ROSSETTI, Dante Gabriel (1828-1882). The Early Italian Poets from Ciullo D'Alcamo to Dante Alighieri (1100-1200-1300) in the original metres together with Dante's Vita Nuova, translated by D.G. Rossetti. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1861.
8° (176 x 126mm). Original brown cloth, gilt (slight wear at corners, small crack to upper joint, slight tear to upper spine), green morocco-backed slipcase. Provenance: presentation copy from D.G. Rossetti to Seymour Kirkup (inscribed by the author on half-title: 'To Seymour Kirkup Esq. with the translator's best compliments. Xmas 1861').
FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY. The translation is divided into two parts, poets chiefly before Dante, and Dante and his circle. In his preface, Rossetti alludes to the limited subject matter and the obscurity of these Italian poets; both charges were later to be made against his own poetry. The translations themselves are of forty-four separate poets in Part One, each being represented by an average of two or three poems, and thirteen poets in Part Two, with Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, and Cecco Angiolieri having the largest share at fifteen or more poems each. Although these translations won the approval of the critical journals in 1861, they attracted little attention among the general public; only eight years later, when 600 copies had been sold, did they repay Ruskin the hundred pounds he had advanced for their publication, leaving Rossetti with a mere nine pounds profit. Despite years spent on revisions, Gabriel was never fully satisfied with his versions, although he thought they nevertheless fulfilled his cardinal principle of translation, 'that a good poem shall not be turned into a bad one,' and he re-published them as Dante and his Circle in 1874. Doughty, p. 281; F.L. Fennell, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. An Annotated Bibliography, 1982, p. 9.