DANTE ALIGHIERI (1265-1321). La Comedia. Edited and with commentary by Alessandro Vellutello. Venice: Francesco Marcolini for A. Vellutello, June 1544.
4o (235 x 152 mm). Italic type, roman type for title, headings and headlines. Text with commentary surround, shoulder notes in the prefatory matter, initial spaces with printed guide-letter. 87 woodcut illustrations, including 3 full-page blocks opening Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, and 2 repeats; 3 marginal diagrams. (Title-page and 2A2 remargined, 2A2- repaired in the gutter, some spotting and browning, a few marginal tears, crossing the text on [AO7], some pale dampstaining at the head of the gutter from gathering AO forward.)
Binding: CONTEMPORARY VENETIAN BINDING of brown goatskin over paste-board, tooled in gilt and blind by the "FUGGER BINDER" (or "The Venetian Apple Binder"); paneled covers decorated in two panels, the outer with a broad border of multiple blind and single gilt fillets, the inner with multiple blind and single gilt fillets with semicircles in the center of each side, decorated at each outer corner with the characteristic Venetian apple tool in gilt, and each inner corner with a small flower tool, all surrounding an arabesque medallion with small gilt flower tools at the top and bottom, the author lettered in gilt on the front cover, a small gilt arabesque tool on the back cover, and elaborate gilt lozenges, spine with alternating double and single raised bands, the compartments tooled in blind, stabholes and remains of four pairs of ties, all edges gilt gauffered with dotted-line border (rebacked preserving the original spine, corners slightly repaired, endpapers renewed).
Provenance: near contemporary marginal annotations; Harold Douthit (bookplate).
FIRST VELLUTELLO EDITION, without the extra text from canto ii of the "Purgatorio" stamped at the foot of V7r. THE FIRST USE OF THIS INFLUENTIAL SERIES OF WOODCUTS. Marcolini's artist makes a revolutionary departure from the influence of the March 1491 subjects, which had dominated subsequent editions of Dante to date: "While the fifteenth-century blocks could serve as a quick reference for figures in the text, these 1544 blocks are an extension of the commentary, a more instructive form of illustration" (Mortimer). In turn Marcolini's artist's woodcuts reappeared in the Sessa brothers's editions of 1564, 1578 and 1596, and 79 of the original 85 blocks were further used in 1696 in Palazzi's Compendio della Comedia di Dante Alighieri, Venice: Albrizzi. They were also widely copied, for instance at Lyons by Rouillé, 1551, and at Venice by Morando in 1554.
The "Fugger Binder," who was active in Venice from about the mid-1530s, with a decisive increase in productivity from 1540, was associated with two major commissions. The first for Milanese patron Cardinal Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle in 1547. The second for Marcus Fugger, member and, for a time, chief executive, of the celebrated Augsburg international banking and trading house, and one of the outstanding German Renaissance book collectors, often called "The German Grolier." This binding is very similar in style to those found on de Granvelle's Aldine Press books: "These were bound in goatskin of various colours... but with a uniform scheme of decoration imitating Andrea di Lorenzo's commonest trade pattern... a gilt frame, a convulvulus leaf at each corner, the book's title on the upper cover" (Hobson Renaissance Book Collecting pages 120-121, see figure 71). This example of the "Fugger Binder's" work is new to Hobson's census of 121 books. He records two other editions of Dante (for Tosolano Alessandro de' Paganini [ca 1527-33], and B. Stagnino for G. Giolito, 1536) and several other books published in Venice in 1544, mostly from the house of Giolito, in "Appendix 8" of Renaissance Book Collecting. Adams D-94; Casali and Servolini, Marcolini, 72; Essling I:2,i, 545; Foot, Henry Davis Gift, I, 308-322; Hobson Renaissance Book Collecting pages 120-121, "Appendix 8"; Hobson & Culot Italian and French 16th-Century Bookbindings 9,10,11, and 12; Mortimer, Harvard Italian, 146; Sander 2328. Schunke "Venezianische Renaissanceeinbnde," Studi di bibliografia e di storia in onore di Tammaro de Marinis IV, 1964, 123-200.