After the composition of the Decameron, and under the influence of Petrarch's humanism, Giovanni Boccaccio(1313-1375) devoted the last decades of his life to compiling encyclopedic works in Latin. Among them is Famous Women, the first collection of biographies in Western literature devoted exclusively to women.
The 106 women whose life stories make up this volume range from the exemplary to the notorious, from historical and mythological figures to Renaissance contemporaries. In the hands of a master storyteller, these brief biographies afford a fascinating glimpse of a moment in history when medieval attitudes toward women were beginning to give way to more modern views of their potential.
Famous Women, which Boccaccio continued to revise and expand until the end of his life, became one of the most popular works in the last age of the manuscript book, and had a signal influence on many literary works, including Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Castiglione's Courtier. This edition presents the first English translation based on the autograph manuscript of the Latin.
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Number of pages: 560
Weight: 680 g
Dimensions: 203 x 133 x 32 mm
In 1362, Boccaccio...wrote specifically "for the ladies," this time in Latin...[on] a subject as stately as the city's soaring ruins and luminous marble statues: "Famous Women"...(biographies of 106 women, beginning with "Eve Our First Mother" and ending with the monarch to whose lady-in-waiting he dedicated the book, Queen Joanna "of Sicily and Jerusalem")...In a pungent new translation by Virginia Brown, [Boccaccio's] famous women hold up very well indeed. This beautiful little book...spearheads a new publication program designed to make accessible important works of Renaissance Latin to modern readers...the success of Famous Women suggests that the ladies read their Boccaccio as we are invited to read him: with forbearance for his foibles and delight in the tales he tells with such gusto and skill. -- Ingrid D. Rowland * New York Times Book Review *
An aristocratic devotion to our culture continues to manifest itself even today in the most prestigious centers of study and thought. One has merely to look at the very recent (begun in 2001), rigorous and elegant humanistic series of Harvard University, with the original Latin text, English translation, introduction and notes. -- Vittore Branca * Il Sole 24 Ore *
Harvard University Press' The I Tatti Renaissance Library is the only library offering to scholars, students and citizens the sublime works of the Italian Renaissance written in Latin and translated into lucid English. Its first work is Giovanni Boccaccio's Famous Women. Boccaccio is the author of the first novel, Decameron influenced by Petrarch, the creator of the modern world, to bring a new literary form into the world...Boccaccio wrote this work for our enjoyment. Famous Women is a wonderfully enjoyable book to read in its style of fine clearness. The stories are tales of virtue. Courageous women defend honor and truth and in their defense they give us magnificent models to follow in this life of adversity. * Window on Italy *
A monument of classical scholarship for its time, [Famous Women] contains the biographies of women renowned for valor in warfare and fearlessness in the face of death, for writing and the arts, for political rulership, and for the particularly womanly virtues of marital chastity and devotion to husbands living and dead...The book became immensely popular in the late Middle Ages, and it was quickly translated into the major languages of Western Europe. It has now been given an expert and readable English translation...Famous Women is an appropriate book with which to inaugurate this series, since it stands at a cusp in cultural history between medieval attitudes and the new mental universe of the Renaissance. -- David Quint * New Republic *
Whispered in the language of the dead, tales of one hundred and six famous and infamous women of ancient times breathe new life in this inaugural edition of the Harvard I Tatti Renaissance Library's Famous Women...Giovanni Boccaccio's book emerges as the earliest amalgam of biographies celebrating and describing the deeds of women exclusively, flushed with the timeless air of antiquity...[I]n its first English translation, [Famous Women] bridges the boundaries of language and fosters the perpetual rediscovery of Renaissance intellectualism. -- Karen Wyckoff * Fore Word Magazine *
The Loeb Classical Library...has been of incalculable benefit to generations of scholars...It seems certain that the I Tatti Renaissance Library will serve a similar purpose for Renaissance Latin texts, and that, in addition to its obvious academic value, it will facilitate a broadening base of participation in Renaissance Studies...These books are to be lauded not only for their principles of inclusivity and accessibility, and for their rigorous scholarship, but also for their look and feel. Everything about them is attractive: the blue of their dust jackets and cloth covers, the restrained and elegant design, the clarity of the typesetting, the quality of the paper, and not least the sensible price. This is a new set of texts well worth collecting. -- Kate Lowe * Times Literary Supplement *
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