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DANTE ALIGHIERI, (1265--1321)
[Divina commedia. 1481]
Comento di Christophoro Landino fiorentino sopra la Comedia di Danthe Alighieri poeta fiorentino.
Impresso in Firenze per Nicholo di Lorenzo della Magna, a di. XXX. da Gosto M.CCCC.LXXXI [30 Aug. 1481].
[744] p. ; 40.1 cm. (2º)

First edition and the first attempt at an illustrated edition of Dante (and the earliest printed book in Soane's library). Title from caption of leaf [1], followed by 'Proemio'. Imprint from colophon which reads in part: 'Fine Del Comento Di Christo/phoro Landino Fioren/tino Sopra La Comedia Di Dan/the Poeta Excellentis/simo. Et ...'. Spaces with guide letters left for capitals at the beginning of each section and Canto. Blank leaf between the 'Inferno' and the 'Purgatorio'. Text surrounded by commentary. Headlines, but no catchwords; some of the headlines especially towards the end of the book are erroneous. The capital letter 'z' is reversed throughout. The original plan was for the artist (Sandro Botticelli) to create drawings for each of the 100 cantos but only 20 designs are known to have been made ready for this edition. Though an example of fine printing, the ambitious scheme failed to overcome the problems of production and while the first two plates were printed on the text page, the remainder were printed separately to be pasted in. Botticelli worked on the project until 1495 producing eventually 92 of the projected 100 illustrations. See note in Goff regarding disposition. Their execution has been attributed to Baccio Baldini, see J.A. Levenson, Early Italian engravings from the National Gallery of Art, 1973, pp. 13--14; their disposition is discussed in Goff. The first printed editions of Dante's poem had appeared in Naples, Venice and Milan in 1477 using the commentary of Jacopo della Lana in the medieval tradition. Cristoforo Landino (1424--1504) who was professor of rhetoric and poetry in Florence from 1458 to 1497 and had lectured on Dante, Cicero, Virgil and others produced his commentary for an edition designed to reassert Florentine (Medici) responsibility for the work and its linguistic tradition. Albeit relying upon a faulty fifteenth-century text, his commentary was the first to subject Dante to the Renaissance critical process and dominated Dante studies until the Aldine edition of 1502, partly for its classical erudition and partly because of the Medici line that he takes in his preface although advancing a commitment to liberty in the commentary itself. While Landino's commentary appeared in print for over a hundred years, Bembo's edition for Aldus Manutius in 1502 succeeded it being based upon an authoritative 14th-century manuscript of the poem (Vat. lat. 3197). Goff D-29; Hain-Copinger 5946.

Copy Notes In this copy some of the initials have not been supplied including the incipit '[N]el Mezo Del Camino Di Nostra Vita. The plates to Cantos III--V, VIII--XII, XIV, and XVI--XIX are pasted in, those to Cantos VII, XIV and XV are pasted-in pen and ink facsimiles, and that to Canto VI is not present. Many initials hand-coloured in red or light blue. Bought on 28 March 1829 for £40 19s. 0d. from T. & W. Boone, whose bill notes that it was Bought at Mr Hibbert's Sale. (Spiers Box). George Hibbert, a noted collector and member of the Roxburghe Club, auctioned off most of his art and books after succeeding to his wife's uncle Rogers Parker's Munden estate near Watford in 1828. R.H. Evans's sale of Hibbert's library ran for 42 days from 16 March to 6 June 1829 (q.v.); the present work forming lot 2492 on the 12th day is described as 'First Edition: fine copy in russia, with joints and borders of gold, ... This copy contains Fifteen Engravings from the designs of Boticelli [sic]. The plates to Cantos VII. XIV. XV. are supplied with Pen and Ink Drawings, and the Plate to Canto VI. is wanting. A copy so complete as the present is of very rare occurrence.' Soane's bookplate on the front pastedown is annotated in pencil 61:8:0 / 11 Apl 1829, the date and total of the payment made to Boone 'By Cheque on Praeds'. With an extensive pencil note [11 lines] in William Boone's hand on the second front free-endpaper, with a reference to Ottley's History of Engraving. Page 415-424 vol I. Traces of occasional MS. annotations in ink that have been washed out remain throughout. Tipped in at the front is an unsigned, undated lithograph (34.8 x 49.2 cm) of 'Selections of drapery from an illuminated Manuscript of 14th Cent.y highly illustrative of the divine Poetry of the immortal Dante' (q.v.), a parody of John Flaxman's Compositions by John Flaxman, sculptor, R.A. from the divine poem of Dante Alighieri (1807 ed., q.v.). Pinned to the verso of the lithograph is a bibliographical note about Landino's edition in a C19th hand in Italian with a reference to Gamba, Delle edizioni dei Testi di Lingua.

Binding C19th diced russia, elaborate Greek key, beaded, and palmette and anthemion decorated gilt borders with neoclassical corner-pieces, gilt-tooled spine direct-lettered in gilt, doublures with Greek key and acanthus scroll roll-tool decoration, marbled central panel with gilt-tooled beaded borders, marbled endpapers, gilt edges, light blue silk bookmark with metallic thread fringe. Bound by Christian Samuel Kalthœber. With his oxidised label attached to verso of front free-endpaper reading 'Bound by C. Kalthœber. London'. See: Ramsden.

Reference Number 3972


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