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The Decameron or l’Umana commedia (“the Human comedy”, as it was Boccaccio that dubbed Dante Alighieri’s Comedy Divine“), is a collection of short stories by the 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375). The book is structured as a frame story containing 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and three young men; they shelter in a secluded villa just outside Florence in order to escape the Black Death, which was afflicting the city.

The Decameron was among the earliest of printed books, Venice leading the way with a folio edition in 1471, Mantua following suit in 1472, and Vicenza in 1478. A folio edition, adorned with most graceful wood-engravings (some of which are reproduced here), was published at Venice in 1492. Notwithstanding the freedom with which in divers passages Boccaccio reflected on the morals of the clergy, the Roman Curia spared the book, which the austere Savonarola condemned to the flames. The tradition that The Decameron was among the pile of ‘vanities’ burned by Savonarola in the Piazza della Signoria on the last day of the Carnival of 497, little more than a year before he was himself burned there, is so intrinsically probable—and accords so well with the extreme paucity of early copies of the work.

J.M. Rigg’s faithful and complete translation with 16 plates by Louis Chalon.

Decameron of Boccaccio, J.M. Rigg, Privately printed by The Navarre Society, 1920

Hardback. Octavo. Bound in beige cloth. The dust jacket is ripped on the spine in volume I and on the cover of volume II. Pages are clean and unmarked. A tight copy. 332 & 404 pp.