The Decameron is a remarkable work of Renaissance literature, comprised of one hundred short novels in ten books. This superb edition contains every story in English, and is unabridged.
The Decameron marked the emergence of new literature after centuries of relative quiet, as the Italian Renaissance got underway. At the time of composing the text, Boccaccio was already well-versed in many ancient myths and legends, together with folk stories which had long been part of the oral tradition in Europe.
First published around 1353, this text was conceived as a single long narrative set within a country house. This frame story sees ten people - seven women and three men - sheltering from the epidemic of the Black Death: a pandemic disease which at the time was ravaging Europe. To pass the time and forget about the grim and deathly realities of the plague, they take turns to tell one another stories.
The compendium Boccaccio put together is one of formidable and impressive variation. Divided into ten books, which are in turn divided into ten short novels each, we hear tales of erotic romance; of calamitous tragedy; of chivalric valiance; of raucous comedy filled with witty asides and jokes; and morality tales which teach memorable lessons on living.
Together with its literary value as an undoubted masterpiece of the early Renaissance in Italy, The Decameron includes many details of everyday life and customs in the 14th century. Its wording reflects the variety of slang and expressions spoken by Italian people of the era. Given that it was composed in a time of great superstition, there have been various numerological and mystical interpretations of the Decameron's text.
This edition is complete, with no omissions or abridgement of the text. It includes the Epilogue written by Boccaccio, and a full table of contents for ease of reference. The English text is derived from the authoritative translation of 1886 by John Payne which has itself been praised for its faith to the original Florentine dialect in which Boccaccio wrote The Decameron.