Monday, January 27, 2020

The Florentine

Evlyn started up a project where folks would write up author avatars and the assorted Lovecraftian tomes they had authored. Since Evlyn has only recently returned to Twitter, I don't know if there's been any more talk or progress on it. Hopefully this will jumpstart other people to join in.

Domenico Frazzini

(b. 1460 d. 1516) 

Few details of Frazzini's life as a minor clerk in the Arte del Cambio survive. His poetry gained little traction in the Florence of his day and in the following centuries languished in obscurity. The fragments of his letters paint a picture of a man withdrawn from general social life for the company of a small circle of close friends, beset by fits of melancholy and chronic insomnia and with little love for the trade he found himself in. (From one of his letters: "How I hate the florin. I cannot think clearly with the clink of gold in my ears.") At some point in his early life he had intended to become a monk, but for unclear reasons chose a different path. Later documents contain spirited critique of church corruption. It was in the dreams and daydreams of the landscapes and inhabitants of fantastic worlds, and in the poetry inspired by them, that he found his great escape.

The date of Frazzini's death is known, but not the cause. It's suspected to be from complications caused by years of stress and lack of sleep.


The majority of Frazzini's works were destroyed during the Bonfire of the Vanities in 1497. The surviving poetry and letters were left in the care of his close friend, Giacomo Betori. These were then compiled into the form he is most known for.

The Little Dream Book / Piccolo Libro dei Sogni

  • Journey to the Moon - A comedic picaresque adventure wherein a peasant girl travels to the moon to free her betrothed, who was imprisoned there by horrible toadlike monsters. On her way she encounters a pair of Egyptian priests, an enchanted forest, a band of talking rats, and other such picaresque adventures. It is Frazzini's longest surviving work.
  • The Republic of Cats - A political satire where barely-renamed notable Florentines are rendered as cats deciding what to do while the owner of the house is away. Naturally, they come to no conclusions and all fall asleep long before the man's return.
  • The Androphagi - An account of the man-eaters who live "south of the world and below the world", as told by a visitor in their lands. The Court of the Marrow King is convened to throw a feast in the visitor's honor, and unable to contain his disgust the visitor flees through subterranean warrens, pursued by the Marrow King's soldiers and glimpsing even more horrific sights before reaching the safety of the sun above.
  • The Golden Lady - A short poem from Frazzini to his wife, expressing his affection and admiration for her. If nothing else, it seems that they were happy together.
  • Tambifilotopa - A nonsense poem describing the bizarre creatures that live in the enchanted forest featured in "Journey to the Moon".
  • Across the Burning Desert - A trading caravan is beset by water thieves, and the merchants find that the god they carry with them has gone silent. Ends in uncertainty as night falls and the moonlight reveals amorphous shapes among the rocks.
  • House of the Spider - The spider in question never appears, but the house and all its decrepitude are described in great detail. A pair of goat-eyed men from a distant duchy arrive to hunt down the spider (against the counsel of the townsfolk) and are last seen entering through the front door.
  • The Worms that Duel - A town suffers a devastating earthquake, caused by a pair of miles-long worms, one black and one white, fighting each other deep beneath the ground.
  • The Devil Arrives - A nameless Tuscan town is visited on Carnivale night by a man whose clothes are black are tar and whose scarf is red like a bloodied tongue. He offers boons to anyone who asks; those who accept the offer find themselves cursed by misfortune or madness. As he leaves, the man delivers a message from his "old master, blind, deaf and dumb" - but this is written in indecipherable scribbles.
  • Flight - An aging Frazzini in declining health describes his sleeping spirit flying out of his body and soaring over the lands he has explored in earlier years, holding on to a night's freedom before he must return to mortality.
  • Notes and Letters - Precisely that.


  • Original Manuscript - Handwritten. Everything that avoided the bonfire and made its way to Betori's care.
  • 1550 First Printing - Betori's grandson edits the surviving manuscripts into a single work and oversees a small printing of The Little Dream Book.
  • Translations
    • 1760 - Initial rediscovery and translation into English and French.
    • 1833 - Bowlderized run, no known surviving copies and they were awful anyway.
    • 1879 - A second, more faithful English translation. Treated as the standard, available on Gutenberg Project.
  • Modern translations
    • 1974 - A scholarly edition, with footnotes and everything.
    • 1999 - Republished version of the 1974 text.
    • 2017 - New English translation with the Italian on the opposing page. Has been translated into 9 additional languages. 


  1. SAN, Mythos, and spells left out because I am terrible at those.

    Fun fact: One of my great-great grandfathers was named Domenic Frazzini. All I was able to find out was that he was illiterate and signed his immigration papers with an X sometime in the late 1800s, but hey, this one's for you O ancestor of mine.

  2. Top Lovecraft adjacent post of the decade. Would like to know more about the modern publishers in particular.

  3. This one sounds extremely plausible. I expect the 1974 edition was from Dover, with one of their classic monotone covers. The 2017 version is clearly Taschen.

  4. I think I have the 1999 edition somewhere. My parents had the 1974 edition, but I drew on it and they were never seen again. They still talk to me etc. etc.

    Good stuff.

  5. The book review got hit again, didn't it?