Dante (1265–1321) Commedia

August 1502

Aldus’s enchiridia were conceived for the solace and entertainment of learned aristocrats, courtiers and rich urban middle classes, a clientele accustomed to have its books decorated according to personal taste by favourite artists. These books were therefore printed by Aldus with no decoration. The first owner of the Dante shown here is identified by the illuminated arms in the bas-de-page as a member of the Venier family, one of the oldest Venetian family, the initials ‘Z V’ suggesting a Zuane or Zorzi [i.e. Giovanni or Giorgio].

The Dante edition had no dedicatory letter or introductory address to the readers, but is mentioned by Aldus in the introduction to his 1501 Petrarch as forthcoming, and a much more correct edition than any previous one. In fact, the request of printing privilege for the works of Petrarch and Dante had been jointly submitted to the Venetian Senate in 1501 by Carlo Bembo, Pietro’s brother and co-heir of Bernardo’s library.

Dante’s text was edited by Pietro Bembo from an authoritative fourteenth-century manuscript in his father’s library (now Vatican Library, Vat. lat. 3199), identifiable with a codex sent by Giovanni Boccaccio as a gift to Francesco Petrarca in about 1351–53. Pietro’s autograph manuscript of the edited text, which he passed on to Aldus for printing, also survives (Vatican Library, Vat. lat. 3197).

Young.253, fol a2 recto

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