Dante : La Commedia (Comm. Cristophorus Landinus).

Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321.


<p style='text-align: justify;'><p>This magnificent edition of Dante’s Commedia, printed in Florence in 1481, is the only edition to be printed in the poet’s native city in the fifteenth century and is a monumental statement of Florentine cultural supremacy. The book was printed by the German printer Nicholaus Laurentii and edited by the great Florentine humanist Cristoforo Landino. As a mark of the cultural significance of this edition, it is now commonly known as ‘the Landino’.</p><p>Lavishly furnished with additional biographical material, a new commentary to the poem by Landino, and a sequence of new copperplate illustrations, this is by far the largest - and certainly the grandest - of all the editions of Dante’s poem to be printed in the fifteenth century. In the commentary the poet is extolled as the epitome of Florentine culture and his poem historicized as the pinnacle of Tuscan poetic achievement, as seen from the vantage point of late Quattrocento humanistic culture.</p><p>The Rylands copy of the Landino is one of very few to contain the complete sequence of nineteen copper-plate illustrations to the Inferno and the additional illustration for Canto III. It also has an engraving of the Inferno fresco in the Campo Santo di Pisa, by Baccio Baldini pasted onto <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(8);return false;'>[pi]1v</a>. Only two of the illustrations, on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(33);return false;'>a2r</a> and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(52);return false;'>b1v</a>, are printed directly onto the leaves; the remaining eighteen were pasted in afterwards. In addition, the volume contains additional hand-decoration in the form of gilded and illuminated initial letters and scribal devices in red and blue ink. </p><p>This complex book contains an extensive system of paratexts which shape and present Dante’s poem. Landino’s apparatus begins on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>[pi]2r</a>. The opening section runs from <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>[pi]2r</a> to <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(32);return false;'>2[pi]5v</a> and is divided into sixteen separate sections. Landino’s Proemio also contains <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(28);return false;'>Marsilio Ficino’s oration</a> in praise of Dante, given first in the original Latin and then in Italian.</p><p>Only after the conclusion of this extensive frontmatter does the poem itself begin. The poem is presented embedded within a line-by-line commentary, and the second and third cantiche are preceded by a further introductory section by Landino. The book concludes with a closing colophon on the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(740);return false;'>final page of the Paradiso</a>.</p><p>There are two systems of visual organization operating in parallel in this edition. The dominant system, imposed by the printer, comprises the mise-en-page, headings, titles, and the twenty copper-plate engravings of scenes from the Inferno. The second system, superimposed at a later date, comprises the hand-painted historiated capitals and other scribal devices in red and blue ink. The scribal additions are not merely decorative embellishment, but serve a navigational function: the largest painted capitals mark the start of the three principal textual devisions of the three cantiche of the Commedia, while the beginning of each canto is itself highlighted by a smaller coloured capital letter. (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(96);return false;'>Canto V</a> of the Inferno is the only undecorated example). The printed page headings are reinforced by scribal motifs: with a few exceptions, each opening gives location data for the poem, with the cantica name on the verso page and the canto number in roman capitals on the recto, decorated with alternating red or blue devices.</p></p>

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