The Welsh Connection

3 07 2012

We’ve been a bit quiet on the conference blog for a while, but still busily working away in the background, we assure you. And now we have something to show for it, as we’ve established a really exciting new collaboration. On Friday Rhiannon and I had a meeting at Cardiff University with Special Collections librarians and academics to see how we might collaborate for our Locating Boccaccio events next year.

Cardiff University recently acquired a remarkable collection of rare books, and are setting up a number of new initiatives to open up this hitherto understudied resource to researchers. The holdings are extraordinary for their range and rarity, and include a considerable number of early printed continental books, including over forty Boccaccio editions both in the original Italian and Latin, and in translation.

Peter Keelan, the Head of Special Collections, had very kindly pulled all the Boccaccio editions for us to look at before our meeting, and we fell on them like ravening bibliomaniac wolves.

Another library, another trolley. Bliss.

The Cardiff books are quite different to the Rylands collections, due to their provenance history. This collection was put together for the Cardiff Public Library from the late nineteenth century onwards, and the books were acquired via donations, purchases and bequests. The Rylands library early editions, meanwhile, were generally acquired through the purchase of aristocratic collections, and these different histories can be seen immediately in the bindings. The Cardiff editions have a much higher proportion of original or older bindings, and are sometimes in rather worse repair, while the Rylands ones have often been rebound (like the Roxburghe Decameron), and are often pristine, prestige copies.

Here are two fantastic Cardiff Boccaccios: the first is a 1525 Laberinto d’Amore (the Corbaccio), with a soft cover made from another printed sheet, and the second an Italian translation of the Genealogia, where you can see how the binding was put together using strips of old manuscripts. If you click on the pictures you’ll be able to see them in more detail.


At the meeting we discussed how we might collaborate for the anniversary, especially around our key Locating Boccaccio themes of material culture and translation (and not least the Decameron in Welsh, as translated by the former Serena Professor of Italian at Manchester, T. Gwynfor Griffith!). We’re hoping Cardiff speakers will be able to present these holdings at the Manchester conference, and that in turn we can go and do some close-up sessions with the Cardiff books. There is also some very exciting potential for collaboration on digital resources and maybe even a Welsh exhibition as well. Thanks to Peter and colleagues for inviting us, and watch this space!


2013 conference dates and exhibition news

26 05 2011

We’re very pleased to finally be able to announce the dates for the Locating Boccaccio in 2013 conference, which will take place on Thursday 11 and Friday 12 July 2013. To accompany the conference and mark this anniversary year, we are also curating an exhibition at the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library, which will run until 24 November 2013. Conference participants will be able to have a preview of the show at the exhibition launch event, which will take place on the evening of Wednesday 10 July.

We’ve scheduled Locating Boccaccio in 2013 to follow on immediately after the Leeds International Medieval Conference (8-11 July), so that our delegates have the opportunity to attend both events. Leeds and Manchester are only an hour apart by train, and so we hope you’ll be able to enjoy the medieval delights of these two great Northern cities during the conference week.

There’ll be more on the exhibition soon, but in the meantime, here’s a photo of one of our most famous Manchester Boccaccios, the Roxburghe Decameron.

Bibliomania begins at home

This copy of the 1471 edition of the Decameron, printed by Christoph Valdarfer in Venice, is arguably the ur-object of book-collecting and bibliomania. At the famous sale of the Duke of Roxburghe’s library in 1812, it became the subject of a lengendary bidding war, finally selling for the unprecendented (and outrageous) sum of £2260. Lord Spencer, who had failed to buy the book at the auction, eventually bought it off Lord Blandford (for considerably less than the £2260 he had paid for it), and it passed into the Rylands collections when Mrs Rylands purchased the Spencer collection in 1892.

Our exhibition will showcase this and many more Boccaccio treasures from the University collections.

A manifesto for 2013

29 04 2010

(Download our flyer here)

Where is Boccaccio in 2013? We seek to problematize the field of Boccaccio studies and the historical figure of Boccaccio himself, in this anniversary year seven centuries after his birth. We will explore the curious marginality of Boccaccio in literary and historical studies, and will attempt to (re-)situate him in a number of critical locales.

Boccaccio’s status as one of the canonical tre corone of Italian medieval literature remains unchallenged (or perhaps, little discussed), yet his standing in the academy sometimes seems to be regarded as rather less impressive than that of his senior colleagues Dante and Petrarch. How and why has this conception of Boccaccio and his writings come about? Does this critical trend derive from Boccaccio’s own articulations of his authorial anxieties as he seeks to authorize and assimilate the example of Dante, while reconciling this with the all-too-living legend of Petrarch? Or is this historiographical strand in fact a by-product of the long-standing Dante and Petrarch industries, which have sidelined Boccaccio to a supporting role in the narratives of these great authors?

Why is Boccaccio’s important political and diplomatic work still virtually invisible in Boccaccio studies? Why is his contribution to humanistic studies downplayed in relation to that of Petrarch? Is there a political dimension to the (romanticized) historiography of the tre corone?

Why have reception studies become such a central and dominant strand in the field? Were the gigantic philological and historical achievements of Branca and the editors of the Mondadori series a spur to others to take their research into these new directions? Can new work into the materiality of Boccaccio and the reception tradition revitalize bibliographical studies on Boccaccio?

In 2013, can we even talk about a unified field of Boccaccio studies, or have the Italian and anglophone worlds diverged definitively from each other?

Why does Boccaccio offer such a productive space to female scholars? Alone amongst the tre corone, Boccaccio studies is dominated in the anglophone world by women. How does our subjectivity as boccacciste/i impact on our work? Has the gendering of the field, both by its practitioners and in its critical approaches, created a marginal status within Italian medieval studies? Or has the feminist reading of Boccaccio become institutionalized in itself?

Can we measure the marginal status of Boccaccio in our institutions and in our publications? (e.g., the ‘accessible’ Boccaccio for lower-level undergraduates, the mysteries of Dante restricted to final-year initiates; the world of the Latin Petrarch, meanwhile, for research students only.) Can this be measured in tangible outputs? Is there a gender dimension to this?

In addressing these provocative questions, we seek to locate Boccaccio temporally (in 2013 and in the past), materially (in the forms of his writings and the forms of their subsequent incarnations), geographically (within Italy and beyond), and, most of all, critically for the twenty-first century. We envisage a series of outputs for the anniversary year:

Events and Publications

  • Two-day international conference at The John Rylands Library, University of Manchester
  • Exhibition showcasing the Boccaccio holdings of the Rylands library and including contemporary Artists’ Books created for the septcentenary
  • Hands-on workshops and master classes
  • Academic publications
  • Exhibition catalogue

About our banner

29 04 2010

The banner image for Locating Boccaccio in 2013 is made up of elements from two Boccaccio books in our collections. On the left is the dedication miniature from the 1493 French edition of the De mulieribus claris, Antoine Verard’s Les nobles et cleres dames, while the image on the right is from the same volume. The text in the middle, with hand-painted initial capitals, is taken from the first edition of the Decameron of c. 1470.

These and other images from the  collections can be viewed in the John Rylands Library’s image viewer, here.

Locating Boccaccio in 2013

15 04 2010

2013 is the 700th anniversary of the birth of Giovanni Boccaccio, and the University of Manchester will be commemorating this event. Keep an eye on this blog for further news and updates.