BOCCACCIO, Giovanni.

The Decameron.

Now first completely done into English prose and verse by John Payne.

London: Printed by private subscription and for private circulation only, 1886 Stock Code: 145739
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First Payne edition, number 340 of 750 copies on Holland paper, in the rare jackets, an unrecorded variant in which the imprint on the title pages do not state that it was printed "for the Villon Society". "A landmark in the history of the Decameron in English, and the very first complete and unexpurgated version" (Armstrong, p. 259).

A linguistic scholar and prolific translator, Payne (1842-1916) rendered Fench, German, Arabic, Persian, and Turkish texts into English, notably the Diwan Hafez and the Arabian Nights, through which he met and befriended the orientalist and explorer Sir Richard Burton. In a November 1881 letter to the Athenaeum about his own unfinished work on the Arabian Nights, Burton wrote "I rejoice to see that Mr. Payne has addressed himself to a realistic translation without 'abridgements or suppressions'... I want to see that the book has fair-play; and if it is not treated as it deserves I shall still have to print my own version. His Villon, however, makes me hope for the best" (cited in Thomas Wright, "The life of John Payne", 1919, p. 72). Payne had founded the Villon Society in 1878 to publish his first complete translation of the French poet François Villon, and his work on this Decameron was just as thorough and celebrated. G. H. McWiliam, in his 1971 edition of the Decameron, called Payne's version of Boccaccio's masterpiece "splendidly scrupulous", and notes its "sonorous and self-conscious Pre-Raphaelite vocabulary".

Armstrong notes that "the privately printed edition was issued as a limited edition of 750 copies in two different de luxe formats: one, the "Holland Paper" edition, with 11 illustrations as here by the famous French engraver Léopold Flameng, and one without".

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3 volumes, large octavo. Original deluxe binding in white cloth-backed red cloth boards, titles to spines and front boards in gilt, red silk page markers, top edges gilt, others untrimmed. With the red cloth dust jackets.


11 etched plates (including frontispieces) by Léopold Flameng, each mounted on white heavy paper and with a captioned tissue-guard.


Water stains to foot of spines and jackets with slight colour transfer from jackets, spine ends a little bumped, the bindings otherwise sound and unfaded, front hinge of vol. 3 broken but holding, expert repairs to neat closed tear to pp. 165-8 affecting 4 lines of text, occasional spotting to vols 2 and 3 not affecting plates, expert repair to small marginal tear of "The Cruel Beauty's Punishment" plate p. 217 in vol. 2 but not affecting the illustration, else internally fresh. A very good copy in the bright jackets, spines a little sunned, light wear to corners, corresponding water stains to card backing's foot of spines.


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