Translation of the Il Papa Manuscript

Translation notes

There are a few notations in the text of the translation.

We do not give word-to-word correspondance between original and translation - such would make little sense, as there isn't always a word-to-word correspondence between Italian and English. Instead, we break the text up into individual instructions. The page formatting should show a clear correspondence between our transcription of the original Italian, and our translation.

The reader often will encounter in our transcription the notation, "(n)". This notation means an n is indicated, not by writing out the letter, but by putting a macron over the following vowel. This is a standard abbrebiation in manuscripts of the time. Similar, other text in parentheses in the transcription indicates that the text is abbreviated in the original (e.g., "(m)" for a similar macron, "(questo)" for a q and a squiggly z, surmounted by an o).

Line numbers are specified as triplets: A:B:C, where A specifies the leaf, B the page, and C the line within that page. The leaf and page specification is somewhat redundant, but more information seemed better tha less.

Punctuation and Sentence Structure

The original text of the manuscript contains very little in the way of capital letters or punctuation. Treated literally, much of the text would be impossibly long run-on sentences. We have chosen, instead, to take the opposite course, and break the text up into as small units of meaning as possible, using textual clues. The biggest such clues are the uses of dipoi (meaning “then...”) and e (meaning “and...”). Dipoi we believe pretty much universally introduces a new phrase. E is used less consistently, but when one eliminates the cases where it is joining two obvious words, most of the time, it seems to be used to introduce a new phrase. If one wants to look for other interpretations, just turn what we have written as adjoining sentences into one run-on sentence. Doing so should allow more conceptual latitude for alternatives without loss of accuracy.

So as not to lose any information, we have indicated what few capitals there are in the original by putting the first word (in translation) of the sentence containing the words so capitalized in bold in our version. We don’t just bold the first letter, so that these points are more easily found, and we bold the first word in the sentence, rather than the exact word, as word order can differ between Italian and English. These capitalized words also seem to correspond to the beginnings of paragraphs in the original. We saw a theory, we believe in an article by Cain (unfortunately we lost the reference, but if it was the Cain article, and not a Sparti article, it was in one of the Historical Dance Society proceedings since Cain has been publishing on the subject) that these capitals correspond to the beginning of sections in the music and in the dance.


Both adreto (modern: addietro or a dietro) and indreto (modern: indietro or in dietro) essentially mean “back” or “backwards” (depending on context). However, the Grande dizionario della lingua italiana (vol. [x], pp. 800-802) offers as sense #2 for indietro, “al luogo di origine; al punto di partenza”, indicating that indietro also has a meaning of retracing one’s steps, of returning to the point of departure. No such sense is given for addietro.

Alternatively, a native speaker of Italian has told us that in dietro is backwards in a spatial sense, a dietro, in a conceptual sense.

However, before taking this difference too seriously, one should note there are cases, such as in Non mi parto, 4:8:21-22 and 4:8:24-25 where the two seem to be used interchangeably. Though on the third hand, we can come up with interpretations even for this section where the meanings are different.

It may be that any such fine interpretations should be taken with a grain of salt, but this is best left to the informed discretion of the reconstructor.


This term (also sometimes (in)contro al(la) [x]) has a root of contra, “opposite” or “against”. The term seems to occur most commonly where the lady (middle person of a trio) has separated from the men, and they are facing each other across a space, and they are moving towards one another, perhaps meaning “facing the opposite direction” - i.e. towards one another. Sometimes they actually meet at the end of the given steps, and sometimes it is not specified that they do. It is not impossible that they are going incontro one another by moving farther apart, except that sometimes the text explicitly states that they come beside one another. By contrast, voltinsi faccia (“they turn their faces”) and like expressions seem to denote that they have turned away from one another and are moving apart.

Passo, Volta, Tempo

These three words present similar problems: they all seem to have a sense that is dance jargon, and a sense that is a simple, everyday word.

We have probably treated passo ("step") the most rigorously; our goal was to assume jargon unless it was very clearly otherwise.

Volta ("turn") and ("time") we have tried to be more discerning, attempting translate them when they are used as a simple word, and leave them as is when we consider their usage to be jargon. If we have decided wrong (which we surely have somewhere), we appologize.

The verb form of volta, voltare, we have attempted always to translate.


Links to each individual dance in the manuscript: