FRANCESCO PETRARCA, 1304 - 1374
Boccacii Griseldis historia (Rerum senil., XVII, 3)
Germany, end of 15th century
MS 197, f. 1r
Petrarch spent the last years of his life (from 1370 to 1374) in the hilly area near Padua, in a village named Arquà. In 1373, just a year before his death, he received a copy of Boccaccio’s Decameron. He was taken by the final novella, the story of the patient Griselda who is severely tested by her husband, and so he translated the story from Italian into Latin. His primary motive for the translation was to make the story, which he admired greatly, available to a wider international audience.
One of the major audiences extended to the north, to the place where MS 197 originated. Griselda’s story, in Petrarch’s Latin translation, became enormously popular in Germany, and many manuscripts and early printed editions of it come from there. This manuscript is a miscellaneous volume, and in addition to the Griselda translation it contains Petrarch’s letter to Niccolò Acciaiuoli (Rerum famil., XII, 2), another example of Petrarch’s popularity in Northern Europe in the 15th century, and some letters by Enea Silvio Piccolomini, the future Pope Pius II.
In MS 197, Petrarch’s translation of the Griselda story begins with a characteristic German decorated blue initial, with red and green infilling, and flourishing that trails down the margin. The title (in red) and the text are written in German gothic script.