DANTE ALIGHIERI (1265-1321). La Commedia. Commentary by Cristoforo Landino (1424-1504); commendations by Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499). Florence: Nicolaus Laurentii, Alamanus, 30 August 1481.
Super-royal 2o (402 x 257 mm). Collation: s8 2s6 ( blank, r Landino's proem, v Dante's apologia, praise of Florentine achievements, Life of Dante, 2v Marsilio Ficino's commendations of Dante and Landino, in Latin and Italian, 2 blank); a10 b8 c-e10 f8 g10 h-i8 l10 m-n8 o-r10 s6 (a1 blank, a2r Inferno); aa-gg10 hh12 ll-mm10 oo6 (aa1 blank, aa2r Landino's prologue to Purgatorio, aa2v blank, aa3r Purgatorio); A8 B-H10 I6 L12 (A1r Landino's prologue to Paradiso, A2r Paradiso, L10v colophon, L11-12 blank). 365 leaves (of 372, without the 6 blanks and text leaf ). Sheets 2-4 of quire signed .i.-.iii.; sheets A1-2 signed aaa i-aaa ii. 45 lines text, 60 lines commentary plus headline. Initial spaces, most with printed guide letters, most cantos preceded by a large space for an engraved or illuminated illustration. Flourished opening initial to Canto Primo supplied in dark ink in the 17th or 18th century, printing error on ff6v rendering last two lines illegible. (Lacking 2nd leaf of Vita, the 3 engravings on a1r, b1v and c1v cut out with consequent loss to text on rectos of b1 and c1: a1 cut down and remargined, the affected text on b1r and c1r plus one line on c1v supplied in manuscript and the leaves remargined; first and last leaves soiled, first leaf frayed and with small repairs at gutter, blank corner of a7 cut away, aa10 torn and repaired with loss to a few words, worming in first and last 20 leaves and in quires a-c, small hole in h1 catching 2 letters.) Seventeenth-century calf over pasteboard, sides panelled with double gilt fillet and blind fillets, large central gilt monogram (undeciphered), edges speckled red and blue (rebacked in the 19th century with richly gilt calf backstrip, corners restored, covers worn).
Provenance: early calculations? on last page (deleted) -- Dr. Gaetano Polidori (1764-1853), playwright, translator, printer, book collector (inscriptions on front pastedown dated 1800?, 1819 and 1820, 1853 presentation inscription to his grandson, "Dati a Dante Gabriel Rossetti suo [pro?]nipote Pittore e Poeta 11th February 1853") -- Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), painter and poet.
First edition with Landino's commentary and first Florentine edition. The polemical thrust of Landino's proem, addressed to the notables of Florence, shows clearly that his monumental edition of Dante was conceived as a testimonial to Florentine cultural supremacy and to the superiority of the Florentine idiom. Published during the resurgence of patriotism following the Pazzi conspiracy, Landino's edition reclaimed for Florence her great poet; in gratitude the city fathers granted Landino a house in the Casentino. The text of the edition itself is riddled with omissions and errors, and Landino's commentary was evidently based on a different manuscript from that used by the printers; nonetheless, the edition remained authoritative until Aldus Manutius published Bembo's edition in 1502. Landino's lasting influence may have been due less to his Neoplatonic interpretation of the Commedia than to his compelling use of the Tuscan vernacular and his appreciation for the richness and variety of Dante's style. All six of the editions published between 1481 and 1502 used Landino's commentary, and even after the publication of Bembo's corrected edition and of new commentaries by Alessandro Vellutello (1544) and Bernardino Daniello (1569) it was repeatedly reprinted (often in combination with Vellutello's commentary), until the Divine Comedy itself fell into obscurity in the 17th century.
Nicolaus Laurentii, a German from Breslau and one of the most distinguished of the early Florentine printers, published approximately 46 editions between 1475 or late 1474 and 1486. These included the three earliest Florentine illustrated books, all among the first Italian books illustrated with engravings. The second of these, this first illustrated edition of Dante, was planned as a spectacular typographical and visual homage to the poet, but the ambitious project was never realized. Of the intended 100 engraved headpiece illustrations after Botticelli only 19 were completed, and only the first two and occasionally the third (or in some copies a repetition of the second engraving) were printed as planned as an integral part of the text. The remaining 16 or 17 engravings were printed separately and pasted in to the appropriate spaces in a minority of copies. The present copy, sadly vandalized in the early 19th century, originally contained the first 3 engravings.
BMC and GW note variant settings of ooo6v and A1r. In this copy the last line of commentary to the Purgatorio on ooo6v reads "per sua infinita misericordia", and Landino's prologue to the Paradiso (A1r, missigned aaa i) is set in 47 lines, the last beginning "te ciriempie".
A REMARKABLE ASSOCIATION COPY. Dante Gabriel Rossetti's maternal grandfather Gaetano Polidori served as secretary to Vittorio Alfieri before moving to London, where he taught Italian, wrote plays and instructional works including a trilingual dictionary and an Italian grammar, translated Milton, Byron, and Lucanus into Italian (1840-41), and operated his own printing press, upon which he printed in 1807 his 17-year-old grandaughter Christina Rossetti's first book of poems. His daughter Frances Mary Polidori had married the exiled Italian patriot and Dante scholar Gabriel Charles Rossetti, who attempted to revive an esoteric anti-papal interpretation of the Divine Comedy; thus their four children grew up in an atmosphere imbued by Dante and three of them (William Michael, Maria Francesca, and Dante Gabriel) went on to produce translations or critical studies of the poet. Dante's poetry remained a rich source of images and an object of study throughout the literary and artistic life of Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, who later changed the order of his name to stress his affinity with his namesake. His paintings Beata Beatrix and Dante's Dream are among his best known; and his translation of La Vita Nuova in his collection The Early Italian Poets (1861) ranks as one of his principal literary achievements. When the present copy of the Commedia was given to him in early 1853 by his grandfather, who died in December of the same year, Dante Gabriel had already completed much of the translation, having shown it to Tennyson in 1850.
HC 5946*; BMC VI, 628; (IC. 27095a and b, 27094, 27096); BSB-Ink. D-9; GW 7966; Harvard/Walsh 2851-2854; IGI 360; Pr 6120; Sander 2312; Goff D-29.