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Home » Publications » Ovidio, Heroides 14th-century Florentine vernacular translation by Filippo Ceffi

Publications » Ovidio, Heroides 14th-century Florentine vernacular translation by Filippo Ceffi

Heroides. 14th-century Florentine vernacular translation by Filippo Ceffi
Edited by Massimo Zaggia
SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo

Among the vernacular translations of the classics made in Florence in the early fourteenth century, this one of Ovid’s Heroides has been one of the most widely read and used (first and foremost by Boccaccio, who found it very useful, especially for his Fiammetta): it spread a wide repertoire of mythological information, a far-ranging store of sentimental situations, a specific register of the genre of love epistles and the expression of female laments in the vernacular literary tradition between the 14th and the 15th century. As to the vulgarisation techniques, the version – supported by a good philology – clearly tends to give a faithful rendition of the original Latin texts, with no omissions or additions, but at the same time it tends to steer clear of the crudest lexical claques and the greatest syntactic complexities. Finally, on a linguistic and stylistic plane, the successfully-pursued model is that of a literary prose that is elevated but not heavy-handed, indeed clear and harmonious, fresh and just slightly pathetically rippling, appropriate after all for its mainly female public the translator expressly speaks to. Worshipped by a certain pedantic tradition, this prose has been effectively described by Vincenzo Monti with these words: «piano e soave è il procedere della sintassi, sincera la proprietà delle parole, naturale la loro commettitura, qualche volta scelta la frase, e, generalmente parlando, felice la condizione dello stile» (plain and gentle is the flow of its syntax, sincere the propriety of its words, natural the way they are seamed together, sometimes well chosen its sentence, and, broadly speaking, well-made is the state of its style). This edition definitely proves the autography of ms. Vaticano Palatino lat. 1644 and the attribution to Filippo Ceffi, a Florentine notary who must have completed the job around 1325. Therefore, while the two earlier 19th-century editions (by Luigi Rigoli, 1819, and Giuseppe Bernardoni, 1842) were based on inferior witnesses, with understandably poor results, the critical text herein contained can be based on the acknowledged autograph, which in addition turns out to be extremely accurate. Then, Ceffi may be considered to be the author of other texts as well that shed more light on the work of this copyist and man of letters in 1320s Florence. The edition that takes up the first volume is accompanied by a detailed comment, while the introduction lays down the different philological, linguistic and literary perspectives, including its necessary connections to the Medieval Latin tradition of the Heroides and the Gallic-Romance precedents. In addition, the Project tries to understand Ceffi’s position in the tumultuous row of translators that worked in Florence in the years between Dante and Boccaccio. Finally, the glossary selects and orders the most significant words of one of the most widely consulted ‘texts written in a foreign language’.

The second volume, which is in progress provides a detailed overview of the many manuscript witnesses and the four incunabula: overall, the copious tradition that descends from the autograph aptly documents the varying success of the text, which is also full of innovations, interesting parallels, comments, figures of speech.