Sunday, 24 February 2008

The Oxford Library of Italian Classics 1961 - 1966

General Editor: Archibald Colquhoun.

Between 1961 and 1966 Oxford University Press with the support of the Italian Institute and the Anglo-Italian Cultural Commission published 13 volumes in a series titled: The Oxford Library of Italian Classics. In the first year 5 titles were produced bearing the following raison d’etre on the back of the dust jacket:

With the end of the Second World War, large numbers of young ex-servicemen returned from Italy with a new awareness of Italian art and culture. For the first time since the turn of the century contemporary Italian writers became widely read, and the names of a brilliant new school became familiar to English readers. Nowadays good translations of modern Italian writers, known and little known, are familiar features of every public library.

In the early fifties came the beginning of an increased interest also in Italian writing of the past, notably with the translation into English of two classic works, Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi and Ippolito Nievo’s Le confessioni di un ottuagenerio. But there remained great gaps of what was available of a rich and varied literature. Machiavelli, for instance, was represented by numerous versions of Il principe and Discorsi while his plays and other literary works were comparatively neglected. Alfieri’s Vita and Pellico’s Le mie prigioni, which represented Italy to generations of our ancestors, were almost unknown except to specialists.

The object of the series is, principally, to remedy these omissions but there will also be room for new translations of familiar works when the opportunity occurs of including one of exceptional quality. Thus, while three of the first five volumes present works which are virtually unknown to English readers there is also a remarkable new translation, in terza rima, of Dante’s Inferno.

After the initial five volumes the general series description was dropped from the back of the dust jacket and only retained as a series entry: The Oxford library of Italian Classics; General Editor: Archibald Colquhoun, on the half-title page. The final two volumes by Pirandello and Leopardi were not published under the general editorship of Archibald Colquhoun – no series editor is named.

The first five volumes were printed in Italy by Officine Grafiche Fratelli Stianti Sancasciano Val Di Pesa (Florence), and the remainder by Richard Clay and Company Ltd, Bungay, Suffolk. In 1965 they became Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press), Ltd for Francesco Guicciardini’s Selected writings, and Leopardi’s Selected prose and poetry. The Imprint data would appear to suggest that as the former volume by Guicciardini details both the series editor: Archibald Colquhoun and The Chaucer Press, but the Pirandello only acknowledges the series editor on the back cover. The final volume in the series, Leopardi, Selected prose and poetry, makes no acknowledgement of Colquhoun as the series editor whatsoever. This may indicate that although printed (and possibly published) before the Guicciardini it was either that Colquhoun did not commission the Pirandello or the Leopardi or he stopped editing the series prior to its completion for some other reason. Of course there is another solution, his exclusion was merely a publisher’s or printer’s error.

The Series:


Dante Alighieri [1265 – 1321]
The Inferno from La Divina Commedia, translated from the text established by La Societa Dantesca Italiana by Warwick Chipman, Introduction and notes by Fr Kenelm Foster. London: Oxford University Press, 1961. Printed in Italy by Officine Grafiche Fratelli Stianti Sancasciano Val Di Pesa (Florence), pp. xxviii, 151.

Italian regional tales of the nineteenth century selected and introduced by Archibald Colquhoun and Neville Rogers and translated by Bernard Wall, Archibald Colquhoun, Lovett F Edwards, Isabel Quigly, Constance Hutton, Neville Rogers, Angus Davidson, W J Strachan, Adeline Hartcup, Anthony Rhodes, George Arthurson. London, Oxford University Press, 1961. Printed in Italy by Officine Grafiche Fratelli Stianti Sancasciano Val Di Pesa (Florence), pp. xv, 268.

[Contents: Iginio Ugo Tarchetti (1841-69): The ghost in the raspberry bush, translated by Bernard Wall; Camillo Boito (1836-1914): A thing apart, translated by Archibald Colquhoun; Roberto Sacchetti (1847-81): Wedding eve, translated by Lovett F Edwards; Giovanni Verga (1840-1922): Cavalleria Rusticana, translated by Archibald Colquhoun; Edmondo De Amicis (1846-1908): Carmela, translated by Isabel Quigly; Salvatore Di Giacomo (1864-1934): Pasquino, translated by Constance Hutton; Renato Fucini (1843-1922): The witch. The monument, translated by Neville Rogers; Matilde Serao (1856-1927): Checchina’s virtue, translated by Angus Davidson; Edoardo Scarfoglio (1860-1917): The Phrynè case, translated by W J Strachan; Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863-1938): The hero, translated by Adeline Hartcup, The vigil, translated by Anthony Rhodes; Grazia Deledda (1875-1936): The sorcerer, translated by by George Arthurson.]

Machiavelli, Niccolò [1469 – 1527]
The literary works of Machiavelli: Mandragola, Clizia, A dialogue on language, Belfagor, with selections from the private correspondence edited and translated by J R Hale. London: Oxford University Press, 1961. Printed in Italy by Officine Grafiche Fratelli Stianti Sancasciano Val Di Pesa (Florence), pp. xxvi, 202.

Goldoni, Carlo [1707 – 1793]
Three comedies: Mine Hostess (La Locandiera), translated by Clifford Bax; The Boors (I Rusteghi), translated by I M Rawson; The Fan (Il Ventaglio) translated by Eleanor & Herbert Farjeon; introduced by Gabriele Baldini. London: Oxford University Press, 1961. Printed in Italy by Officine Grafiche Fratelli Stianti Sancasciano Val Di Pesa (Florence), pp. xxvii, 293.

Alfieri, Vittorio [1749 – 1803]
Memoirs: the anonymous translation from the Italian of 1810, revised and introduced by E R Vincent. London: Oxford University Press, 1961. Printed in Italy by Officine Grafiche Fratelli Stianti Sancasciano Val Di Pesa (Florence), pp. xix, 310.


Abba, Giuseppe Cesare [1838 – 1910]
The diary of one of Garibaldi’s Thousand, translated with an introduction by E R Vincent. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. pp.xxi, 166.

Fogazzaro, Antonio [1842 – 1911]
The little world of the past, translated by W J Strachan with an introduction by Tommaso Gallarati Scotti. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. pp.xii, 358.

Gozzi, Carlo [1720 – 1806]
Useless memoirs, the translation of John Aldington Symonds, edited, revised and abridged by Philip Horne with an introduction by Harold Acton. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. pp. xxiv, 285.


Pellico, Silvio [1788 – 1854]
My prisons, translated and introduced with notes by I G Capaldi. Foreword by Archibald Colquhoun. London: Oxford University Press, 1963. pp. xxiv. 199.


Manzoni, Alessandro [1785 – 1873]
The coloumn of Infamy. Prefaced by Cesare Beccaria’s Of crimes and punishments. Translated [respectively] by Kenelm Foster and Jane Grigson. With an introduction by A.P. d’Entrèves. London: Oxford University Press, 1964. pp. xxii, 212,


Guicciardini, Francesco [1483 – 1540]
Selected writings, edited and introduced by Cecil Grayson. Translated by Margaret Grayson. London: Oxford University Press., 1965, pp. xix, 170.

Pirandello, Luigi [1867 – 1936]
Short stories, selected, translated and introduced by Frederick May. London: Oxford University Press, 1965. pp. xxxvi, 260.


Leopardi, Giacomo
[1798 – 1837]
Selected prose and poetry, edited, translated and introduced by Iris Origo and John Heath-Stubbs. London: Oxford University press, pp. xiii, 312.


harrybland said...

I was the driver for Archibald Colquhoun throughout the war in Italy. He died in 1964 but I have not been able to find an obituary for him or for that matter much else. I am writing my memoirs and would like to discuss the great role he played in the war of liberation in Italy. Does anyone remember him and can give me any information about his work before the war and afterit. Thank you. Harry Bland

Feliks Crouch said...

Dear Harry,

I searched the net for biographical data re. Colquhoun & drew a blank. In the end I wrote to Martin Maw at OUP [] and received this reply:

'We have several files involving work by Colquhoun, including 2 on the Italian Classics' series .

These don't reveal very much biographical information. Colquhoun's main address in the 1960s was a flat at Allingham Castle in Kent, although several letters reveal time spent in Rome, with a detour to Sicily: a film crew (presumably Visconti's) wanted him to translate "The Leopard." This must have led to his publication of the standard English version of the text.

You would be most welcome to visit OUP and examine the files for yourself. Please let me know if you would like to do this, and I will give you more information.

- best wishes,

Dr. Martin Maw,
Oxford University Press.

I've not yet been to look at the files - but am still hoping to make time to do so - but not until September. I'll have another dig around - as an Information Librarian I really should be able to find something. Let me know how you get on.