Dante Alighieri - Divine Comedy, 1481

Dante Alighieri (Florence, 1265 - 1321, Ravenna)

Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], 1481

Printed ink on paper , 43 x 31 cm (16 15/16 x 12 3/16 in.)

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(Florence, 1265 - 1321, Ravenna)

Object details

Accession number

2.c.1.8

Creators

Full title

Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia]

Creation Date

1481

Language

Latin

Publication Place

Florence

Description

1 Vol. (58 leaves, 744 pages) : ill. ; 43 cm. (folio)

Provenance


Collection of the British prime minister Augustus Henry FitzRoy, third Duke of Grafton (1735–1811), by 1781.

By descent to George Henry Fitzroy, fourth Duke of Grafton (1760–1844), probably 1811.

Probably purchased by the booksellers and publishers Dulau & Co., London from the FitzRoy sale at R. H. Evans, London for £5 on 6-11 June 1815, lot 612.

Collection of the English judge and politician Lord Justice Sir James Lewis Knight-Bruce (1791-1866).

Purchased by the bookseller and publisher Bernard Quaritch (1819-1899), London from the collection of Sir James Lewis Knight-Bruce on 23 August 1867.

Purchased by Alexander William Crawford, Twenty-fifth Earl of Crawford (1812-1880) from Bernard Quaritch in September 1867.

By descent to the astronomer James Ludovic Lindsay, Twenty-sixth Earl of Crawford (1847–1913), probably 1880.

Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the Crawford library sale at Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge through Bernard Quaritch, London and the scholar and critic Charles Elliot Norton (1827-1908) for £420 on 22 June 1887, lot 768.

Marks

Stamped: Francis Bedford [English bookbinder, 1799–1883]
Affixed (front cover): bookplate of Isabella Stewart Gardner
Inscribed in ink (first page of Proemio and Commentary): "D. of Grafton / 1781" [third duke of Grafton and British Prime Minister Augustus Henry FitzRoy (1735–1811)]
Inscribed in pencil and erased: indecipherable [English (?)]
Inscribed (Inferno and Purgatorio): annotations in Italian/Latin [written in a late fifteenth-century Humanistic hand, probably by the book's first owner]
Enclosed: typed bibliographic description
Enclosed: photocopy of typed bilbiographic description
Enclosed: photocopy of a typed list of 19 engravings titled "Titles of Engravings for 1481 Dante"
Enclosed: note, inscribed: "1481 , 2.C.1.8"

Dimensions

43 x 31 cm (16 15/16 x 12 3/16 in.)

Display Media

Printed ink on paper

Web Commentary


This book is Botticelli's first attempt to illustrate the Divine Comedy.  It was an experiment in using engravings which, unlike woodcuts, required an additional run through the printing press.  The process must have proved too difficult, because the project was abandoned and many copies were produced without the illustrations.  The Gardner copy is a rare complete example containing all nineteen engravings.  





Isabella purchased this volume from the Earl of Crawford's sale in London, to the delight of her fellow members of the Dante Society who had been encouraging American collectors to purchase fine copies of the Divine Comedy so that they would be available to students in their own country.

Permanent Gallery Location

Long Gallery

Bibliography

R.H. Evans. A catalogue of a most elegant collection of books...part of the extensive library of a nobelman (London, 6-11 June 1815), lot 612.
Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge. Catalogue of the Library of the Right Hon. the Earl of Crawford, First Portion... (London, 13-18, 20, 22-24 June 1887), p. 95, lot 768.
W.A. Copinger. Supplement to Hain's Repertorium Bibliographicum, Part I (London 1895), no. 5946.
Isabella Stewart Gardner. A Choice of Books from the Library of Isabella Stewart Gardner, Fenway Court (Boston, 1906), p. 21. (as illustrated by Baccio Baldini after designs by Sandro Botticelli)
Isabella Stewart Gardner. A Choice of Manuscripts and Bookbindings from the Library of Isabella Stewart Gardner, Fenway Court (Boston, 1922), p. 55-56. (as bound by Francis Bedford)
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 251.
Frederick Richmond Goff. Incunabula in American libraries; a third census of fifteenth-century books recorded in North American collections (New York, 1964), no. D29.
Maureen Cunningham. "The Dante Quest." Fenway Court (1972), pp. 20-22.
Rebecca Karo. Short-Title Catalogue of Highlights from the Book Collection in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Unpublished manuscript. (Boston, 1970s), no. 5.
Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 148-49, ill.
Hilliard Goldfarb. Italian Renaissance Drawings, Medals, and Books. Exploring Treasures in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum I. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1991), p. 15.
Laurence Kanter in Hilliard Goldfarb et al. Botticelli’s Witness: Changing Style in a Changing Florence. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1997), pp. 32-37, 61-64, no. 2a, ill.
Rachel Jackoff. "Dante" in Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 70-71.
Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, no. 07966, accessed 4 October 2016. http://www.gesamtkatalogderwiegendrucke.de/docs/GW07966.htm
British Library. Incunabula Short Title Catalogue, no. id00029000, accessed 4 October 2016. http://istc.bl.uk/search/search.html?operation=record&rsid=563554&q=0
Anne-Marie Eze in Jeffrey F. Hamburger et al. Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Newton: McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College; Cambridge: Houghton Library, Harvard University, 2016), pp. 17, 308-309, 310-12, no. 247, ill.

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Commentary


This book is Botticelli's first attempt to illustrate the Divine Comedy.  It was an experiment in using engravings which, unlike woodcuts, required an additional run through the printing press.  The process must have proved too difficult, because the project was abandoned and many copies were produced without the illustrations.  The Gardner copy is a rare complete example containing all nineteen engravings.  





Isabella purchased this volume from the Earl of Crawford's sale in London, to the delight of her fellow members of the Dante Society who had been encouraging American collectors to purchase fine copies of the Divine Comedy so that they would be available to students in their own country.