Giovanni Boccaccio turns 700

Giovanni Boccaccio was born seven hundred years ago in Tuscany, Italy. Special Collections and Rare Books celebrates this important anniversary by displaying editions of Boccaccio’s work as well as that of influential contemporaries and predecessors.

Il Decamerone, 1729, FlorenceBoccaccio made an inauspicious start as the illegitimate son of Boccaccino di Chellino. He was adopted by his father, but along with security and status came the duties associated with being an acknowledged scion of the merchant class. Boccaccio received training in banking and law–both of which he resented– before abandoning both for poetry.

Historiated Initial, Geneologia degli dei, Venice, 1547Though Boccaccio is best known today for The Decameron, he wrote over fifteen works, many of which were valued over The Decameron in his own lifetime. Beyond the passing tides of literary taste, what remains certain is that Boccaccio’s work reflects the uncertainty of his era. Fourteenth-century Italy, with its dynastic wars, popular uprisings, and plagues favored resourcefulness. There were times to cast off the past, and there were times to cling to past models. Boccaccio began writing in the vernacular early in his career with Caccia di Diana of 1334. It is to this phase that we owe The Decameron, a work that has been called the “epic of the merchant class” and "Boccaccio’s human comedy that stands next to Dante’s Divine Comedy." His work would take a sober turn after he became acquainted with Petrach. With Petrarch’s encouragement, Boccaccio studied the classics and began writing in Latin. To this phase we owe the existence of De genealogia deorum gentilium.

Illustration from Tales from Boccaccio, New York, 1947Detail, Geneologia deorum gentilium, Venice, 1494Highlights of our exhibition include a combined edition of De genealogia deorum gentilium and his other reference work, de montibus & siluis de fontibus: lacubus: & fluminibus, published in 1494 in Venice. The Italian translation, Geneologia degli dei, published in 1547, also in Venice, will also be displayed. Other items of interest include sixteenth-century works of Ovid, Petrarch, Dante, and Villani. These include a first edition of the Italian translation of Dante’s De Volgare Eloquenzia.and an edition of Petrarch published by the famous printer, Aldus Manutius, in 1533. We will also display of early twentieth-century deluxe editions of Boccaccio’s Decameron, rated PG-13 for the portrayal  of clerics in compromising poses.

Printer's Device, De Volgare Eloquenzia, Venice, 1526

Branca, Vittore. Boccaccio: The Man and His Works, trans. Richard Monges. New York: New York UP, 1976.

Serafini-Sauli, Judith Powers. Giovanni Boccaccio. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982.



London and the Olympics

2012 London Olympics LogoThe 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London begin later this month on July 27th. For nineteen days, athletes from 205 countries will compete in 300 events for gold, silver, and bronze medals. Over one billion people watch the Summer Olympics, when it is held every four years. This month, the colonnade of Ellis Library is showcasing both the history of the Olympic Games and this year’s host city, London. As you are walking through the library, why don’t you stop by one of the displays and learn about some of the most memorable moments in Olympics history, or the history and culture of the only city in the world to host the Summer Olympics three times.

home Events and Exhibits, Special Collections and Archives New exhibit commemorates 400 years of the King James Bible

New exhibit commemorates 400 years of the King James Bible

400 years ago, scholars from all over Britain came together and produced one of the best, most beloved, and controversial pieces of literature the world has ever seen.  The King James Bible soon became the de facto Bible for countless of evangelists, missionaries, as well as politicians, literary giants, economists, and philosophers, and lest we forget, America’s Founding Fathers.  This exhibit traces the history of the King James Bible, its precursors and the works that have been inspired by it.

Historic bibles and pages from the King James Bible will be on exhibit in the Ellis Library Colonnade through December 2011.  The exhibit is accompanied by a display of religious texts from around the world, ranging from America’s Book of Mormon to India’s Bhagavad Gita to China’s Tao Teh King.

Exhibit curated by Rebecca Vogler and Amy Jones, Special Collections assistants and SISLT graduate students

home Events and Exhibits, Special Collections and Archives New Exhibit – World War II Posters: Women Called to Action

New Exhibit – World War II Posters: Women Called to Action

As many men went abroad to serve in the war, large numbers of women were left behind.  However, women played an integral part in the WWII victory.  War posters on display from the Special Collections Department of Ellis Library illustrate how women were called upon to help win the war both at home and in foreign lands.

World War II Posters will be on display in the Ellis Library Colonnade November 3rd-December 2nd, 2011.

Exhibit curated by Karen Witt, Special Collections Reference Librarian.