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What is Authorial Philology?

Giulia Raboni
Paola Italia


Paola Italia et Giulia Raboni

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1Almost a century after its birth, and after the publication of many editions across the whole gamut of Italian literature, authorial philology has only recently been recognized as an autonomous discipline — as one separate from traditional philology (philology of the copy, which specifically studies variants introduced through transmission); as having its own history and its own methodologies; and as able to provide increasingly refined research tools that can deepen our knowledge of texts through the analysis of their internal history. In this way, authorial philology has led to critical achievements of major note.

2This renewed interest is due, on one hand, to the high degree of theoretical evolution achieved by the discipline in the context of Italian literature, in which pioneering critical editions have been produced and have established themselves as effective reference models even with regard to the European scene. This interest is also due, on the other hand, to the ever-growing technical developments in the methodologies by which variants are represented and in the tools for reproducing manuscripts. In recent years, such tools and methodologies, with the introduction of the digitalization of images, have revolutionized the work of philologists, offering far superior fidelity compared to the physical reproductions of the past, and giving the possibility to work interactively on the image, not only by enlarging single papers or details, but also through the synoptic vision of witnesses housed in archives and libraries that are often very far apart. Also notable here are innovations in applying graphic contrast filters that allow the researcher to achieve visual results that are far superior even to those provided by the direct consultation of the manuscript.

3This book aims to provide the first synthetic overview of this discipline, charted through its history (see Chapter 1), which has not yet been systematically investigated so far, through the methods (see Chapter 2) used in daily philological work, and above all through concrete examples set out in chronological order (see Chapter 3). We will examine the problem of authorial variants in critical editions of some of the most important works of Italian literature, from the fourteenth to the twentieth century, from Petrarch’s Codice degli abbozzi to the Rime d’amore by Torquato Tasso, from Giacomo Leopardi’s Canti to Alessandro Manzoni’s Fermo e Lucia, and onto Carlo Emilio Gadda’s novels and short stories. In an Italian context, these authors’ names are intricately bound up with the work of the philologists Gianfranco Contini and Dante Isella, who promoted a fruitful interaction between criticism of variants and authorial philology, with Isella developing this interaction into a full-fledged philological discipline with its own system of representation in his philological work and teaching. The development of this discipline is also indebted to the major achievements of the philological school of Pavia. We, the authors of this book, carried out our training in Pavia, where we found a stimulating environment enlivened by the contributions of major scholars such as Cesare Bozzetti, Franco Gavazzeni, Luigi Poma and Cesare Segre. There, with many of our fellow students we gathered the fruits of that active decade between the end of the sixties and early eighties, a period recalled by Isella himself in a lecture held in Pavia in 1999.

4On that occasion, Isella expressed the hope that someone ‘would take the initiative to historicize the overall picture and carefully retrace the times and the facts, identifying the directions in which we have been going so far and recognizing the specific character of the Italian school in relation to the theoretical positions and editorial initiatives of other countries such as Germany, France and Spain’ (Isella 2009a: 241). He also recalled how most editions of ‘in fieri texts’ were constituted ‘by works undertaken in the Pavia area’, works that had allowed the development of ‘ecdotic models and criteria that can be perfectly used without us having to invent each time different, untested solutions’ (ibid.: 244). This book aims to offer a first contribution to this yet unwritten history, and to also act as a token of gratitude for such a great teacher.

5Milan, 2010


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