In an important essay several times invoked in the course of this fine anthology, Vittore Branca asserts that no edition of a literary work can claim to be definitive and that any critical edition "worthy of the name should provide the possibility of being entirely redone according to different criteria" (228). Given Branca's pivotal role as a proponent and practitioner of this new philology, with its dynamic model of a textual tradition over the more static and artificial definitive edition, it seems entirely fitting that the portrait of Branca —both the man and his works —that emerges from these collected essays is itself multifaceted and evolving: not a definitive edition, but a dynamic tradizione.
Almost all of the nineteen essays in this collection contribute something to this biographical tradition. The very first essay makes explicit an attitude that colors and enlivens many of the essays in the collection: Branca and his teachings are best honored by interrogating his insights, questioning his conclusions, and engaging in a productive dialogue with his work.
In this vein, Zygmunt Baranski suggests that Branca's summary dismissal of an Epicurean Boccaccio stems from his misunderstanding of Boccaccio's uncharacteristically —for his age —nuanced understanding of Epicurus; Carlo [End Page 1222] Caruso reevaluates Branca's attribution of the substantial revisions to the editio princeps of the Amorosa visione to Boccaccio; Nicola Jones gently but convincingly illustrates the pitfalls of Branca's theoretical approach to images in manuscripts of Boccaccio's work; and John Lindon corrects Branca's somewhat paternalistic portrait of Sarah Austin, translator of Foscolo.
A number of essays assess, describe, or apply Branca's new philology. Fabio Finotti's lyrical piece, framed by a series of real and metaphoric bridges, deploys a Branca-like philology of textual variants to document the powerful influence of the war experience on Montale's poetics and historical vision; against the backdrop of the tumultuous 1960s, Carlo Ossola evokes an age of fertile intellectual collaboration —in particular, Branca's with Jean Starobinsky —that was the seedbed for this nuova filologia; Caruso's essay reveals the potential dangers of a too-enthusiastic application of this nuova filologia; Gilberto Pizzamiglio shows us Branca's use of this method both in his early work on Alfieri and in his later work collating and editing variant editions of the Conciliatore; Vincenzo Fera debunks Martellotti's model of an organically unified De viris illustribus by retracing the textual tradition of Petrarch's fragmented work; and Brian Richardson applies these philological principles to Machiavelli's work.
Other essays give us more intimate glimpses of Branca in his historical milieu, in his private life, political activity, and professional friendships. Enrico Palandri's poignant reminiscence takes us, in Branca's company, from the particular Torino hotel room, number 346, haunted by Pavese's suicide, to a more abstract meditation on reading and alienation; Guido Bonsaver furnishes a vivid account of the young Branca's journalistic activity with the clandestine press in the forties; and Giovanni Morelli offers us excerpts of Branca's epistolary exchange with Gian Francesco Malipiero, revealing Branca's unflagging diplomacy and generosity towards the stroppy, irascible older composer.
Not surprisingly, a number of the contributions bear more directly on Boccaccio's works. True to the multipronged approach to textual criticism favored by Branca, each of these essays takes a somewhat oblique, multimedia and multidisciplinary, approach. Rhiannon Daniels's study of marginalia and other paratextual evidence reveals the reception and readership of early printed editions of the Decameron; Guyda Armstrong's essay casts much light on the English engagement with Boccaccio's works from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, revealing that Boccaccio's reception is shaped by cultural fads (Petrarchism, etc.), the particular needs of a given reader or readership, and the mediation of French translations; Martin McLaughlin's essay addresses issues of interpretation and originality in Beroaldo's Latin translation of Decameron 10.8; and Jonathan Usher's lively piece on Walter Savage Landor...