John Florio



Frances A. Yates, John Florio: The Life of an Italian in Shakespeare's England (Cambridge, 1934).


Autograph Manuscripts, Inscriptions and Copies

Florio claims a place in British literary history chiefly through his translation of Montaigne's Essays (London, 1603). No manuscript of this work is known, although extracts can be found in some seventeenth-century miscellanies (e.g. FloJ 2.5-2.8). Two other works of Florio, however, both in his native Italian, are preserved in his own hand (FloJ 1-2). The first of these, Giardino di recreatione, has an interesting history, since it passed through the hands of Matthew Gwinne, Samuel Daniel (probably), Sir Edward Dyer, and Katherine Philips, among others, while the second, an Italian translation of Basilicon Doron, was probably presented to King James I.

In addition, there are two known (though currently untraced) printed exempla of works by Florio containing his presentation inscriptions to Sir Thomas Egerton, later Lord Ellesmere (FloJ 5-6), one of them with his autograph copy of a sonnet to Egerton composed by Florio's friend Mathew Gwinne.


There are also recorded four autograph letters by Florio (FloJ 7-10). For other letters written to him, or relating to him, see Warren Boutcher, ‘“A French Dexterity, & an Italian Confidence”: New Documents on John Florio, Learned Strangers and Protestant Humanist Study of Modern Languages in Renaissance England from c.1547 to c.1625’, Reformation, 2 (1997), 39-109.

Printed Works Annotated by Early Readers

Some printed exempla of Florio's Montaigne's Essays contain annotations by early readers, including Ben Jonson (his exemplum now in the British Library, C. 28.m.8) and an exemplum, copiously annotated in an anonymous hand, in the Folger (MS V.b.327) once owned by Edward Lumsden and Mrs Jules Furthman. The Folger also has (STC 11097 Copy 4) an exemplum of Giardino di recreatione copiously annotated in a neat italic hand. For the exemplum of Florio his First Fruites (London, 1578) annotated by Gabriel Harvey, see *HvG 79.

Peter Beal