Doo we offer thee anie wrong? Is it for thee to direct us, or for us to governe thee?

It was 1603 when John Florio published what is today considered not just a work of art, but the most important translation ever published during the Elizabethan period: the Essays of Montaigne. Florio’s Herculean project started in 1598, when he was residing in the house of Lady Anne Harington. She was a cousin by marriage of Sir John Harington, the translator of Ariosto. John Florio, in his “Epistle Dedicatorie” explained that at the charge of Sir Edward Wotton he undertook the translation of one of Montaigne’s three Essays. Later, Lady Harington, having read it, urged him on.


What is so special about this version of Montaigne’s Essays? It contains hand written annotations by the author himself: John Florio, who corrected some passages of his translation, adding missing lines, changing words and re-writing sentences. It is possible John Florio had another copy by his side of his translation of the Essays when corrected this copy. Another special feature of this copy is to look at John Florio’s handwriting: small, rounded, neat. It is also interesting to notice some changes made by Florio and not present in the original version of the Essays translated by him.


John Florio was famous for his translations in which he added his strong and creative style. Montaigne’s “L’entree libre aux soldats” for example, becomes “the needie, bloudthirstie and prey-greedie soldiers.” Or “D’une voix tremblante” becomes “With a faint-trembling voyce and selfe-accusing looke”. In any situation it is the element of contrast that focus his attention, and he develops them with the instinct of the dramatist, doing everything he can to heighten the effect.

This copy contains Florio’s corrections as well as some changes that do not appear in the original copy of Montaigne’s Essays, words and sentences not published by the author in the original version. This copy of Florio’s Essays is today at the Morgan Library in New York.

Below you can find the full transcript of most of the annotations written by John Florio in his personal copy of the First Book of Montaigne’s Essays. John Florio’s annotations and corrections are reported in bold with an asterisk. Sometimes he adds a personal drawing to add a much longer annotation at the bottom of the page:


On page 5, after Epicurus doth dispenses John Florio corrects the typographical mistake, adding *with* his sage and writing *or wise man* from all foresight and care of the future, which is not present in the original version of his translation.

On Page 8 after his execution, the original version has “But fortune some yeares after punished him alike, and made him taste of the verie same sauce.” Instead, in this version, John Florio writes: *But fortune som yeares after payde them home with the like measure againe* which is not present in the original version.

On page 39, after of destinie, John Florio corrects the sentence by writing at the bottom of the page: *Doo we offer thee anie wrong? Is it for thee to direct us, or for us to governe thee?* which is present in the original version.

On page 44, he writes *decoction?* instead of imposture

On page 45 John Florio corrects the sentence by writing at the bottom of the page: *I wot not what my inscience doth concerning this subiect I enter sometimes into conceite*. 1

On page 53 after God what John Florio adds *they should* and after cary *them* away.

On page 55 he corrects followeth with *following*.

On page 68 after necke John Florio adds *but feele them*

On page 76 Florio adds *with ambition

On page 84 he writes *facilitie* instead of felicitie.

On page 92 he correts imagination with *generation*.

On page 94 John Florio corrects “customes” with *behaviour*

On page 109 John Florio adds *king before Clovis

On page 165 John Florio makes two corrections: he adds *him before and to that of Theodorus. While in the last sentence of the chapter, after Our owne condition is as ridiculous, as risible, the original version has as much to be laught at, as able to laugh. Here he makes a slight change, writing: *to be laugh-at, as to to laugh at others.*

More corrections of the other two books of Montaigne’s Essays translated by John Florio with his personal annotations are coming soon.


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John Florio & Montaigne's Essays: The annotated Copy by Iannaccone Marianna is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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How to cite this entry:

Iannaccone Marianna , “Resolute John Florio” “John Florio and Montaigne’s Essays: The annotated copy”; URL=””

  1.  A special thank goes to Dr Hester Lees-Jeffries and Jonathan Bate who helped decipher the words ‘I enter’
Giovanni Florio, known as John Florio, is recognised as the most important humanist in Renaissance's England.

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