Boccaccio and Artists’ Books

Boccaccio continues to be read across the world and to evoke responses seven hundred years after his birth. In order to commemorate Boccaccio’s anniversary year in 2013 and explore the ways in which his works speak to new audiences, we invited an international group of artists to create new books about Boccaccio. The parameters of the project were left deliberately open and artists were invited to make a book in response to Boccaccio himself or to any of his texts.

Thirteen artists’ books were created and are on display in an exhibition called ‘Locating Boccaccio in 2013’, held in the John Rylands Library, Manchester. The exhibition runs from 11 July to 20 December 2013, with free entry. The artists’ books will move on 26 November to the Special Collections Library, Ashton Bower at the University of the West of England, where they will be displayed from 2 December 2013 to the end of January 2014.

Alongside the artists’ books, the exhibition showcases the outstanding collections of historic printed books and manuscripts relating to Boccaccio held by the Rylands, including the ‘Roxburghe Decameron’, the most expensive book in the world when was sold in 1812, the first illustrated edition of the Decameron, private press editions and clandestine erotica. The exhibition is designed to reflect the – still popular – reception of Boccaccio as an author of erotic and light-hearted stories, but also aims to inform new audiences about the breadth and depth of his achievements as a literary innovator, humanist, and linguistic model. Boccaccio wrote a wide range of texts in both Italian and Latin, prose and poetry, and was responsible for many literary ‘firsts’, such as the development of ‘octave rhyme’ (ottava rima), the first epic poem in Italian, and the first psychological novel. His prose writing in the Decameron became the basis for the standard Italian language used today.

The following virtual exhibition presents a series of images from each of the thirteen artists’ books. Click on the artists’ names below in order to see pages not on display within the Rylands Library:

Carolyn Thompson

Carolyn Trant

Glynnis Fawkes

Heather Hunter

Horst Weierstall

James Reid-Cunningham

Jeremy Dixon

John McDowall

Mike Clements

Paul Johnson

Shirley Greer

Steve Dales

Sue Doggett

Many of these books are for sale. For further information, please contact Dr Rhiannon Daniels, Department of Italian, School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol



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