to the Online Edition of
Villani’s Chronicle is a history of Florence, Italy, written by a citizen of that city, who was alive at the time of Dante. This is one of the first histories we have preserved that was written in Italy after the fall of the Roman Empire. Rose Selfe has translated the parts that would be of most interest to students of Dante, and includes references in the margins to the sections in Dante’s works which relate to that portion noted of the history.
Writing in the 14th century, Giovanni Villani is considered a reliable historian (sometimes anyway, see the Introduction by Professor Wicksteed). This old chronicler is interesting and personable as well, evidenced by his work.
The Introduction is quite helpful for the first sections of the text, but the minute you get bored, go straight to Villani himself. This moment will occur, I predict, as the editor, Wicksteed, discusses his views of the politics of Italy.
Wicksteed’s biggest criticism was about the accuracy of dates and the accounts reported about some of the key “actors.” But, after reading about the violent, destructive, homicidal times of early Florence, the scarcity of any reliable documents for Villani to use to gather facts can be easily both understood and forgiven.
Interestingly, Wicksteed has also translated a most charming, wonderful, touching legend called Our Lady’s Tumbler, which is on Elfinspell. So non-fiction wasn’t the professor’s only interest. Villani also occasionally relates legends and anecdotes that were popular in his time, tossed in often enough to keep his history lively and readable.
The people in Florence, and in the rest of Italy at this period were crazy en masse! Did they all have lead poisoning or tertiary Syphilis? I wonder. As you read, imagine yourself living in this city at this time... Beyond Scary!
Begin with the Title Pages which includes a Frontispiece of Dante standing before a view of a city, probably Florence.
The text has been proofed at least twice, but if you see a typo, I would appreciate hearing about it. There is the usual difficulty of variations in the spelling of a few of the proper names, and I have unified them, adopting the spelling of the name that is used most frequently in the book and supported by the entry in the Index. Other minor errors of spelling and punctuation have been regularly emended, and noted in the source code.
This is a fascinating book, and Selfe is the only one who has translated this much of it into English. There is another excerpt on Elfinspell by another translator here. Other than that, there is no complete text of Villani in English.
Be enlightened, amazed, amused on occasion, and often horrified!