Frescobaldi, Fiammetta (1523-1586)
Fiammetta Frescobaldi was born in Florence on January 17, 1523, one of the six children of Lamberto Frescobaldi and Francesca Morelli. She was christened Brigida but took the name Fiammetta when she entered the Dominican convent of San Jacopo di Ripoli in Florence in 1536. She professed her vows in July of 1537. At twenty-five she was taken ill and became lame in one foot and unable to walk. From that time on to make herself useful to her convent sisters she dedicated herself to writing and translating for them. Convent documents tell us that she was self-taught and that her memory and her mind were sharp. She obtained books for herself and the convent through relatives (especially from a brother) and friends; she translated many of them, from others she drew information with which she made compilations for the convent library. San Jacopo had perhaps a better library than many convents, since it had been the site of one of the first printing presses in Florence in the 1470s.
Her works include a chronicle of the Dominican order from the birth of St. Dominic in 1170 to 1579, and a diary in which she documented life in her convent from 1575 until a few days before her death in 1586. She translated and compiled works on a wide variety of subjects, history (she made a reduced version of Guicciardini's History of Italy, which is lost today), saints lives, geographic descriptions of most of the known world (based on letters, travel journals, and contemporary studies of natural history); two of these in the genre of the selva (Selva di cose diverse and Prato fiorito) contain notions of ancient history, geography, customs of various peoples, descriptions of art and architecture, and in one there is a brief Spanish grammar with phrases for the use of nuns. She always scrupulously cited her sources which included Columbus, Vespucci, Cortes, Pizzarro, Oviedo y Valdes, Palladio, Vasari, Lorenzo Surius, and others. None of her work has been published but much of it survives in very fragile manuscripts, penned by her own careful, beautiful hand with title pages and colophons in a form that imitated that of printed books. She is mentioned in some early works of erudition, but primarily as a translator, though her "translations" are compilations of many sources and very different from any one of them. She was first studied by Giovanna Pierattini, who published several articles on her between 1939 and 1941 in Memorie domenicane.
Works by Fiammetta Frescobaldi:
Submitted by Elissa B. Weaver, The University of Chicago, 2003.
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