ISSN 2420-9767

Marco Polo’s 'Devisement dou monde' and Franco-Italian tradition

Alvise Andreose


The manuscript BNF fr. 1116 (F) is the best surviving witness of the Devisement dou monde both for the quality of its reading and because it offers the closest version to the original form of the text. The book was written by Marco Polo, who had travelled for 24 years in Asia in the last quarter of the thirteenth century, and Rustichello da Pisa, an Arthurian romance writer, while both were prisoners in Genoa in 1298. The language in which the work was first written – an Old French heavily sprinkled with morphological as well as lexical Italianisms – is considered as a representative example of «Franco-Italian». The great heterogeneity of the texts usually included within this category, however, might provide an incorrect impression as regards both the original linguistic form of the Devisement and the audience to whom it was originally addressed. The language of the MS BNF fr. 1116 does not display strong similarities to the hybrid language used in Northern Italy for chivalric literature, which is traditionally called «Franco-Italian» or «Franco-Venetan». Some linguistic correspondences enable us to connect the MS BNF fr. 1116 with the group of Old French manuscripts copied by Pisan scribes while incarcerated in Genoa prison, following the battle of Meloria (1284). The fragment of the Devisement recently discovered by C. Concina appears to be very similar to F. Both graphic and phonetic evidences suggest that this witness, too, has to be localised to Tuscany.

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