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Reviewed by:
  • Cremonina (Grammatica, orthographia et prosodia)
  • Robert Black
Folchini de Borfonibus . Cremonina (Grammatica, orthographia et prosodia) Ed. Carla DeSantis. Vol. 1 of Opera Omnia. Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaeualis 201. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2003. 338 pp + 2 b/w pls. index. bibl. €215. ISBN: 2-503-05019-0.

Folchino dei Borfoni taught grammar in his native city of Cremona during the last two decades of the fourteenth century; he was a salaried communal teacher there in 1401. He was first brought to scholarly attention by Sabbadini at the beginning of the last century as the author of a grammar treatise and was subsequently mentioned by Novati and Manacorda. His writings were studied in some depth by Ghisalberti (1923 and 1932), and most recently his grammatical theory has been analyzed by Percival (1972–78).

These scholars knew only one manuscript of his grammar (Milan Ambrosiana H 66 inf. = H), but Harald Anderson's discovery of a second testimony (Vienna Österreichische Nationalbibliothek cod. 3379 = W) has greatly enhanced this first published edition of the text. Not only did H lack several internal sections, but it also had lost the grammar's opening carmen, particularly important because it identified Borfoni as the author not only of the concluding orthography but of the entire text.

Carla DeSantis has made a major contribution to knowledge of late medieval [End Page 579] and early Renaissance Italian grammar with her thorough and scholarly edition of Borfoni's grammar. The text itself consists of the introductory carmen, a proemium, a treatise on nouns and another on verbs; the longest section of the grammar is devoted to a detailed treatment of syntax, which is followed by the orthography; the work concludes with a brief tractate on prosody. DeSantis provides a detailed and careful introduction, treating the author and his works; his sources; the grammar's contents, methodology, and terminology; its language (both Borfoni's Latin and vernacular); there is a brief but useful commentary on the texts and a thorough catalogue of Borfoni's citations of authors and of other texts mentioned in the edition. There is, however, no general index to the introduction, nor an index of manuscripts.

The major problem in editing Borfoni's grammar is how to combine the two full manuscripts of the text. The sections missing from H, of course, had to be supplied by W. For the rest of the text, DeSantis decided to rely on H as the more usually correct version. Therefore, her edition consists mainly of the text as provided by H (with corrections from W and rarer variants for the orthography from other witnesses, preserved as it is in several further manuscripts). This means that her edition does not represent the version contained in any one real manuscript. This is an entirely reasonable choice, given the dilemma of having to choose between an inferior complete text (W) and a superior incomplete text (H). This decision has particularly significant consequences for the vernacular sections of the text. Trecento Italian grammarians regularly included vernacular translations of verbs, besides discussing how to translate passages from the vernacular into Latin (so-called themata). These vernacular passages were invariably provided by the scribe (whether he was a teacher, pupil, or professional copyist) in his own local vernacular dialect. In the case of Borfoni, the two witnesses, H and W, provide this material in completely different vernacular dialects. In conformity with her decision to give precedence to H, DeSantis chooses to give the vernacular in H's dialect; she gives some vernacular variants from W, but not all. She provides a full analysis of H's language, but not of W's. It was of course necessary to choose either H's or W's vernacular for the edition. DeSantis's choice of H here is fully understandable, in view of the possibility that the dialect may represent old Cremonese, Borfoni's own native dialect. However, that is only a possibility: DeSantis does not attempt to prove that H's dialect is old Cremonese, offering the cautious conclusion only that H's language is generically North Italian. In any case, even if H were in old Cremonese, there is no knowing whether it was the...


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pp. 579-581
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Archived 2009
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