On the Sixth Day

Charles Nicholl

  • Petrarch: Everywhere a Wanderer by Christopher Celenza
    Reaktion, 224 pp, £15.95, October 2017, ISBN 978 1 78023 838 8

Francesco Petrarca, known in English as Petrarch, is one of the tre corone – the ‘three crowns’ – of early Italian literature. There was a brief period when all three were alive: Dante died in 1321, when Petrarch was 17 and Boccaccio eight; the younger writers worked in his shadow. They were all Florentine, and in the phrase’s first coinage they were the ‘three crowns of Florence’. This was both a statement of civic pride (conveniently forgetting that both Dante and Petrarch had troubled relations with the city) and a celebration of their role in making Tuscan the pre-eminent language of Italian culture and scholarship.

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