Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Villette in Italy, translations and reprints

Charlotte Brontë’s Villette has remained almost unknown for more than a century after its publication in Italy to most critics and writers. Its very first complete translation into Italian dates back to March 1962 when Rizzoli published the novel in B.U.R. (Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli). It was translated by Marcella Hannau Pavolini, at the time a well-known translator of English and American novels never read till then in the Italian language. She was the poet Corrado Pavolini’s wife and was considered ‘a very intelligent woman.’ Her only Brontë translation was Villette which she entitled Collegio Femminile and it was unabridged since the whole text was reproduced, with the French sentences translated in notes and a short introduction by Mrs. Hannau Pavolini herself. This first Italian edition appeared in two little (16 cm) volumes for a total of 597 pages, with no picture on the cover (figs. 1 and 1a).


The cover of the 1962 Collegio Femminile, with and
without the dust wrappers

In the same year 1962 the second edition of an abridged version of the same novel entitled Miss Lucy (fig. 2) appeared for the publishing house Capitol, from Bologna, after a first edition from 1960 (522 pp.). It was translated by Valentina Bianconcini, who in those years was also the translator of other abridged teenager versions of the Brontë novels (1).

The cover of the 1960/1962 Miss Lucy

In 1996 a new unabridged Italian version of Charlotte Brontë’s last novel appeared with its original title, Villette, published by Fazi Editore and translated by Simone Caltabellota with a preface by Antonella Anedda (fig. 3). The translator, who at the time worked in the then almost unknown publishing house, is nowadays an Italian acclaimed editor and novelist but has never again translated other Brontë novels. In this translation however Charlotte’s French is not given in Italian. It has seen three reprints, the first in 2003 (a pocket edition, with a new cover) and the other two, in 2013 (634 pp) and 2014 (640 pp), with another new cover (fig. 4 and 5). The latter has been described in the Villette Cover top 6 article (as nr. 4).

The cover of the 2003 Fazi Villette
(Painting: Francesco Hayez-Penitent 
Mary Magdalena (1825))

The cover of the 2013/2014 Fazi Villette
(Painting: Ann Mary Newton 
-Selfportrait (prob. early 1860s))


In 1997 a further edition of Villette was published by Frassinelli with the title L’Angelo della Tempesta (696 pp., fig. 6), whose translator and editor was Lucio Angelini, a famous Italian writer and translator. In this one Charlotte’s French sentences are translated in the notes at the end of the book. This translation  was considered by Aldo Busi, by then chief editor at Frassinelli, ‘the most beautiful and musical of Angelini’s, a masterpiece to use in any Italian translation course’. L’Angelo della Tempesta has been reprinted in March 2016 by Oscar Classici Mondadori (704 pp.,fig. 7).

The cover of the 1997
L'Angelo della Tempesta
The cover of the 2016
L'Angelo della Tempesta
(Painting: John Everett Millais 
-Portrait of a girl (Sophie Gray) (1857))

A new reprint of Villette with this same title, published by Newton Compton (MiniMammuth) with the original translation by Marcella Hannau Pavolini (fig. 8) is also on the Italian book market from 2016 (without any introduction, 510 pp.), due to the recent growing interest in Charlotte Brontë’s beautiful last novel.

The cover of the 2016 Newton
Compton Villette

(1) Sempre con te (Agnes Grey), 1960, Quel dolce sorriso (The Professor), 1961, La misteriosa signora Graham (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall), 1962.

Maddalena De Leo

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