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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER student, who is unlikely to have the patience or ability to profit from the copious quotations in Latin, French, and Italian. THORLAC TURVILLE-PETRE University of Nottingham GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO, Decameron. TheJohn Payne Translation Revised and Annotated by Charles S. Singleton, 3 volumes (Berkeley: Univer­ sity of California Press, 1982). It is common knowledge that Charles S. Singleton's reputation rests mainly on his achievements as a Dante scholar. What is probably less known is that Singleton has devoted a substantial portion of his time and intellectual resources to "another world" of the Italian Middle Ages, Boccaccio's De­ cameron, but his labors on the Decameron, which are as magisterial and rigorous in analysis as his Dante Studies, have not proved to be equally rewarding. Singleton's involvement with the Decameron came to the surface in 1944 when he wrote a piece "On Meaning in the Decameron," (Italica) in which he polemicallyargued that theesthetic experience ofthe Decameron ought to be understood as a radical contradiction ofthe very assumptions ofthe Divine Comedy. Whereas Dante's spirituality subordinates poetry to the claims of theology, Boccaccio's Decameron is directed toward the pleasures and comforts of this world. Since then Boccaccio Studies have moved a long way from Singleton's fairly simplified, schematic pattern of literary history, but the bibliographies on the subject rightly continue to list Singleton's article, the outlines of which reappear as a brief preface in the third volume, devoted to notes and commentary, of this revisions of John Payne's translation. This revision is the result of Singleton's long love for the Decameon and the intriguing, personal story of this scholar with this text, is crisply told by Singleton himselfin "A Note on the Holograph" at the end of the same third volume of this elegant set. In 1933 Michele Barbi, one ofthe most prestigious names in the Italian philological tradition oftextual criticism, examined the holograph copy of the Decameron known as Hamilton 90, which was sent to Florence on special loan for the Barbi's inspection from the Berlin's Staatsbibliothek. 248 REVIEWS As Alberto Chiari, one of Barbi's assistants, was later to report, it took only a few minutes before declaring without any hesitation that the manuscript was an autograph. But the attribution was not revealed till 1948, when Singleton himself, who was preparing a critical edition of the Decameron for Laterza (which was published in 1955) and was diligently collating its sundry manuscripts. Singleton had independently concluded that Hamil­ ton 90 was the single, authoritative manuscript on which he would base his edition, but the irony is that he had failed to recognize Boccaccio's handwriting. The scholar's disappointment must still be great if one were to judge by his decision to reprint verbatim the account of it from the introduction to the edition of the autograph published by the Johns Hopkins Press in 1974. The disappointment is understandable, but one wonders whether Singleton's importance and role in revamping Dante and Boccaccio Studies will be gaugedless by his philologyand more through his work as a critic. At any rate what matters is that one scholar's philological expertise and another's critical insight find themselves in agreement. And Singleton's claim that Hamilton 90 must become the basis of all future attempts to establish any critical edition ofBoccaccio's masterpiece is fully warranted. The manuscript, in point of fact, has become the basis for the most authoritative critical edition of the Decameron prepared by Vittore Branca in 1976. It has also become the basis for Singleton'spresent revision ofJohn Payne's translation, which had been originally printed in London by the Villon Societyin 1886. Readershardly need being remindedthat Singleton has updated in the recent past other scholarly works, most notably Grand­ gent's edition of the Divine Comedy and Paget Toynbee's Dictionary of Proper Names in the Works of Dante. In a way such a retrieval of monu­ mental works of the past signals Singleton's understanding of scholarship as a retouching and a preserving of the efforts of preceding generations. In the present decision to make again available Payne's classic translation Singleton has...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 248-250
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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