The editors have selected 33 of the 100 tales, including at least two from each of the ten days of storytelling. Included as well are Boccaccio's general introduction and conclusion to the work, as well as the introduction and conclusion to the first day; the reader is thus provided with a real sense of the Decameron's framing narrative. In selecting from among the tales themselves, the editors have looked to include the most interesting, the most representative, and the most widely taught of the tales, as well as a few (such as X.8, on the theme of perfect friendship) that are less familiar but that the editors feel to be deserving of wider circulation.
The Beecher and Ciavolella translation conveys some sense of the often extended structures of Boccaccio's sentences, and a real sense as well of the different registers Boccaccio uses, from the often formal tone of the framing narrative to the highly colloquial feel of the dialogue in many of the more bawdy tales. Throughout, the translators have chosen language that makes this classic work accessible to twenty-first-century undergraduates.
The edition includes extensive explanatory notes and a concise but wide-ranging introduction to Boccaccio's life and times, as well as to the Decameron itself. A unique selection of contextual materials concludes the volume; these include documentary accounts and illustrations of the Black Death in Florence; examples of source materials that Boccaccio drew on; examples from later medieval and early modern literature (both in Italy and in England) of work that was heavily influenced by the Decameron; documents (including Petrarch's famous comments about the tale of Patient Griselda) providing a sense of the early reception history of the work; and a variety of illustrations from early manuscripts of the Decameron. Like the versions provided of the Boccaccio tales themselves, the texts in this selection of "In Context" materials have been newly translated for this edition.