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. It is not surprising therefore that they also included Petrarch and Dante, the “two crowns” of Italian poetry, in vernacular. The Dante edition was published in August 1502, as stated by the elegant colophon in patterned lay out. Carefully edited from a fourteenthh-century manuscript by Pietro Bembo, who assigned to it the unusual title of Le terze rime, it was the first edition of the poem after 1500 and its text was copied by the majority of subsequent sixteenth-century editors.

It was printed by Aldus in two issues, the second correcting a few printing mistakes, including the spelling of Dante’s surname Alighieri in the title on leaf a1 verso, and adding Aldus’s dolphin-and-anchor device to the verso of the last page. The edition was an instant society favourite. Consequently, despite the warning printed by Aldus after the colophon, it was also promptly counterfeited and successfully marketed by printers operating in full immunity outside the Venetian territory, the crudeness of their type and printing not immediately apparent to the untrained eye.

Young.253, fol. H4 recto

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