish I had time to keep up the post-a-day pace I set last year instead of giving up when my research assistantship got too time-consuming. Perhaps I’ll try to put a full site with the original Russian text and a translation together at my own pace this summer, then start accepting notations and historical info.

  4. That would be great; I hope you find the time.

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