Named for Mozart’s scandal-ridden but talented librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838), the Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library aims to translate and publish an organic series of 100 works by Italian authors who have made significant literary, philosophical, juridical, and historical contributions to the world of international culture. Da Ponte spent the last 33 years of his life in the U.S. and was the first teacher of Italian language and literature in the United States. The Library’s collection—the first of its kind in North America—is designed to include:
- Works currently unavailable in English or available in inadequate translations
- Works by authors who have contributed to the dialogue between Anglo-American and Italian cultures
- Works by Italian humanists that have influenced Anglo-American letters
- Works by non-Italian authors that have been instrumental in affecting the image of Italy in the world
Currently, the Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library collection comprises nearly 20 books (published by University of Toronto Press) on a wide array of subjects, from 19th century Italian gastronomy and the history of 15th-century Florence to essays on crime and punishment in Western civilization. Among several soon to be published is A Worlde of Wordes, the first comprehensive large-size bilingual Italian-English dictionary published in 1598 by John Florio, one of Elizabethan England’s most prominent linguists and educators. This edition of A Worlde of Wordes shows Florio at work at the time of great popularity of the Italian language in England, highlighting his love of words and life-long dedication to promoting Italian language and culture abroad.
The series’ editors are Professor Ciavolella and Luigi Ballerini, emeritus professor of Italian. Throughout each project, Ballerini and Ciavolella have worked closely with UCLA graduate students, training them in the translation process.
The Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library has also been gifted a three-year grant from the esteemed National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), a nonprofit educational foundation dedicated to preserving Italian American culture and heritage. NIAF is the first Da Ponte sponsor outside of Italy and is now in the distinguished company of Fondazione Cassamarca of Treviso, Italy, the Italian Cultural Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Ministry of Arts and Culture.
Founded in 1975, NIAF is an important resource for the Italian American community and offers educational and youth programs including scholarships, grants, heritage travel, and mentoring. NIAF is also a nonpartisan voice for Italian Americans in Washington, D.C. and works closely with the Italian American Congressional Delegation and the White House. NIAF’s mission includes advancing U.S.-Italy business, political, and cultural relations, and the NIAF Business Council promotes networking with corporate leaders.
“We have no empire, such as did the Romans, so powerful that subject cities spontaneously sought to emulate their rulers’ speech…Nonetheless it can clearly be seen how, in our present times, many diverse people of intelligence and refinement, outside Italy no less than within Italy, devote much effort and study to learning and speaking our language for no other reason than love.” -Giovan Battista Gelli, Ragionamento sulla lingua, 1551
“We are deeply grateful to the National Italian American Foundation, and extremely excited about our new partnership,” said Massimo Ciavolella, Franklin D. Murphy Professor of Italian Renaissance Studies and professor of comparative literature.