1544 La Comedia, Dante Alighieri 1st Vellutello Ed.

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FULL TITLE: LA COMEDIA DI DANTE ALIGIERI CON LA NOVA ESPOSITIONE DI ALESSANDRO VELLVTELLO: con gratia de la illustrissima signoria di vinegia, che nessuno la possa imprimere, ne impressa uendere nel termino di dieci anni, sotto le pene che in quella si contengono. 

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Written by Dante Alighieri  (c. 1265 – 14 September 1321)

Published by [Impressa in Vinegia per Francesco Marcolini ad instantia di Alessandro Vellutello del mese di Gugno lanno MDXLIIII (1544)]

Language: Italian (Tuscan/Florentine)


Alighieri, Dante. La Comedia. Venice: Francesco Marcolini, (1544). First edition, In-4° (22.3 x 15 cm), 428/442 leaves, AA-BB8 (lacks AA1-AA8 and BB2-BB7), CC1-CC10, A-Z8, AB-AZ8, BC-BI8; imprint from colophon.


First edition, 1544 printing of Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy) with commentary by Alessandro Vellutello, printed in Venice by Francesco Marcolini. A few capital spaces with guide letters. The text is printed in columns, irregularly disposed, with the commentary printed in smaller type around the main text; 79 of 87 woodcuts present. This copy lacks the first 14 leaves, including the title page (AA1-AA8, BB2-BB7), with 2 of the 10 introductory woodcuts present, along with all other pages and woodcuts (79/87), and no interruption of the main text; includes all three full-page woodblocks, which illustrate the beginning of each book (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso); 76 of the 84 smaller woodcuts; and is bound in later 19th-century, full-calf brown leather, with stamped gold-gilt dentilles, decorations in 5 of the 6 spine compartments, and title "Inferno, Purgatory, Paradiso" stamped on red leather; blue silk marker still intact.


Ex-Libris bookplate associated with the coat of arms of the Rousselin-Corbeau family of de Saint Albin and frequently credited to François Marquis de Corbeau de Vaulserre, though perhaps belonging to another of the Marquis de Corbeau de Vaulserre. The bookplate depicts the coat of arms with two crows on either side and a marquis crown a-top with the motto: Nil nisi virtute (Rien sans courage; Nothing without courage).


The Divine Comedy (1320) is among the most influential texts of world literature, whose impact on both the European religious and literary imagination is undeniable. Linguistically, Dante's work is important as it is largely responsible for the standardization of the Tuscan/Florentine dialect as standard Italian. His use of allusion, symbolism, folklore, and history is rooted in both the classical tradition and Dante's own contemporary medieval world, resulting in a trove of medieval Italian thought and historical perspective.                                                    

Alessandro Vellutello published his influential commentary on the Divine Comedy in 1544 with Venetian printer Francesco Marcolini. The 1544 edition includes some of the "most beautiful illustrations to the poem of the Renaissance" (Lansing, 850), perhaps "executed by Giovanni Britto, who worked as an engraver for Marcolini"(Parker). In Libraria (1550), Antonfrancesco Doni notes that Velutello "strained his mind, expenses and expended considerable time" in having illustrations engraved to elucidate the text (Parker). The illustrations are considered to be "the most distinctive Renaissance renditions of the poem after Botticelli's" (Parker).

The first new commentary published in the 16th century, Vellutello's work challenged previous interpretations of the poem and is known for its "bold criticism of the previous scholarly tradition" (Alvarez). He was particularly concerned with elucidating Dante's historical and literary allusions, clarifying the material for his contemporary audience (Lansing, 850). The commentary and woodcuts, printed for the first time in the 1544 edition, were created for this printing and were later recycled throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.  

CONDITION: Good condition, incomplete. The first three leaves (BB1, BB8, CC1) loosely bound, appearing to have been reattached at some point; tape and glue repairs of BB1 and BB8, as well as tape repairs on other leaves. Water stains, corners and edges frayed or ripped at some spots (no loss of text), including small tears, largely at front and back of the book, with occasional spotting and foxing. Overall, tightly bound; spine and corners bumped; with splitting of leather and crack at top front seam, front and back boards with some lacks and rubbing, boards also show evidence of worming. Old bookseller notes in pencil on boards; small annotations, a manicule, and other former reader marks, including several inked thumb-smears throughout. (See photographs)

BOOK MEASUREMENTS: In-4° (22.3 x 15 cm).

TOTAL LENGTH: 428/442 leaves. AA-BB8 (lacks AA1-AA8 and BB2-BB7), CC1-CC10, A-Z8, AB-AZ8, BC-BI8.