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  • Dante Alighieri

    May/June c.1265 - September 14, 1321
    Part 11 of 13: Authorities, Editions & Commentaries

    It would be impossible here to give anything like a complete account even of the editions of Dante's works; still more of the books which have been written to elucidate the Commedia as a whole, or particular points in it. The section "Dante" in the British Museum catalogue down to 1887 occupies twenty-nine folio pages; the supplement, to 1900, as many more. The catalogue of the Fiske collection, in Cornell University library, is in two quarto volumes and covers 606 pages. A few of the more important editions and of the more valuable commentaries and aids may, however, be recorded.

    The Commedia was first printed by John Numeister at Foligno, in April 1472. Two other editions followed in the same year: one at Jesi (Federicus Veronensis), and Mantua (Georgius et Paulus Teutonici). These, together with a Naples edition of about 1477 (Francesco del Tuppo), were included by Lord Vernon in Le Prime Quattro Edizioni (1858). Another Neapolitan edition, without printer's name, is dated 1477, and in the same year Wendelin of Spires published the first Venetian edition. Milan followed in 1478 with that known from the name of its editor as the Nidobeatine. In 1481 appeared the first Florentine edition (Nicolo and Lorenzo della Magna) with the commentary of Cristoforo Landino, and a series of copper engravings ascribed to Baccio Baldini, varying in number in different copies from two to twenty; a sumptuous and very carelessly printed volume. Venice supplied most of the editions for many years to come. Altogether twelve existed by the end of the century. In 1502 Aldus produced the first "pocket" edition in his new "italic" type, probably cut from the handwriting of his friend Bembo. A second edition of this is dated 1515. The firm of Giunta at Florence printed the poem in a small volume with cuts, in 1506; and for the rest of the 16th century edition follows edition, to the number of about thirty in all. The most noteworthy commentaries are those of Alessandro Vellutello (Venice, 1544), and Bernardo Daniello (Venice, 1568), both of Lucca. The Cruscan Academicians edited the text in 1595. The first edition with woodcuts is that of Boninus de Boninis (Brescia, 1487). Bernardino Benali followed at Venice in 1491, and from that time onward few if any of the folio editions are without them. The 17th century produced three (or perhaps four) small, shabby and inaccurate editions. In 1716 a revival of interest in Dante had set in, and before 1800 some score of editions had appeared, the best-known being those of G. A. Volpi (Padua, 1727), Pompeo Venturi (Venice, 1739) and Baldassare Lombardi (Rome, 1791).

    The Commedia began to be the subject of commentaries as soon as, if not before, the author was in his grave. One known as the Anonimo until in 1881 Dr Moore identified its writer as Graziolo de' Bambaglioli, was in course of writing in 1324. It was published by Lord Vernon, to whose munificence we owe the accessibility of most of the earlier commentaries, in 1848. That of Jacopo della Lana is thought to have been composed before 1340. It was printed in the Venice and Milan editions of 1477, and 1478 respectively. The so-called Ottimo Comento (Pisa, 1837) is of about the same date. It embodies parts of Lana's, but is largely an independent work. Witte ascribes it to Andrea della Lancia, a Florentine notary. Dante's sons Pietro and Jacopo also commented on their father's poem. Their works were published, again at Lord Vernon's expense, in 1845 and 1848. Boccaccio's lectures on the Commedia, cut short at Inf. xvii. 17 by his death in 1375, are accessible in various forms. His work was achieved by his disciple Benvenuto Rambaldi of Imola (d. c. 1390). Benvenuto's commentary, written in Latin, genial in temper, and often acute, was popular from the first. Extracts from it were used as notes in many MSS. Much of it was printed by Muratori in his Antiquitates Italicae; but the entire work was first published in 1887 by Mr William Warren Vernon, with the aid of Sir James Lacaita. No greater boon has ever been offered to students of Dante. Another early annotator who must not be overlooked is Francesco da Buti of Pisa, who lectured in that city towards the close from the supremacy of the Roman people over the of the same century. His commentary, which served as the basis of Landino's already mentioned, was first printed in Pisa in 1858. One more commentary deserves mention. During the council of Constance, John of Serravalle, bishop of Fermo, fell in with the English bishops Robert Hallam and Nicholas Bubwith, and at their request compiled a voluminous exposition of the Commedia. This remained in MS. till recently, when it was printed in a costly form.

    Part 12: Translations, Other Aids & Bibliography

    In this biography:
    Part 1: Introduction
    Part 2: Political Life, Part 1
    Part 3: Political Life, Part 2
    Part 4: Dante's Ghibellinism
    Part 5: Wanderings
    Part 6: Old Age and Death
    Part 7: Divina Commedia
    Part 8: Convito, Vita Nuova & Canzoniere
    Part 9: De Monarchia & De Vulgari Eloquentia
    Part 10: Eclogues, De Aqua et Terra & Letters
    Part 11: Authorities, Editions & Commentaries
    Part 12: Translations, Other Aids & Bibliography
    Part 13: Related Articles, Sites, etc.

    This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


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