Dante Title Pages
Title pages from editions of what we now know as the Divine Comedy
display not only surprising variations in the title of the poem, but also
trace the development of the title page itself as an innovative feature
of early modern print culture. Like manuscript books which preceded them,
the earliest printed books during the incunable
period (until 1501) were without title pages. In the last decade of the
15th century, the most primitive of title pages began to appear, like the
one from Pietro Quarengi's 1497
edition which featured simply the author's name and nationality: Dante
Editions of the poem during the first decade of the century continued to
be simple and relatively unobtrusive. Bernardo Stagnino's 1512
edition on the other hand shows the kind of fairly elaborate title page
which will characterize printed books during the rest of the century and
beyond. Stagnino's title page also illustrates the use of the title page
as a marketing tool: the publisher advertises the book as The Works of
the Divine Poet Dante when in reality the book contains only the Comedy.
The claims that the text had been diligently corrected was also a commonplace.
Stagnino in fact simply lifted his text and commentary from previous editions.
Exaggerated claims like these characterize title pages of the poem which
also feature increasingly elaborate iconographical elements including various
portraits of the poet as well as printers devices and mottos.
The title of Dante's poem also undergoes interesting permutations during
the entire Renaissance period. Dante himself referred to the poem simply
as his Comedy (cf. Inferno XVI) but publishers, editors and
printers did not feel obligated to respect the author's own title. For example,
the title invented by the Venetian humanist Pietro Bembo for Aldus Manutius
1502, edition The
Tercet Rhymes of Dante, not so subtly tended to undermine the work's
prestige and was never again adapted thereafter.
The attribute Divine was applied to the poem for the first time by Lodovico
Dolce who edited the poem for Giovanni Giolito in 1555.
As is apparent from several of the title pages discussed and presented here,
the poem was also known simply by the name of its author "Dante"
or "Il Dante" as Jean de Tournes has it in his 1547
edition. The title Divine Comedy was however given special authority
by its use in the first attempt at a modern critical edition of the poem
prepared by the Crusca Academy in 1595.
But that there was as yet some doubt over the appropriateness of the title
after that date is evidenced by early 17th century imprints which, consistent
with the baroque perspective of the times, styled Dante's poem The Vision
Additional Title Pages
- 1506, Florence: Giunti
- 1507, Venice: Da Portese
- 1520, Venice: Stagnino
- 1536, Venice: Stagnino
- 1544, Venice: Marcolini
- 1545, Venice: Speranza
- 1547, Lyons: De Tournes
- 1551, Lyons: Roville
- 1555, Venice: Giolito
- 1564, Venice:
- 1564, Venice: Sessa
- 1568, Venice: Da Fino
- 1569 Venice: Farri
- 1716 Naples: Laino