Il Novellino: The Hundred Old Tales

medieval_italian_literatureContinuing my delving into medieval Italian literature, I came across this gem. Il Novellino is a collection of short anecdotes and popular stories written around 1250-1300. Most (semi-?)educated people of the time knew these tales and would recognise them if heard told. Many are familiar to us as forming the basis of the stories of Boccaccio, Chaucer, Shakespeare, etc. As there’s no easily obtainable copy of this public domain text, I’ve formatted the text into ePub and PDF formats.

Il Novellino is one of the first works extant in the developing Italian language. Latin at this time is slowing losing its dominance as the language of public and academic life in favour of the vernacular. The tales in the book have a wide variety of possible origins. Some are definitely from the more traditional Latin-based classical or monastic part of the culture while as many tales are likely to come from a common  everyday urban and rural settings. Some tales have obviously been transmitted to Italy from the near east, likely by crusaders returning home. Several tales are local or popular re-tellings of familiar Bible stories or Italian adaptations of current French or Provençal tales.

Edward Storer published his translation of this mid-sixteenth century version of the tales in 1925. He was part of a literary circle meeting in London before World War I and is known for both his own poetry and his translations into English from the Italian.

Here’s the book: