Item #5019 Le terze rime di Dante. Dante Alighieri.
Le terze rime di Dante.
Le terze rime di Dante.
Le terze rime di Dante.
Le terze rime di Dante.
Le terze rime di Dante.
Le terze rime di Dante.
Le terze rime di Dante.
Le terze rime di Dante.
Le terze rime di Dante.
Le terze rime di Dante.
Le terze rime di Dante.

Le terze rime di Dante.

Venice: Aldus Manutius, August, 1502.

Price: $18,500.00

Octavo: 15 x 9.6 cm. 244 unnumbered leaves. Collation: a-z8, A-G8, H4. Leaf l2 is a blank. With 5 added lvs. of woodcuts.

FIRST ALDINE EDITION of Dante’s “Commedia”.

A fine copy, ruled in red throughout, bound in early 19th-c. English burgundy morocco. The boards are tooled in blind and ruled with a single gilt filet. The spine is tooled in compartments in gilt and blind and lettered directly in gilt. With doublures and end-leaves of brown silk with gilt borders and corner-pieces. Edges of the text-block gilt; spine very lightly sunned, some minimal rubbing at extremities and minor marks to boards; engraved armorial bookplate of William Ewart Gladstone to front pastedown (see provenance note below). Recto of first and final leaf lightly soiled. First leaf lightly foxed and with a light stain, small light stain to margin of lvs. a5 and a6; a few other trivial blemishes. Very nice.

This is the state with the Aldine anchor and dolphin device on the final leaf. Quires a-c were also completely re-set, the present copy having the headline 'INFERNO' on a2r, and 'INF' in all the other leaves of these quires. With five added lvs. from the 1527 Paganini edition comprising: a double-page woodcut schematic diagram of the sins punished in the Inferno, a single leaf showing the moral scheme of Purgatory; and a double-paged woodcut illustration of the Inferno, based on the researches of Antonio Manetti (1423-1497) (see below).

The edition – titled here simply “Le terze rime” – signals a linguistic restoration of the work and an important advance in the recovery of the original text.

The 1502 Aldine was carefully prepared by the Venetian patrician and humanist Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), who used as his primary source an authoritative mid-fourteenth-century manuscript taken from the library of his father Bernardo, which Boccaccio had sent as a gift to Petrarch between 1351 and 1353 (Biblioteca Vaticana, ms Vat. lat. 3199). The second identified source is the Landino edition of 1481, which had become the standard text of the “Commedia” by the end of the fifteenth century. According to Bembo’s own notes in the copy-text – now in the Vatican Library – the editorial work began on 6 July 1501 and was finished on 26 July 1502.

Aldus published the text in August 1502; it is assumed that Bembo sent the quires in sequence to the printer as he finished working on them. The Aldine Dante is quite different to all previous editions of the poem. For the first time the “Commedia” is set in italic type and printed in the easily portable octavo format, unencumbered by the extensive commentary which, from the Vindeliniana onwards, had always accompanied Dante’s cantiche in the earlier and larger format editions. The colophon is followed by Aldus’s warning to punish anyone printing or selling counterfeit editions, “Cautum est ne quis hunc impune imprimat, uendat ue librum nobis inuitis”.

The Illustrations:

The map is a synthesis of the illustrations originally found in the 1506 Giunta edition of Dante’s “Commedia”. That edition, edited by the humanist Girolamo Benivieni (1453-1542), included the important "Dialogo circa el sito forma et misure dello Inferno”, an essay edited by Benivieni from the papers of the Florentine mathematician and architect Antonio di Tuccio Manetti (1423-1497). The woodcuts are based on Manetti’s calculations.

Although the woodcut leaves in this volume come from Paganini’s 1527 Toscolano edition, Paganini was not the first to use these “reworked” Giunta images. It was Aldus -working in the spirit of appropriation so often practiced by the Giunta family against him- who created these images for use in his 1515 second edition of Dante. Aldus proudly announced the inclusion of the map on the 1515 title page: “sito et forma della valle infernale tratta dalla istessa descrittione del poeta” (“the location, shape, and size of the infernal valley, derived from the poet’s own description”).


“The two-page map provides a cross-section of the valley of Hell, and it is in part modelled on the Manetti woodcuts… However, the 1515 map is far richer in detail and more elegant in design and brings together in a single drawing all the sub-divisions and circles, the names of the guardians (and even Paolo and Francesca), the distances between the circles and major measures related to the depth and diameter of Hell. Compared to previous illustrated editions, which had combined decorative appeal with enhanced understanding, this map has a much more scholarly aim.”(Gilson, Reading Dante in Renaissance Italy Florence, Venice and the 'Divine Poet', p. 44)

Debates over the form and size of Dante’s Inferno continued throughout the 16th century. In 1588, Galileo himself waded into the debate with two lectures delivered before the Florentine Academy, during which he pronounced that, remarkably, Manetti had “known the mind of the Poet”: “Mirabilmente, dunque, possiamo concludere aver investigata il Manetti la mente del nostro Poeta.”

The two other woodcuts are of an entirely different nature. They are “diagrammatic representations, designed by Bembo’s friend and correspondent Trifone Gabriele, of the moral ordering of Hell and Purgatory, both in the form of schemes, a two-page one related to the categorization of the sins of violence and fraud, and a single-page diagram of the doctrine of love in Purgatory. In line with the title's concern with the poet's own description, both schemes are accurate visual representations of two specific passages in the poem (Inf XI, 22-66 and Purg. xvn, 85-139).”(Ibid.)

The provenance:

Bookplate of William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898), British Liberal politician who served four non-consecutive terms as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for a total of twelve years. In the late 1890s Bernard Quaritch wrote of the assiduous bibliophile Gladstone, a friend and loyal customer of over fifty years, that ‘The careful selection of the best things in each class marks the wisdom of his bibliophily, and the equally careful avoidance of poor and bad books … is a measure of his critical sagacity’, remarking also that ‘the love of fine artistic bindings is also a feature in his character not usually recognised’ (Contributions towards a Dictionary of English Book-Collectors, pp. 112-113). In 1895, Gladstone bequeathed £40,000 and most of his thirty-two-thousand-volume library to found St Deiniol’s Library in Hawarden, Wales, which already comprised over five thousand items from his father’s library at Fasque.

De Batines, I, pp. 60-62; Mambelli, 17; Renouard, p. 34, no. 5; Ahmanson-Murphy, 59; Dionisotti-Orlandi, “Aldo Manuzio editore”, no. XXX; Adams, D-83; Gamba, 385