Edited by Silvia Stoyanova and Ben Johnston

Project Overview

The project of building a Digital Research Platform for Giacomo Leopardi’s collection of research notes known as Zibaldone di pensieri aims to facilitate the comprehensive analysis and performative interpretation of this fragmented text based on a digital model of its semantic organization. The project is premised on the hypotheses that Leopardi's indications of the semantic relations between the fragments by means of cross-references and thematic indexing would gain discursive articulation in the digital medium, and that its computational processing would give insight into the text's epistemic methods. Our editorial priorities have been to harvest Leopardi’s own semantic annotations; to reconstruct the Zibaldone’s intertextual networks based on quotations and bibliographic references; to provide users with tools to explore, align, and augment the text's potential narrative sequences. Among the project's further desiderata are a sophisticated concordance search, dynamic visualizations of the text's relational framework, modules for user annotation, a database of user-generated semantic indexing, an indexed critical bibliography on the text, links to a timeline of Leopardi's other writings and to other contextual information. The XML encoding of the text and its authorial indexes in TEI P5 allows to harvest their relationality and explore it in the research platform’s information window and through visualizations, such as statistical charts, histograms and network graphs, while the Platform Settings give users the option to display or hide layers of authorial and editorial markup according to their individual research objectives. The eXist XML server allows for Xquery processing and XSLT transformations of the files and offers Lucene full-text searching and a built-in web server. While the eXist XML database provides a full application framework, Drupal was used for the website interface. Custom PHP programming in Drupal pulls content from the eXist database and does any necessary processing on that content before displaying it to the user. With the addition of a few plug-in modules, the versatile Drupal content management system simplifies the addition of existing and future features, such as authentication, authorization, commenting, tagging, caching, and theming to the website.

For a detailed background of the project's research objectives and the technologies employed thus far, see the Editorial History and project Publications below. For information on the current status of the Platform functionality, see the User Guide.

Participants and Support

The Zibaldone project was initiated by Silvia Stoyanova (PhD in Italian Literature, Columbia University) and developed in collaboration with Ben Johnston (Senior Educational Technologist, Princeton University). The project has benefited from the consultant assistance of Dr. Clifford Wulfman (Center for Digital Humanities, Princeton University) and Prof. Christian Wildberg (Classics, Princeton University); from the editorial assistance of Stephen Blair, Emilio Capettini, Michael Hanley, Kathleen Galeano, Monica Gordillo, Gigi Stoyanova, Francesco Annibali; and from the computational programming assistance of Matthias Schneider, Mariona Coll Ardanuy, and Guoqian Xi. The project development has received support from Princeton University, the Trier Center for Digital Humanities, the University of Macerata, and volunteer work. The editor is thankful for the assistance of the staff at the Manuscripts and Rare Books Department at the National Library in Naples in July of 2014 – Emilia Ambra, Vincenzo Boni, Maria Rascaglia, Gabriella Mansi, and for the feedback of Prof. Laura Melosi (University of Macerata) and the students enrolled in her Italian Literature course in the Fall of 2016.

Feedback / Volunteer

If you have comments, suggestions, would like to report any mistakes, or would like to volunteer on the project as editor or developer, please email Silvia Stoyanova (sms116 [at] caa [dot] columbia [dot] edu).


Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone as a digital research platform: a methodological proposal for its semantic reconstruction and discursive mediation. Silvia Stoyanova. In Semicerchio: rivista di poesia comparata, LIII, 02/2016, pp. 98-106, Ed. Francesco Stella.

Remediating Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone: Hypertextual Semantic Networks in the Scholarly Archive. Silvia Stoyanova and Ben Johnston. In Proceedings of AIUCD ‘14, Bologna, Italy, ACM (08/2015). Ed. Francesca Tomasi et al. Alternative access.

"The Zibaldone Hypertext Research Platform". Silvia Stoyanova and Ben Johnston. In Authoring Software/Narrabase (07/2014), Ed. Judy Malloy

"Fragmentary Narrative and the Formation of Pre-Digital Scholarly Hypertextuality: G. Leopardi’s Zibaldone and its hypertext rendition". Silvia Stoyanova. In Proceedings of Hypertext 2013, ACM (05/2013)

“Lo Zibaldone di pensieri di Leopardi: progetto di una piattaforma di ricerca ipertestuale”. (“Leopardi’s Zibaldone of thoughts: a project for a hypertext research platform”) Silvia Stoyanova. In Lo «Zibaldone» di Leopardi come ipertesto, Atti del Convegno internazionale (Barcellona, 26-27 ottobre 2012). Ed. María de las Nieves Muñiz Muñiz, Florence, Leo Olschki, 2013, pp.333-342.

Editorial History

Digitization and Transcription. The project's priority has been to respond to the challenges of accessing and articulating the semantic structure of the text, rather than to produce a digital edition representing all of the manuscript annotations and its facsimile, which has already been accomplished by the CD-ROM edition (Ballerini and Ceragioli, 2009). However, complete transcription accuracy and the inclusion of all manuscript features are among the long-term objectives for the project. The current transcription accuracy, including punctuation and the demarcation of underlining and additions, is estimated to be at 98.5%. A comprehensive revision of the text by consulting the transcription and the manuscript images in the CD-ROM edition is currently under way: check the User Guide for updates. The source of the digital transcription adopted by the project is based on a collation of the transcription of Pensieri di varia filosofia e di bella letteratura edited by De Robertis from Project Manuzio (www.liberliber.it) with the transcription of Zibaldone di pensieri edited by Binni and Ghidetti from http://www.classicitaliani.it. All divergences in the collated transcription were corrected by consulting the transcription of the CD-ROM edition. The entire Greek and Latin text in the Zibaldone has been proofread and emended by Stephen Blair and Emilio Capettini based on the Peruzzi photographic edition (Scuola Normale Superiore, 1989-1994) and on the CD-ROM. The transcription furthermore includes Damiani’s corrections of Pacella’s edition (Garzanti, 1991) which are listed in the Introduction to Damiani’s edition (Mondadori, 1997, pp. lxxix-lxxxviii) and which have been checked for accuracy in the CD-ROM edition. Further corrections were made while encoding the text in TEI on the basis of the CD-ROM transcription and facsimiles of the manuscript. In the course of these juxtapositions, several dozen errors were found in the CD-ROM transcription and will be published onsite once the current revision has been completed. The text of the 1827 Index, the PNR, and  the two partial indexes ("Danno del conoscere la propria età and "Pensieri di varia filosofia e di bella letteratura") have been adopted from Peruzzi's facsimile edition. All four indexes have been translated into English; the translation of the 1827 Index has been confronted with that of the English edition by Caesar and D’Intino (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013).

Document Analysis and Markup in XML

Segmentation and Orthographic Annotations. Defining the manuscript segmentation features and semantic units is the basis for directing the references established between fragments and for assigning the corresponding index themes to the fragments referenced under them, as well as for reconstructing the compositional layers of the text. Besides the markers connecting text written in the margin with text on the main area of the page, the underlining and the ink of the manuscript are significant for understanding its compositional procedures and its general semantics.

Pages. The pages of the Zibaldone notebooks have been numbered by Leopardi in the upper left or right corner of each page. The manuscript’s page divisions had been marked in the adopted transcription and checked by consulting Peruzzi’s facsimile edition; any authorial mistakes in the page numbers have been corrected directly in the transcription.  

Paragraphs. The manuscript does not contain any paragraph numbers, but paragraphs are clearly marked by an indent. Leopardi often specifies paragraph numbers when he makes references to related fragments, especially so in the Indexes, therefore the paragraph division has been adopted as the main semantic unit and target of references. The paragraph numbers have been marked manually by consulting the Peruzzi and the Damiani editions.

Date Divisions. Leopardi uses a date marker to signify the end of a writing session on a given subject. This convention makes the Zibaldone comparable to an intellectual blog; we have thus adopted the date division as a semantic unit for navigating the text. Leopardi marks the date regularly after p.113 (June 1820), with occasional lapses, and also provides dates for some of the fragments written on the first 113 pages. There are editorial suggestions for dates that are not given by Leopardi: for some of the first 100 pages approximate dates and date ranges are suggested by Levi; in the case of those fragments where the date is unclear, the date is given as a date range from the previous known date to the following known date. The date divisions have been marked semi-automatically on the basis of the text transcription and corrected by hand by consulting the transcription and facsimiles of the CD-ROM edition. There are three main typologies of the date division: a single date, which may be repeated several times to denote several writing sessions on the same day; a date range to signify that Leopardi has been writing on the subject over the course of several days; a date range provided by the editor when there is a marginal or inline addition written subsequently but as part of the same paragraph, therefore forming a semantic unit.

Additions. The processual textuality and compound syntax of the Zibaldone are evidenced by the numerous additions written between the lines, inline, in the margins, and on a few occasions as footnotes on the bottom of the page. Often, there are multiple layers of additions, where an interlinear addition contains a reference to a note written in the margin, or margin additions contain interlinear ones. The distinction between interlinear/inline additions and those written in the margins is sometimes blurred because both vary widely in length, but generally marginal additions tend to be more modular, containing complete clauses and sentences. Marginal additions are sometimes targets of Leopardi’s specified references both in the Zibaldone and in the Indexes. Suggestions for the dates of 208 of the additions have been marked by consulting the critical apparatus of the Pacella edition. 

  • The interlinear additions have been marked up manually by consulting the Peruzzi edition and do not include those containing less than three words. The present revision of the transcription aims to include all interlinear additions by consulting the CD-ROM edition.
  • Inline additions are those additions written on the same line as the preceding text, identifiable by the different pen or ink used, and typically appearing after the date marker or at the end of a paragraph. Many of these contain references to other fragments. Inline additions have been marked manually by consulting the CD-ROM edition which marks these, although does not distinguish them visually from interlinear additions, and then were checked for ink variations in the original manuscript held at the National Library in Naples.
  • Leopardi marks the majority of marginal additions and their relevant location in the main text with a number or with a plus/cross sign, with several orthographic variations of the latter whenever there are multiple additions on the same page. Some of those additions marked by a number are placed on the bottom of the page, like typical footnotes; for the most part, there is no functional difference between numbered additions in the margin and additions marked with a plus sign. About 14% of marginal additions lack any marker; however, their location besides text in the main page area is usually suggestive of semantic relevance. All three kinds of marginal additions have been marked manually by consulting the Peruzzi edition. The CD-ROM edition and the Damiani edition were consulted for identifying the location of marginal notes that lack an indicator.   

Underlining. Leopardi often uses single and, on a few occasions, double underlining to demarcate titles of works, quotations, foreign words, linguistic terms, exclamations, as well as to give rhetorical emphasis to certain words and phrases. The underlining has been marked by consulting Peruzzi's facsimile edition. The distinction of rhetorical emphasis in the markup is at the discretion of the editor.

Ink variations. The ink color, and in some cases in the shade and thickness of the pen, were marked for the longer additions and for those containing a reference, which would allow to examine Leopardi's cross-referencing method of semantic organization of the fragments. The original manuscript of the text held at the National Library of Naples and the CD-ROM edition were consulted for marking these ink variations. As Sebastiano Timpanaro has written, the ink variation may sometimes be a significant indicator for determining the stages of Leopardi’s evolving perspective. For example, on p.65 written in 1819, the reference “Vedi il manuale di Epitteto” is written with a different ink at the end of the passage, inline. Without this distinction and further investigation, the reader may believe that Leopardi had read Epictetus already in 1819, whereas Leopardi had not read Epictetus before October 1825, as is indicated in his list of readings.  Indeed, a search for the name Epitteto would reveal that all other references to him are made after October 9, 1825.

Intra-textual Semantic Networks. The primary editorial task was to link the cross-references within the Zibaldone and the metadata of the thematic indexes to their Zibaldone references. This necessitated the definition of semantic units for the target of references and the establishing of criteria for qualifying the semantic strength of the links in the network of any given fragment. The definition of semantic units was determined by Leopardi’s segmentation in directing the references to pages, paragraphs and page margins, as well as to clusters of paragraphs (i.e. p. 1767,1.2) or ranges of pages (i.e. pp. 2989-91). There are two major link typologies with further subtypes within them, which correspond to Leopardi’s two analytical methods: references linking directly fragments in the Zibaldone and index references linking semantically fragments listed under the same index heading. The Platform currently makes available Gephi graphs of the network relations of each Index theme from the 1827 Index and the PNR, and harvests the first degree of cross-references and index themes in the informational window of each paragraph (See the User Guide). The Platform will develop functionalities for mining the complex relationality of the text through statistical queries and dynamic visualizations and for contributing to its further definition. 

In the Zibaldone Leopardi makes explicit associations between fragments by referring to the relevant page, paragraph, page margin, or a sequence of pages, in the course of composition, during re-reading (references are usually written in the margin or as an inline addition), or as he sets to compose a continuation on previous reflections (the fragment opens with a reference to its root passage). On the other hand, there are about a thousand references that are not directed to a specific location in the text, but are implicit. A few of them are directed to the immediate vicinity, i.e. “il paragrafo precedente”, “il paragrafo seguente”, “poco sotto”, etc. A large portion of references point to undefined passages elsewhere in the text, for which Leopardi uses several verbal formulas, such as: “del che altrove”, “ho detto altrove in più luoghi, “fra gli altri pensieri relativi a questo”; “secondo quello che ho detto in parecchi luoghi”, “V. gli altri miei pensieri in questo proposito”, “Riferite a questo tutto quello che ho detto altrove”, “come ho dimostrato in molti pensieri”, “come ho detto in 100 altri luoghi”, etc. These references have been identified semi-automatically and linked manually to editorial suggestions. The majority of the suggestions have been adopted from the Pacella edition which directs them to pages or page ranges, often without specifying the end of the range (i.e. “p.# and the following”). The English edition reiterates many of Pacella’s suggestions and gives additional ones. Both editions were consulted at different stages of the encoding and their suggestions have been encoded as editorial. In both cases, however, the references had to be directed to a specific paragraph and indefinite page ranges were given a specific end point. The cross-references in the Zibaldone could be evaluated based on the following criteria: the agency of the link (authorial vs. editorial corrections and suggestions); the genesis of the reference (i.e. written during the indexing stage, in the course of composition, during re-reading); target specificity based on its segmentation (a marginal annotation, a paragraph, a page range, etc.) and its number (a single reference or multiple references to non-consecutive fragments); the location of the reference on the page (inline note or marginal addition, within a sentence or paragraph, in the beginning of a date division); the content of the target (references pointing strictly to a bibliographic citation vs. general content, and references pointing to index themes); the chronological and spatial proximity of the linked fragments. The current markup makes specific distinctions between explicit and implicit or editorial references based on the factor of agency, and between “parallel”, “subordinate”, “bibliographic”, and “index” references based on the content of the target and the reference’s location on the page. This markup has not yet been processed or evaluated computationally.  

The Platform lists all four types of indexes which Leopardi wrote for the Zibaldone: the Index of 1827 written between July 11 and October 14, 1827 and based on 555 index cards; the so-called PNR (polizzine non richiamate) — seven paper slips listing references under eight general headings and which are not referenced in the 1827 Index; two partial indexes known as Danno del conoscere la propria età and Pensieri di varia filosofia e di bella letteratura. In the Indexes we have some of the same criteria for establishing the typology of the references, namely target segmentation and authorial agency. The vast majority of references are directed to paragraphs, with some pages, margins on a page, and page and paragraph ranges. Although Leopardi does not give any unspecified references here, he makes mistakes in counting paragraphs and writing page numbers. S. Acanfora’s article “Indice e indicizzazione” in Peruzzi’s facsimile edition of the Zibaldone was consulted to mark some of the corrections. The degree of relevance between fragments grouped under the same index heading could be further specified according to the degree of generality of that index heading. Limiting ourselves to the 1827 Index and the PNR, the most specific category is the sub-themes in the 1827 Index, followed by main themes in the 1827 Index, then the “polizzine richiamate” of the 1827 Index (relatively long groupings of passages which the author referenced to their index card locations instead of copying them in the 1827 Index); the fragments listed under cross-referenced headings in the 1827 Index (relations between referenced Index headings include synonymy, antonymy, hypernymy, meronymy), and finally the 8 headings of the very general PNR Index.  

Directing the Link References. For the purposes of querying the text and extracting results in a list or as visualizations of linked fragment clusters, it was necessary to define the segment of the text to which a reference is pointing as a semantic unit or a range of units with a specified beginning and an end. Since the page marker itself is not a semantic unit but an arbitrary division of the text, the paragraph was adopted whenever possible as the level of segmentation for directing reference targets. Pages are used only in the cases of very long paragraphs containing several pages, of which only a few are referenced. Furthermore, Leopardi often points to the place where he wrote the reference, rather than to the relevant part of the fragment, which in some cases may begin several paragraphs beforehand. Often, this is the case when the reference points to a marginal comment containing a reciprocal reference, whereas the reference actually refers to the entire passage to which this marginal comment belongs. As a result, the actual target of the reference may not coincide with the page number cited by the author. In all cases of directing link references, editorial discretion was used to determine the specific paragraph target on a page reference, the end of partial references, such as to a page number and the following, as well as to provide suggestions for Leopardi’s misdirected references.

Inter-textual and Social Networks. The intertextual knowledge base of the Zibaldone can be retrieved through the several thousand quotes and bibliographic references which Leopardi cites and which generally contain author and title, and often also page numbers, date and place of publication, editor, publisher. The bibliographic references, along with the elements of titles, person names and place names within them, have been marked manually by consulting the Peruzzi edition. The quotes have been marked manually by consulting the English edition of the Zibaldone (Caesar and D’Intino), which was especially useful for distinguishing the text of the quotes from the interpolations which Leopardi occasionally makes in the original language of the quotes. The language of the quotes (Latin, Italian, ancient Greek, French, Spanish, English, and German) has been specified in the encoding manually. The computational processing of these intertextual sources would offer insight into the dynamics of the Zibaldone composition: how much of the text is generated in response to other texts? are there certain time periods and thematic fields that have higher proportion of intertextual references? is the function of the quotes supportive or antagonistic for the purposes of argument development?, etc. Future functions of the Platform will allow users to generate statistical visualizations of the most frequently cited works and authors, the genres of the referenced works, the historical period and nationality of the authors, to trace the influence of an author or a text through its thematic contexts and vice versa, to select an index theme and generate a chart of the authors and texts mentioned in it and in its related thematic networks, to browse the contents of the bibliographic references through a spatiotemporal map linked to open access resources on the web, such as Google Books and other bibliographic repositories, etc.

Besides authors, editors, translators, publishers, fictional and mythological characters, Leopardi cites historical figures and contemporaries. All person names have been qualified with the above typologies (or a combination of them), normalized in their original language and translated into Italian and English, and linked to a biographical page on Wikipedia and other databases as a stand-off markup. The person names were encoded semi-automatically on the basis of an alphabetical list of names that appear in the text in its first print edition (Carducci, 1898), taken from its digitized version at the Zibaldone wiki project site. This list was extensively revised, because it is incomplete and the names appear in their Italianized version, as opposed to how they are written in the manuscript. Additional names have been encoded manually in the course of encoding other features, such as the quotes. Each name was then checked in the CD-ROM edition, which has the search option for names and provides a list of all occurrences of a name, including the important feature of its spelling variations. The functions for exploring the intertextual networks will be extended to the social network of the persons mentioned in the Zibaldone and in its Indexes in order to further mine the intellectual matrix of the text. Geographic locations (cities, regions, countries, mythological places) have been marked up manually as place names; this markup is still in progress. There are three main functions of the places mentioned in the Zibaldone: 1) the location where Leopardi is writing, which he usually includes in the date marker when he is not in Recanati or upon his return to Recanati; 2) the place of publication included in bibliographical references; 3) political and natural geographic locations. Space is an important element in Leopardi’s biographical itinerary and in his lyrical and fictional universe, to recall just the extraterrestrial spaces and the utopian journeys of the Icelander and Columbus in the Operette Morali. A geographical map of the Zibaldone could give insight into Leopardi’s cultural perspective and complement the analysis of its intra-textual and social networks.

Elements Encoded in XML-TEI P5 


  • 4526 pages;
  • 6263 paragraphs;
  • 3685 date divisions;
  • 4970 target references to textual fragments (page/paragraph, page/paragraph range, marginalia), of which 92 to index headings;
  • 1499 margin additions with specified reference;
  • 285 margin additions without specified reference ("float notes");
  • 252 numbered additions/footnotes;
  • 2909 interlinear additions (3+ words; revision to include all additions in progress);
  • 560 inline additions;
  • 1049 ink differences described;
  • 208 dated text additions;
  • 21653 single- and 268 double- underlined sequences of words (revision in progress), of which 967 for rhetorical emphasis;
  • 3019 bibliographic references (revision in progress);
  • 3022 titles of works;
  • 2042 quotes: 560 Latin; 521 Italian; 513; ancient Greek; 350 French; 74 English; 23 Spanish; 1 German;
  • 8540 person names;
  • 2016 place names (in progress);
  • 2769 editorial annotations;

1827 Index

  • 811 headings (incl. 15 slips recalled in the Index);
  • 228 subheadings;
  • 7575 target references to pages/paragraphs in the Zibaldone, of which 326 are page/paragraph sequences;
  • 216 cross-references between index headings;
  • 100 person names;
  • 18 place names;
  • 491 editorial notes;

PNR index

  • 8 headings;
  • 2256 target references to pages/paragraphs in the Zibaldone, of which 192 sequences;
  • 47 editorial notes;

Bibliography of Editorial Sources

Editorial responsibility identifications have been added to all cases of editorial commentary, including corrections and additions made on the basis of print editions or articles, such as Levi for the date suggestions, Pacella, Caesar and D’Intino for identifying targets of the verbal references, Acanfora for her corrections of index references, etc. A future function of the Settings would offer the option to display this information in the browser as a hover over the respective editorial note.  

  • Acanfora, Silvana. “Indice e indicizzazione” in Peruzzi, Ed. Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone di Pensieri, edizione fotografica dell’autografo con gli indici e lo schedario. Scuola Normale Superiore: Pisa, 1989-1994. vol. X, pp.69-95.
  • Ballerini, Monica and Ceragioli, Fiorenza, Eds. Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone, CD-ROM. Zanichelli: Bologna, 2009.
  • Binni, Walter and Ghidetti, Enrico, Eds. Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone di pensieri, Sansoni: Firenze, 1969. In http://www.classicitaliani.it
  • Caesar, Michael and D’Intino, Franco, Eds. Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone, English translation. Kindle edition. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2013.
  • Carducci, Giosuè, Ed. Giacomo Leopardi, Pensieri di varia filosofia e di bella letteratura, Vol. I, Successori Le Monnier: Firenze, 1898.
  • Damiani, Rolando, Ed. Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone. Mondadori: Milano, 1997.
  • De Robertis, Giuseppe, Ed. Giacomo Leopardi, Pensieri di varia filosofia e di bella letteratura, Le Monnier: Firenze, 1921-1924. In Progetto Manuzio at liberliber.it
  • Levi, Giulio Augusto. “Appunti di cronologia leopardiana”, Giornale Storico della Letteratura Italiana, vol. XCII, Torino, 1928, pp. 215-220.
  • Pacella, Giuseppe, Ed. Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone. Milano: Garzanti, 1991.
  • Peruzzi, Emilio, Ed. Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone di Pensieri, edizione fotografica dell’autografo con gli indici e lo schedario. Scuola Normale Superiore: Pisa, 1989-1994.
  • Timpanaro, Sebastiano. “Appunti per il futuro editore dello Zibaldone e dell’Epistolario leopardiano". In Giornale storico della letteratura italiana, 1958: ott./dic., pp.607-626.