I was walking by the Linea d’Acqua bookstore when this caught my eye:
Okay, so it’s some old book. But one name jumped out at me.
I was in Venice to study Italian but also to finish up some research on Venetian women. Imagine my shock when I spotted a book by one of the women I’m writing about: Luisa Bergalli Gozzi. I had already read a number of biographies and analytical pieces about her, including a list of her works. This book was not even mentioned!
I couldn’t just walk by, even though I knew that this book probably cost more than my entire trip to Venice and I’d never be able to purchase it. I had to be buzzed into the store. The clerk was exceedingly nice. Without a blink, she let me handle the book, turn pages, even take photographs (yes, I asked first). I expected to have to put on gloves or have her show me pages, but no. I didn’t ask the price, though.
Luisa Bergalli Gozzi was a writer and translator living in the 1700s. She wrote a number of plays that premiered in Venice at the Teatro San Moise and the Sant’Angelo. In fact, she and her playwright husband Gasparo Gozzi managed the Sant’Angelo for a while. Luisa incorporated everyday objects into her plays, like brooms and aprons, before Carlo Goldoni, though he gets the credit for this reform.
One of her greatest contributions, though, is her anthology of women poets. In 1726 she published Poetic Compositions of the Most Famous Women Poets of all Ages, which contained 250 women poets. Its breadth surpassed anything that had come before it, with poems collected from private collections, church documents, and unpublished works. She basically gave immortality to a couple generations of women writers who had been ignored or who would otherwise have been forgotten. Of course, she also included some of the recognized female poets of her day: Gaspara Stampa, Veronica Franco, Isabella Andreini, to name not even a handful.
I’ll have a whole chapter on Luisa Bergalli Gozzi in my forthcoming book, so if you want to know more, don’t go to Wikipedia! Be patient for just a few more months and I’ll give you all the details.