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John Florio — lexicographer, raconteur, and supposed model for Shakespeare’s schoolmaster Holofernes, in Love’s Labour’s Lost — was born in London in 1553 to an unidentified Englishwoman and an Italian Protestant who’d fled the Inquisition. Later that year Queen Mary I reinstated Catholicism, which sent the family packing for France, Germany, and Switzerland. Florio didn’t return to London until the reign of Elizabeth I, and subsequently served as Italian tutor to Queen Anne of Denmark, wife of James I, who gave the Church of England a Bible and so gave English to God. Florio’s posterity consists of twin ironies. The first is that despite compiling the first comprehensive Italian–English dictionary, Florio most likely never set foot in Italy. The second is that his most enduring translation happens to be from the French.

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