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.

  5. This looks like an appropriate thread to share a recent video from youtube channel Armen and Fyodor. Armen Zakharyan investigates the last line of the fourth novella from the seventh day of Decameron. Armen and Fyodor (you will watch Armen and whether Fyodor even exists is a mystery) is about books and is very much worth watching if you like books, like to listen to people talking about books, and know Russian. If all three conditions are met, stop reading and go listening.

    Still here? The line is “E viva amore, e muoia soldo, e tutta la brigata.” Armen found 6 translations that interpret it as “Long live love and death to avarice and it’s company” (obviously, variably expressed by the translators) and another 6 translations which interpret the second part as “down with war”. He also found a translation that omits the sententia altogether and another one that is only tangentially related to the original. He consults only European-language translations (wrong! also Armenian) and not all of them, but I am sure that when an Akkadian translation will be found, it will not clarify the matter. Context is of no help. Neither money nor war are in the story. Then comes the reference literature. There, the best (in his estimate) modern English (Wayne A Rebhorn) and Italian (Maurizio Fiorilla) sources come on the side of “greed”, in contrast with Academia della Crusca’s 1612 dictionary which gives this line as an example of the usage for soldo and interprets it as “war”. Armen also dug out a glossary of Decameron from mid-1500s which pre-agrees with the Academia. And finally, he comes up with 1928 edition of Decameron by Aldo Francesco Massera, who considered this final flourish an interpolation.

  6. Thanks for that, and for giving me a chance to revisit this post and update the links to those amazing resources (and props to Brown for keeping the Boccaccio site going, even if most of the links didn’t redirect properly and had to be changed to the new ones).

Speak Your Mind