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Vol. 52 On Famous Women: The Middle English Translation of Boccaccio’s ‘De Mulieribus Claris’

Edition from London, British Library, MS Additional 10304

Janet Cowen (ed.) 

London, British Library, MS Additional 10304 contains the unique copy of one of the only two known English translations of Boccaccio’s ‘De Mulieribus Claris’ prior to modern times (the other being that by Henry Parker, Lord Morley (EETS OS 214 (l943)). The present text consists of twentyone of Boccaccio’s 106 lives of famous women, translated into seven-line stanzas. It exists in printed form only in the edition by Gustav Schleich (1924), not now readily accessible, and in selections edited by Julius Zupitza (1892). It is of interest and significance in several respects: as an instance of the cultivation of Italian humanist writing in fifteenth-century England, and in particular of the reception of Boccaccio; as an example of verse in the Chaucerian tradition on the subject of women; and as an example of selective adaptation in translation from Latin to the vernacular.

The Introduction to this edition includes consideration of language and versification, and an analysis of the Middle English translator’s strategies of selection from the source. The text is followed by a commentary including exposition of difficult passages, notes on significant modification of the source, and points of lexicographical interest, a select glossary, and an index of proper names.

'Cowen writes with authority and with an expertise born of a close engagement with this text over many years'

'Anyone working on the depiction of female lives, vernacular translation, or the presentation of pagan antiquity in the Middle Ages will be certain to find much of interest in this fine edition.'

Veronica O'Mara
Journal of the Early Book Society 19 (2016)
'a stimulating edition'
S. Thomson
Scriptorium LXX-1 (2016)