Understanding the reasons why French texts were copied, created, and perpetuated in Italy requires not only a consideration of each text, but also the contexts in which these works appear. Evidence for circulation of French texts on Italian soil comes primarily by examining where the manuscripts containing these texts were produced and ultimately housed. Although there are areas of concentrated manuscript production - in Genoa, Bologna, Venice, and Naples, for example -, manuscripts containing French texts were also produced in Rome, Florence, Padua, or Milan, albeit in smaller quantities. Some of the Italian writers of French, including Brunetto Latini and Martin da Canal, qualified their choice using French in their works by claiming that the French language circulated widely, and even, as da Canal states, “throughout the world.” When available, information on the provenance of each manuscript has been provided on this site, to demonstrate how French texts traveled from one Italian locale or author/copyist to another.
What need were these French language texts fulfilling? Several French language manuscripts, for example, brought together multiple histories from classical sources, underscoring an contemporary desire of Italians to know more about those whom they considered their direct ancestors, who had inhabited the peninsula centuries before.Other compilations attest to the continued interest in Arthurian romance into the late fourteenth century, or a desire for contemporary French works in Italy. Each manuscript provides evidence for the various functions of French and French texts during the time they were produced in Italy.
Further manuscripts will be added to this list as the site develops.